Baiyue (Bách Việt) was the term the Chinese used in ancient times to refer to various ethnic tribes who populated Southern China. Yue 越 was a collective name made up by the Chinese for these peoples, whom the Chinese also unflatteringly called Nanman or Southern Barbarians. Bai meant “many” rather than there were numerically one hundred such tribes.
Various Yue peoples were recorded in Hanshu (Hán Thư) such as Yuyue (Ư Việt) – present day Zhejiang, Shanghai and Jiangsu; Minyue (Mân Việt) – present day Fujian; Dongou (Đông Âu) – present day Wenzhou and Taizhou; Dianyue (Điền Việt) – present day Yunan; Ouyue (Âu Việt) – present day northernmost Vietnam, western Guangdong, and northern Guangxi; Louyue (Lạc Việt) – present day North Vietnam, etc.
Wu (Ngô) and Yue (Việt) were the two Yue kingdoms well known in the Warring States Period. They were constantly at each other’s throats, culminating in the deadly and dramatic struggles between Wu Fuchai (Ngô Phù Sai) and Yue Goujian (Việt Câu Tiễn).
Nanyue (Nam Việt) was a kingdom established by Zhao Tuo (Triệu Đà), a Qin general, encompassing present-day Guangdong, Guangxi and North Vietnam. For declaring himself Nanyue Emperor, Zhao Tou was reprimanded by the Han emissary Lu Jia as a usurper.
Zhao Tuo defended himself as such: “The southern land is humid; its people are barbaric and idle. In the East, Minyue has only a few thousand people and yet declare themselves king. In the West, Oulou (Âu Lạc) with naked people still call themselves king. This old official appropriates emperor title just for his own amusement. He dare not let it be heard through to His Majesty” (Sima Qian’s Shiji - Nanyue Liezhuan. Sử Ký Tư Mã Thiên – Nam Việt Liệt Truyện).
Oulou (Âu Lạc), a merge of Ouyue (Âu Việt) and Louyue (Lạc Việt), was an ancient Vietnamese kingdom before being annexed into Nanyue by Zhao Tuo. The question is, was there any relationship between ancient Vietnamese and other Baiyue peoples. My answer is, there was no historical, ethnic, linguistic and cultural relationship at all between ancient Vietnam and Baiyue, except for the Yue/Việt namesake. Below are the reasons:
(1) Yue is a generic name the ancient Chinese used to call all the tribes living in the South beyond the Chinese realm (as a homonym, Yue also means “to go beyond”). There were hundreds of tribes spreading all the way from Yangtze River to Red River. There was no such a thing as a single Yue entity. As to Yue culture, except for established kingdoms such as Wu and Yue that had been sinicised, although they might have reached certain levels of social organisation and settlement, most Yue peoples were essentially tribal
(2) The Vietnamese language belongs to Vietic, a branch of the Austroasiatic/Mon-Khmer language family ( Austroasiatic languages - Wikipedia and Vietic languages - Wikipedia ). Whereas most likely, ancient Yue peoples living from south of Yangtze river to Guangxi spoke various Tai-Kadai languages before sinicisation. The Yue remnants in Southern China speak Tai-Kadai. None of them speak Mon-Khmer ( Kra–Dai languages - Wikipedia )
(3) The Louyue (Lạc Việt) culture was identified with Bronze drums (Trống Đồng) of the Đông Sơn culture ( Dong Son drum - Wikipedia ). Bronze drums are not found north of Guangxi and Guangdong (except in odd cases which may be attributed to trading connections).
Although disputed by historians, a myth has been perpetuated that Vietnamese are descendants of Baiyue peoples originated from south of Yangtze. It’s even pushed to such an absurdity in claiming that the Baiyue culture was “stolen” by the Chinese!
I shake my head every time, out of curiosity, reading books of fake researchers promoting this kind of misleading narrative to people, relying on weird theories and interpretations without any historical, linguistic and archaeological evidence whatsoever. It sadly reflects a deep inferiority complex in some Vietnamese. Believing in such a myth is essentially an antithesis to the Vietnamese pride; a pride that as a people, Vietnamese believe in their own strength, their aspirations, their bravery, their tenacity and their resiliency, without clinging onto an odd myth about an ancient time at some place somewhere in another country.