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Was Guangdong a part of Vietnam in the past? How did Vietnam lose Guangdong to China?

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Vietnam (northern part) was a part of Guangdong (chiao chou/guang chou).


Chiao Chou, West Han Dynasty. Northern part of Vietnam was divided into three shires: Chiao Chi 交趾, Chiu Chen 九真 and Jih Nan日南


An Nan, West part of Ling Nan Tao 岭南道 (Guangdong is the east part), Tang Dynasty.

In 938 A.D., The governor of Tĩnh Hải quân 静海军 decleared independence. Since then Vietnam started to become an independent kingdom.

Acknowledge: Map from Chinese historic map collections 中国历史地图集

Edit: The map in the question was before 111 B.C. The purple part in the map, Nan Viet, was annexed by Han Dynasty in 111 B.C. It was not the predecessor of Vietnam.

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Hey dude, I’m not supposed to offend you, but I really wonder how did you came up with such a ridiculous question? Do you know that Chinese are keen on keeping notes for thousands of years? As a native Cantonese, my family has farmed in this land for hundreds of years. My grandpa is in charge of our genealogy, which has recorded my family was from northern China more than 500 years ago. Actually, most northern Asians are posterities of the Han army.(The history of Han Dynasty has already been mentioned many times in other answers.) And could you tell me when was Vietnam founded? Ah, a part of China used to belong to Vietnam, it’s so funny. Not to mention this part of China has economic power that can be compared with a small country.

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Question: Was Guangdong a part of Vietnam in the past? How did Vietnam lose Guangdong in China?

Answer: I think that it depends on the term of Vietnam you understand, my answer is Yes and also No

Firstly , The answer is No if Vietnam refers to land or geography as the modern sovereignty state today. The Guangdong region is never the land of Vietnam.


Secondly, If you think that the concept of Vietnam is the land of all of the Viet ethnics and Viet kingdoms, My answer is yes - Guangdong is a former land of the Vietnamese ancestors.

Ancient time: Before the conquest of the Qin Empire (221–206BC) (Ancient China) into the lands in Southern China today including the Guangdong region around 218 BC. The Han people/ Qin people (Chinese) were never native of the Guangdong region but Vietic people/Bach Viet tribe were really native and this region really had belonged to Vietic people.


(Chinese land under the Zhou Dynasty before the Qin Empire/Dynasty 221–206BC and Southern China today are the land of Vietic people/Baiyue/Bach Viet).


(China under Qin Empire/Dynasty and started to invade the land of the Vietic people in the Southern China today )

According to historical evidence , the historical researchers think that it can be roughly defined: the Qin army started the invasion of Bach Viet in 218 BC.

According to Huainan Zi, 500 thousand Qin soldiers were divided into five armies, in which two armies garrisoned in Dam Thanh and Cuu Nghi Mountain Passes invaded Quang Tay, the land of Tay Au (or Au Viet). Their food boats went upstream Tuong River which flowed from Ngu Linh Mountain to Dong Dinh Lake. However, when they reached the origin of Tuong River, there was no waterway to Ly River aka Que River, to enter Quang Tay. So, Do Thu commanded Giam Loc to “order troops to dig canals to transport food” (Huainan Zi). That was Linh Cu Canal or Hung An Canal connecting the Tuong River to Ly River, which still exists. Loc was a Viet resident who was holding the position of court counselor under the Qin Dynasty. Because Loc understood the terrain of Linh Nam and was good at waterway, Do Thu assigned him to take charge of the transportation of food and digging of Linh Cu Canal to connect the Tuong River to Ly River.

In the 3 years (218 – 215 BC) since the dispatch of troops, the Qin had to dig a canal and deal with the struggle of the Viet people, thus “three-years without taking off armors” (Huainan Zi). Then, thanks to Linh Cu Canal, the Qin soldiers moved to the Ly River (Que River) and then into the Tay Giang River basin which was the area of the Tay Au tribe. Qin troops killed a chief of the Tay Au tribe, i.e. Dich Hu Tong, but they had to face fierce resistance of the Viet people.

In 214 BC, the Qin conquered Luc Thuong and set up the land into three districts: Nam Hai, Que Lam, and Tuong. Nam Hai was the Guangdong region (invaded by the third army). Que Lam was the northern and eastern part of Quang Tay. Tuong County was in the west of Quang Tay and a part of southern Que Chau. Thus, the three districts of Nam Hai, Que Lam, and Tuong captured by Qin troops were within Quang Dong, Quang Tay, and a part of Que Chau in southern China. When setting up Nam Hai, Que Lam, and Tuong Districts, Qin troops had entered the Tay Giang basin and basically occupied this area. On the verge of victory, with the favorable waterway for transporting food, of course, Qin soldiers did not stop there. From Tay Giang, Qin troops could go downstream Ta Giang and Ky Cung Rivers to the north and northeast of Vietnam. Tay Au and Lac Viet tribes stood up to fight against the Qin invaders. There was no record of this struggle; however, Ly Ong Trong legend partly reflects the clash between the Qin and An Duong Vuong.

Linh Nam kingdom (Vietnam) 40–43 AD led by the Trung sister (Vietnamese emperor)


According to Vietnamese history, Nanhai as the Guangdong province today had belonged to Linh Nam kingdom (Ancient Vietnam)

In conclusion : With logical thinking about the land inherited from the Vietic people and also the Linh Nam kingdom, Guangdong today is really a former land of the Vietnamese. And, Vietnam lost to China around 2000 years because of being invaded by the Chinese people under the Qin Dynasty and the Han Dynasty.


P/s: I write answers based upon the gist and requirement of the question. Readers are requested to read it with neutrality and rational approach. I throughout this answer has no intention of showing any disrespect towards any group of people or country.

All bests

Lusia Millar

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Guangdong is never part of Vietnam no matter now or in the past.

Many people said Guangdong was part of Viet Kingdom in the past, it’s true, but the key point is, Viet Kingdom has nothing to do with Vietnam.

Vietnam means “in south of Viet”, it is like Cuba which is in south of the US. Imagine that Cuba call themselves “US-nam”, which means “in south of the US”, so does it mean that the US was part of Cuba?

In the Qing Dynasty, King of Vietnam asked the emperor of China name their country Viet but was refused by the emperor, because the emperor knew that they have nothing to do with Viet, so the emperor named their land Vietnam, which means “You’re in south of Viet but not Viet”.

I’m in Min-Viet, which is now Fujian Province in China, so my ancestors are residents of Viet Kingdom, but I have nothing to do with Vietnam, they are just “in south of us”.

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It is funny that people answered in Vietnamese perspective or Chinese perspective, but none care about Cantonese perspective. Guangdong - Wikipedia Sure they are just represented by others (not to mention Vietnam today has only twice the land, same population, and 1/5 of its GDP).

Is there any evidence that Vietnam control Guangdong?

There is no place called Vietnam when Guangdong became part of NanYue. That is when Guangdong first appears in history, at least as a political entity. Is NanYue Chinese? Or Vietnamese. Ok again there is no Vietnam at that time.

People south of the mountains of southern China were lumped into “Yue” by the Han, west as “Miao”, nobody knows who they really were. There was a kingdom named “Yue” during Zhou dynasty period but they are not the majority of Vietnamese though some of them did migrated south to assimilate into Vietnamese. Even if Viet is synonymous with Yue, Vietnam means south of Yue, you don't suppose South Americans just means Americans do you? Vietnamese people - Wikipedia

Vietnamese people at 300BC were simply a mixed bag of northern Vietnam’s Dong Son culture and the immigrated Chu/Yue/Shu. So again people of Guangdong at the time of NanYue weren't all Viet, there isn't evidence that Viet was living in even a particular place in Guangdong, and ancient Chinese called the people there Baiyue, meaning lots of different tribes that they can't tell who's who, BUT they knew were different.

At last, Guangdong has and still has a big list of aboriginals, one such group is Li.


One important thing to note is that Vietnamese and Chinese are nationalities in these perspective countries when putting them side by side, not ethnicities, when you distinguish further these two supposedly “ethnic” group have lots of overlaps and much more other tribes who are very different from each other, just because one can't distinguise them doesn't mean they are the same, this is like calling all east/southeast Asians “Chinese”.

Update: deleted offensive comments, if you disagree bring the facts, I don’t need your “history lessons” started with an offensive tone.

Update: many comments have issues with bringing up the name Vietnam, it is actually part of the question. The question implies Vietnam as a political entity, e.g., kingdom, what we know is that the earliest existence of a kingdom in (what we call today as) Vietnam is likely AFTER Han domination (for example it isn’t clear whether there were any encounters of the Hùng kingdom during the Han conquest), which happened AFTER the Han conquest of Guangdong. Without a political entity there’s no basis of the claim of “control” as the question asked or even existence of Vietnam as an identity, but only the possibility that Vietnamese as a people might have lived in the region of Guangdong.

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No, not exactly.

Guangdong has never been a part of Vietnam, but Vietnam and Guangdong had both been a part of the same country, firstly Nanyue in 2th century B.C and then China until 1000 or so Vietnam got its independence.

It is like that we won’t say France was a part of England. As we all know they were both province of Roman empire and later there was the history of William I the Conqueror.

The relationship between Vietnam and Guangdong is quite similar to that of England and France if Roman empire still exists today or China empire fell apart like Roman empire.

So, I won’t say Guangdong was a part of Vietnam but I will say Guangdong and Vietnam were both important part of a non-existing country, Nanyue, and China did conquered these two places and Vietnam did regained its independence.

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I’m local to Guangdong, and for god’s sake we never considered ourselves a part of Vietnam. Never ever. When Guangdong got incorporated into China 2000+ years ago Vietnam did not exist. Guangdong was a part of Nanyue Kingdom which was ruled by a Chinese person from the North China Plain. So we are Chinese from the very beginning of our written history. You don’t get more Chinese than this.

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The area of today’s northern part of Vietnam, and parts of today’s Guangxi and Guangdong provinces of China, was one country around 2.5 millennia ago, called Nanyue . It was an independent country not conquered by Qin dynastry of China (221BC-206BC), and finally conquered and ruled by Han dynastry of China (202BC-220AD).

Using a sino-centric perspective, successive dynasties of China always controlled roughly today’s Guangxi and Guangdong, and occasionally ruled some parts of today’s northern Vietnam. Since Vietnam in the past 2 millennia officially used Hanzi, so back then the central governments of China and/or the peoples in adjacent regions might have considered northern Vietnam as part of China.

During this period of 2 millennia, Vietnam had lots of cultural communications with China. To my knowledge, until the popularisation of Chữ Nôm and the latinisation of vietnamese language, demograhic inter-migrations between China and Vietnam were common. Hoa (i.e. Vietnam’s minor ethnicity of han chinese descent) is 1% of Vietnam’s population. Kinh (i.e. China’s minor ethnicity of vietnamese descent) is one of China’s 55 recognised minor ethnicities.

The circumstance is similar to many other historical areas: 1 cultural area was separated into 2+ political entities and finally evolved into complete different cultures and identities.

I speak cantonese natively and have been to Vietnam a decade ago, and I found some words are cognate and phonologically intelligible (if given the context). For example, 燒賣/Xíu mại, 男/Nam. I do feel lots of similarities in between, largely shaped by geography, climate, agriculture, and maybe genetics.

Although Nanyue’s capital was in today’s Guangzhou, Guangdong, but their state control and people’s identity were certainly not as strong as Qin dynastry. So cannot conclude if Guangdong belonged to Vietnam or the otherway around.

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Vietnam could not have lost Guangdong to China since Guangdong has never been a part of Vietnam. As others have said, rather, Vietnam was a part of Guangdong, before both became part of China.

I do dispute an answer that said “Vietnam has long been part of China until French annexed it from China.”

Absolutely wrong. Vietnam has been independent from China since the 10th century, with the exception of a brief 20 years occupation by the Ming dynasty in the 14th century.

Vietnam did pay tributes to China during this period, and acknowledged Chinese suzerainty (nominally), as a measure of diplomacy to achieve peace. China was still a much larger and more powerful nation. But Vietnam was pretty much independent in every aspect of the word. It had its own king, its own court, its own military. It managed its own internal affairs, and conducted its own foreign policies.

Think of the relationship like China and Taiwan now. I don’t think anyone can really say China rules Taiwan now. And the relationship between China and Vietnam during the last 1000 years was even looser than that between China and Taiwan now.

So historical facts do not support “Vietnam has long been part of China until French annexed it from China.” Even Chinese historical records did not consider Vietnam a part of China during this period. Rather this is what some Chinese ultra-nationalists like to think.

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"Was Guangdong a part of Vietnam in the past? How did Vietnam lose Guangdong to China? "

The founder of Nan Yue was originally a general (Zhao Tuo) of Qin dynasty of China. He was sent south to conquer more land for Qin dynasty. At end of Qin dynasty's and start of Han dynasty, Zhao Tuo decided to establish his independent kingdom in the area under his control, thus born the Nan Yue kingdom. This kingdom was later reconquered by Han dynasty and brought under Chinese government again.

So Vietnam didn't lose the region of present day Guangdong to China. But rather, the region was part of China that broke off to form a new kingdom.

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