VIETNAM'S PREHISTORY AND LEGENDS

HUNG VUONG

As in most nations which claim a prehistoric past, Vietnam's prehistory is full of legends. Today's historians are not in agreement concerning their founding ruler, Hung Vuong or King Hung, or on their original dynasty, the Hong Bang (2879 to 258 B.C.E.). However, the Vietnamese honor this ruler of Van Lang (the name of Vietnam then) with a temple dedicated to him and annual celebrations of his anniversary (tenth day of the lunar calendar's third month).

His kingdom is said to have extended from what is today southern China to central Vietnam. Rice fields (lac dien) dominated this vast area and rulers of the people (lac dan) were military leaders (lac tuong) or what Professor Taylor and others call lac lords. According to another historian of Vietnam's prehistoric and ancient historical past, Pham Cao Duong, Van Lang's earliest rulers built an administrative structure of fifteen districts and hereditary succession of the throne and civil and military positions.

The work of twentieth-century French and Vietnamese archaeologists has greatly enlarged our understanding of Vietnam's past and has shown that humankind inhabited Vietnam since very early times. Some historians today regard the Hung Vuong era as more than legendary, tracing Vietnam's original civilization to that period. However, legends remain a part of their understanding, also. The Vietnamese today love stories and are excellent storytellers. They have a rich tradition of folk stories and heroes and a sense of history that was important during their later struggles for unity and independence.

Students interested in reading more about early Vietnamese traditions and the Hung kings should consult the first sections of chapter 1, on Lac Lords, in Taylor's The Birth of Vietnam and his Appendices A through D.

 

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