did the Vietnamese consider themselves a separate people from the Chinese

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During the 1000 years of Chinese occupation in Vietnam, did the Vietnamese consider themselves a separate people from the Chinese, or did they think of themselves as similar in heritage?
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Vietnamese collected from the last tribes of Bai Yue ( hundred of Yue tribes ). Vietnamese could see similarity to South China people but not North China which originate the Han.

Vietnam were as Turkey, while South China people as Uyghur people in Xinjiang.

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The question covers a very large topic, which can be described by many books and hundreds of in-depth studies. I'll give the answer only one aspect:

1) Chinese people's thinking is "Loyalty to the king" means to be loyal to the king, the king tells him to die means he must die, in general, the people must be loyal to the ruling class, the king is at the top.

2) Vietnamese people think differently, they are loyal to the principles of the nation, with belief in the will of the community they live in, the Vietnamese believe in the values ​​of the community.

Characteristics of Vietnamese people is that: the outside is soft, the inside is hard as stone. government rule affects only the outer shell, it does not touch the trust of the people. For example, a woman was scolded by her husband, she shouted: "Oh village, country, help me!" she calls for help from her neighbors, people in the village first, then the state, the state is not as important as her village.


The Chinese understand that 1,000 Chinese rulers over Vietnam, Vietnam will be tamed, all will obey the direction of the state apparatus.

In fact, the essence of this is this: The governing apparatus only grasps the upper, upper mandarins, while the lower mandarins and the people are tamed on the outside, but in their hearts. always have the will to preserve their identity, against outside thoughts. They absorb some aspects of ideological culture but improve it into their own, it is not the same as the original in China.

This explains why the two ethnic groups of China and Vietnam have the same some heritages, but the identity of the two peoples is different. China did not assimilate the Vietnamese people after 1000 years, then Vietnam regained its power and became the Vietnamese nation, an independent country.

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“China” is a new term invented by the Westerners. A thousand years ago there wasn’t a concept of the “country of China”, or the “Chinese nation”. As such, in no way the ancient Vietnamese people could have considered themselves as people from China.

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1000 years of Chinese occupation? Aware of the brainwashed information you have been taken.

Please re-read again the history of the notion of China which has just appeared in 18th or 19th century. So if there was an occupation, it was not a “Chinese” occupation. Please do not generalize in defining different periods by Han, Tang, Song, Yuan, Ming, Qing to be the same notion with “China.”

Through the period 1000 BCE - CE 1000, in the land of China nowadays, especially the North of Yangtze River, there were bloody wars after wars. While in the period you mention as “1000 years of occupation”, there was peace in the land of Vietnam nowadays, and the south of Yangtze River.

Please start to read ancient history, before pre-Qin period, where the notion Hanzi had no meaning. You can start with another similar Q&A first, like this

Hope it could help.

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It is a historical subject that is difficult to explain, because Vietnam (or more precisely North Vietnam) did not then define its Vietnamese identity when it was ruled by the Chinese for thousands of years.

Look at the Gallic people ruled by Rome for more than 500 years, they would not rebel when the wise and tolerant ruler saw them as people in need of protection rather than exploiting their wealth. Or like Cryus the Great of the Acheamenid Empire, he was not as brutal as the Babylonians and the Assyirians before it. Instead,he who tolerated the religious beliefs and autonomy of the peoples ruled by Persia.


When a group of people is ruled by a virtuous leader, they view them as his people rather than a distinct ethnic group.During Persian rule, many ethnics people were gradually assimilated into Persian culture.

When Alexandros III of Macedon(or famous known as Alexander the Great) conquered the Acheamenid Empire,he still continued to use Persian system of governance,mixed Greek and Persian cultures together,saw him as king of the Persian people. Many rulers like Seleucus I,Arsaces I,Mithridates VI considered themselves as successors of the Acheamenid king of kings.

Now go back to Vietnam,many revolts erupted in Northern Vietnam occupied by Chinese Empires like:Two Trưng sisters’ revolt,Bà Triệu’s revolt,and many rebellions led by Lí Bí,Mai Thúc Loan,Phùng Hưng were showed how Chinese officials corrupted and harassed local people live in Northern Vietnam back then. The Chinese could only control the major cities and towns,while the rural and mountains still governed autonomously by village chiefs and clan chiefs. Chinese influence has not ingrained on those land effectively.


To conclusion:Vietnamese did not consider themselves like people lived in Changan(Trường An in Vietnamese,capital of Han and Tang dynasties)at all,they more sticked with people lived in Liangnan(Lưỡng Nam,Guangdong and Guangxi today). Many times local people in Northern Vietnam revolted against the central authority because of bad governance by Chinese officials governed there. When Ngô Quyền secured truly independent for people lived in Northern Vietnam,that started the mark Vietnamese really distance themselves from Central Plains’ people(Han people):


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Vietnam as an identity didn’t really exist after it became independent. Of course, there was really no record to fully answer this question, so all everyone could do is guess. Vietnamese will be nationalistic enough to say no, Vietnamese never considered themselves Chinese. But history shows that nationalism wasn’t a thing in ancient East Asia, and there was only separation between the civilized and the barbaric. People only aligned themselves with kingdoms and empires, not Chinese or Vietnamese.

Most Vietnamese rulers considered themselves civilized by aligning Vietnam with China as a cultural group. Some even declared themselves having ancestry from China. In a simple sense, when Vietnam was part of China, it was similar to modern-day Guangdong or Yunnan. Do they consider themselves Chinese despite not speaking Mandarin as their native tongue? Even better, do Vietnamese ethnic (Kinh ethnic) in China consider themselves Chinese, or Vietnamese?

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Personally I think Vietnamese simply did not think they were Chinese, that was why they tried hard for independence. Thats all.

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Problem is, we don’t know much about that 1000 years of the region, hence, all we could do, it is to find the plausible explanation. I would like to argue that, there must be a strong sense of separation-identity awareness which never go away from this region, and such an awareness is radically strong enough to enable her success to get rid of China, while having many other regions under the ruling of China couldn’t.

And by the way, about the record of that era, here is something which can hint us a clue. One time I speak to an Asian healer in Hong Kong, about the origin of Cantonese snake soup, he mentioned a Tang dynasty text which talks about the snake consumption in Cantonia, and the record was written by a Chinese man who visited to the region of now Guangdong province, where he witnessed the local Viet people’s custom of snake consumption. What is important to be noted is that, this author himself was still seeing “local Viet people” in this region, and it was during Tang dynasty. So, it is my guess that, the so called “100 Viet(s) tribes” phenomena hasn’t fully died out during the Tang dynasty, and I think this can be related to your question.

FYI: you will hear some people who merely says that the Ngo dynasty is the first dynasty of Vietnam, without providing a successful argumentation to against the legitimacy of both Trieu Dynasty and Vạn Xuân kingdom, but by saying so, they claim that the Vietnamese identity only came into existence in 939 AD, and thus the so called “Chinese ruling of Vietnam” didn’t exist. In short, they dismiss the existence of Vietnamese-ness, and to simplify the Vietnamese identity as a mere citizenship concept. I don’t know if that is really something worthy to proposes, on the one hand it is untrue about the conception of “Vietnamese” and on the other hand it is in no help of ego.

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For the ordinary common folks, they just tried to live, to have enough to eat to survive. Abstract ideas of “separate people” or “nationhood” were far from the minds.

For the nobility, the ancient Vietnamese would simply think of themselves as “civilized”. Sure there were differences due to locations but most people hardly travelled far. There were revolts and tribal wars but that’s just part of human conditions, not so much about a cry for distinctions.

Even after Vietnam got independence in 938AD, the idea of a distinct “nationhood” would not have evolved until European colonial time. The Vietnamese nobility would still think of themselves as “civilized” as being a part of the Sinosphere. The idea of “nationhood” was invented by European anthropologists and the idea spread over to East Asia upon colonization and triggered an establishment of modern nationalism.

Prof Liam Kelley has been studying Vietnam history in depth and wrote some thoughtful blog posts Le Minh Khai's SEAsian History Blog (+ More) . A few excerpts are given below.

The Premodern Past that Haunts Modern Vietnamese

This “problem” of the premodern past has haunted modern Vietnamese intellectuals for the past 100 years. They can’t find a way to deal with all of that “Chinese-ness” in the “Vietnamese” past, as well as in the Vietnamese language.

The real “problem,” however, is that modern Vietnamese intellectuals can’t accept the fact that their ancestors thought differently than they do, that they didn’t see the world as culturally divided between “Vietnam” and “China.”

Instead, they demand that their ancestors be the same as them.

Their writings have to be “Vietnamese.”

Their language has to be “Vietnamese.”

Their culture has to be “Vietnamese.”

“But,” the ancestors would say, if they could talk, “we’re civil (văn hiến)!”

Paradigm Shifts in Vietnamese History

This then brings us to Vietnamese history. There are many explanatory paradigms about the Vietnamese past that are inaccurate, and which many people know are inaccurate. We could create a list that could go on and on.

Many people really believe that there was a kingdom called Văn Lang in the first millennium BC that was ruled over by Hùng Kings.

Many people have no idea how completely the way that educated Vietnamese viewed the world was transformed in the twentieth century, and as a result, uncritically make use of modern terms like “ dân tộc ” when they talk about the period prior to the twentieth century (when Vietnamese intellectuals in the first half of the twentieth century made it clear that this was a new concept to them).

Many people believe that the idea that Vietnamese have “always been resisting foreign aggression” has been part of the consciousness of “the Vietnamese” since the beginning of time, and do not see that this is a modern discourse that was created in the twentieth century to rally people to do precisely what they were not doing—resisting.

The Origins of Patriotic Education in Vietnam

One example of such works is the Cải lương mông học quốc sử giáo khoa thư (改良蒙學國史教科書). I’m not sure about the exact publication date for this work, but it should be around 1912 or so. Its argument about the need for a new mindset is similar to what can be found in works like the Việt sử yếu (越史要) from 1914.

What is the new mentality that these works encouraged? They argued that “Vietnamese” (Note that in the passage below the Cải lương mông học quốc sử giáo khoa thư does not use this term. I’m just using it here for the sake of simplicity.) did not have a sense of patriotism because they had never really thought about their own land. Instead, they had just focused on learning about that big place to the north.

This was one of the most important intellectual changes that took place at that time. After centuries of living in a world in which educated Vietnamese valued certain knowledge as universal (what we would today call “Chinese” knowledge), in the early twentieth century educated Vietnamese moved away from that way of viewing the world and started to emphasize the need to know about their own land.

Why did this happen? It is because Vietnamese intellectuals at that time came to learn of the concept of the nation, and that in the West people did not emphasize some universal form of knowledge as they did, but valued instead information about their own individual countries.

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The Chinese empire was full of various peoples with their own languages and cultures. The question is more how did those people get further integrated into China in the recent 1000 years. I would recommend reading Jeffrey Barlow’s history of the Zhuang to understand how that complex process differed from neighboring Vietnam.

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