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Legend has it that Vietnam began with a mountain fairy, Au Co, and the
dragon king, Lac Long Quan. Mother Au Co had 100 eggs, all of
which hatched and were sons. The dragon king left his mountain fairy and
took with him 50 sons back to the sea, while Au Co took the other 50
sons and returned to the mountains. Until 1945, a dragon was
symbolic of the ruler and with kings having a dragon tattooed to their
upper thighs until 1293. Since the sons were hatched, the mountain
tribe Muong is linked to them, especially since their totem is a bird,
while the dragon totem is supposed to protect the Kinh from water
early history includes Chinese takeover, and the Vietnamese responded to it by
resisting Chinese rule. Incredibly, the first serious revolt was started
by the widow of a killed Chieftain and her sister, the Trung Sisters in A.D. 39. Although
their uprising was initially successful , four years later the Chinese re-entered
the Red River Delta and recaptured the Vietnamese.
the following uprisings were for the most part unsuccessful, by the year 939,
when the situation in China was chaotic, Ngo Quyen led a Vietnamese rebellion
that was successful against the forces occupying his local area.
With the Chinese defeat, Ngo Quyen established the Ngo Dynasty which didn't have
a long existence. When Quyen died five years later in 944, the dynasty
collapsed and a lot of civil unrest followed.
new dynasty, Ly dynasty, was founded in 1010 by Ly Thai To and continued on
through to 1225. The Ly leaders didn't establish new political and social
establishments, since they liked the Chinese methods to control and
mobilize. An example of this can be seen in the adoption of the
Confucian method of choosing government officials. It had a strong army
and was the foundation
of the Vietnamese culture and art. The
Ly dynasty ended peacefully in 1225 with the 8-year-old empress giving
power to her new husband, a Tran.
Vietnamese weren't satisfied with their landholdings, so they started
looking at the Champa Kingdom, which resulted in bitter rivalry for
land. After many years of conflict the Vietnamese were victorious
in capturing the capital and essentially destroyed the kingdom, while
continually moving south. In it's march south, it came across the
Khmer kingdom, which at one time had been the most powerful state in the
mainland. Due to the kingdom's weak state in the 16th century, the
Vietnamese were successful in taking over the lower Mekong Delta.
went through ups and downs for the next several hundred years with
internal rivalry, Chinese occupation, and European traders as well as
missionaries. There was religious persecution of many religions,
even those with traditional beliefs. The French protested the
persecution of their missionaries and converts and asked their
government to take action. Napoleon III, the French emperor,
launched several attacks on Vietnam in order to make their presence
known and accepted. After many relentless attacks, the Vietnamese
allowed the French to rule over some of the Vietnamese territory.
the hopes the French would go home, the emperor wouldn't allow his
subjects to openly defy the French, but things didn't get better only
worse. The Vietnamese were exploited, heavily taxed and worked
essentially as slave labor (little pay). When Ho Chi Minh (Nguyen
Tat Thanh) began the Indochinese Communist Party in 1930, it was the
beginning of a power struggle between the French and the Vietnamese.
1945, the Viet Minh established a capital at Hanoi and called Vietnam an
independent republic in a struggle known as the August Revolution.
The French wouldn't accept this declaration and refused to
concede. After negotiations failed, war broke out when the Viet
Minh attached the French in Hanoi. For the next 8 years, the First
Indochina War continued, with the US getting itself involved. The
government the French had set up with Bao Dai, the last emperor of the
Nguyen dynasty, failed when he (Bao Dai) abdicated the throne in lieu of
Ho Chi Minh. The US sent aid to the French as a result, due to
concerns over the spread of communism while the Viet Minh turned to
Communist China for help. Not much happened for the next three
years, but the French grew tired of the situation and were defeated in
an attack by the Viet Minh in 1954.
result of this, and ensuing peace talks, was that Vietnam was divided
into two sections, a Communist North, and a non-Communist South.
This was contrary to what the US wished for, which was continued
warfare. But for the next five years, things were relatively quiet
except the the US was supplying South Vietnam with financial and
military aid in an attempt to overthrow the Viet Minh. In the
North the National Liberation Front was formed, and a year later the
People's Liberation Armed Forces (Viet Cong) was
United States sent troops into Vietnam in 1965, and by 1969 the number
of troops had almost tripled to over 500,000. On January 30, 1968,
the North Vietnamese attacked over 100 cities and town during the
traditional Tet holiday. This surprise attack, known as the Tet
Offensive, was a turning point in the war. With a presidential
change in America, the plans for Vietnam changed as well. The US
gradually withdrew their troops while supporting the South Vietnamese
military in attempts to defend themselves. With the troops
withdrawn and a compromise reached between the North and South, all
seemed to be going well.
Communists Vietnamese were not finished, in April 1975, Saigon fell
after months of a military offensive. By 1976, the two divisions
were reunited as a Socialist Republic of Vietnam. Since Ho Chi
Minh's death in 1969, Le Duan had been the head of the Communist Party
and he quickly started plans to promote the party. This was not to
be due to the extensive damage caused by war and an economy that was in upheaval.
Agent Orange Victim
situation in Cambodia was such that Vietnam couldn't ignore it,
particularly the fact that Pol Pot wanted power over lands that had been
in Cambodia's power centuries previously. Since an agreement
couldn't be reached between the two, Vietnam attempted to overthrow the
Cambodian government and set up one that was favorable to them. It
was successful but a struggle with China caused them to stay in Cambodia
to protect the newly established government.
Vietnamese soon realized that changes needed to occur to improve their
economic situation. So in 1986, an economic renovation was started
to stimulate the economy. Part of the plan called for a mixed
economy that encouraged foreign investment. By the end of the
'80's, Vietnamese had withdrawn all their troops from Cambodia in a
effort to improve foreign relations. It was a success because the
US withdrew their economic embargo against Vietnam in 1994, with
diplomatic relations re-established the following year. Vietnam
joined the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) with other
non-Communist governments in 1995 as well.
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