Au Lac was a fictitious kingdom that was said to have ruled over portions of present-day Guangxi and northern Vietnam. It was a union of Nam Cng (U Viet) and Văn Lang (Lc Viet) and was founded in 257 BCE by a person known as Thc Phán (King An Dng). However, it fell to the kingdom of Nanyue in 180 BCE, which was ultimately overrun by the Han dynasty. The Red River Delta city of C Loa, or modern-day Hanoi, served as its capital. This information dates earlier in 2879 BC about Vietnam’s civilization and later historical accounts can be scanned in the amazing history of Vietnam which covers modern Vietnam.
Folklore holds that, prior to the Chinese colonization of northern and north-central Vietnam, the area was governed by a hierarchy of kingdoms known as Văn Lang, with Lc Kings (Hùng Kings) at the head and Lc hu and Lc tng at their sides. U Vit state of Nam Cng is said to have annexed Văn Lang in 257 BCE. According to Vietnamese historian ào Duy Anh, these “u Vit” people lived in the upstream regions of the Lô, Gâm, and Cô Rivers as well as the drainage basin of the You River and the southern portion of the Zuo River. Thc Phán, the leader of u Vit, deposed the final Hùng rulers and united the two kingdoms. He then proclaimed himself King An Dng and established u Lc polity.
Construction of Cổ Loa Citadel
The first political center of Vietnamese civilization in the pre-Sinitic era, C Loa was the biggest ancient moated urban metropolis in Southeast Asia, spanning 600 hectares (1,500 acres), and requiring up to 2 million cubic meters of material. While the middle period of building took place between 300 and 100 BCE, the construction may have started as early as the fourth century BCE. The size of C Loa’s rampart system, together with the intricate forms of labor organization and labor costs required to build it, showed the polity’s capacity to generate an adequate surplus, mobilize resources, direct, and ensure continuous development, as well as maintain the citadel throughout time. This indicated a significant degree of political centralization and a strong, long-lasting political authority concentrated and institutionalized. By demonstrating the polity’s strength and capacity for self-defense, it may offer “physical, symbolic, and psychological safety,” warding off any potential danger.
According to historical records, Kinh An Dng allegedly assumed authority and then ordered the building of a fortified town named C Loa to serve as his administrative center. It resembled the shell of a snail. The name C Loa translates to “ancient snail”; according to I Vit S K Toàn Th, the fortress resembles a snail.
The golden turtle mythology recalls the occasions surrounding the building of C Loa. A group of ghosts led by a 1,000-year-old white chicken allegedly undid all the construction work on the citadel when it was being erected to exact revenge on the former King’s son. A huge golden turtle suddenly appeared out of the ocean in response to the King’s cries, shielding him up until the construction of the castle was finished. Before leaving, the turtle gave the King one of his claws and told him to use it to construct a crossbow that would make him unstoppable. That crossbow was made by a man by the name of Cao L (or Cao Thông). Then it was called that 300 men might be killed by a single shot from the “Saintly Crossbow of the Supernaturally Luminous Golden Claw” (SV: Linh Quang Kim Tro Thn N).
The Kingdom Collapse
Zhao Tuo founded the Nanyue empire in 204 BCE in Panyu (current-day Guangzhou). According to Taylor (1983), while Nanyue and u Lc coexisted, u Lc acknowledged Nanyue for a short time to demonstrate their shared anti-Han feeling, but this did not suggest that Nanyue had any real power over u Lc. After normalizing relations with the Han dynasty, Nanyue’s power over U Lc began to decline. Zhao Tuo was now able to use the force he had built to fight the Han to defeat the u Lc.
The campaign’s specifics weren’t accurately documented. Records of the Outer Territory of Jiao Region and Records of the Taikang Era of the Jin both mention Zhao Tuo’s early setbacks and eventual victory over King An Ding. Records of the Grand Historian, however, do not mention King An Ding or Zhao Tuo’s military conquest of u Lc. Instead, they only mention how, following the death of Empress Lü (180 BCE), Zhao Tuo used his troops to threaten and his wealth to bribe the Minyu But the campaign gave rise to a myth regarding the crossbow’s transfer. The myth claimed that possessing the crossbow granted one political authority: “He who is able to handle this crossbow rules the kingdom; he will perish if they can’t grip this crossbow.”
Zhao Tuo requested a truce after struggling on the battlefield and dispatched his son Zhong Shi to King An Dng’s palace. Zhong Shi and M Châu, the daughter of King An Duong, got married after falling in love. The pair stayed at An Duong’s court since matrilocal society mandated that the husband lives in his wife’s home. Cao L was mistreated by King An Duong in the meantime, and he departed.
M Châu showed the crossbow to Zhong Shi, who then discreetly altered the trigger to render it worthless. He then requested to go back to his father, who subsequently attacked u Lc once more and this time managed to overthrow King An Dng. The turtle then informed the King of his daughter’s deceit and killed her before departing for the underwater realm. It’s conceivable that Cao Thông’s new model army, which employed the magical crossbow, was influenced by the warring states’ discoveries and technology.
Government and Society
Kim (2015) postulated that the C-Loa town was built between 300 and 100 BCE by a “highly centralized, overarching state-level society with enduring political institutions and organization” based on data from the historical, ethnohistorical, and archaeological sources. The manpower needed to build it, along with its scale, suggested “a large military force and highly centralized, state-like supervision.” A centralized industrial system, social stratification, and material monopolization may have also existed, as indicated by the abundance of bronze tools. The fact that C Loa is the only place to find roof tiles further proved that the location was the capital. It appears that the nearby villages and communities paid taxes to the centralized government.
The people of u Lc were considered barbarian and in need of civilization by the ancient Han Chinese, who also believed that they lacked morals and modesty. According to Chinese chronicles, the Red River Delta’s native population lacked education in politics, metallurgy, and agriculture, and their civilization was a byproduct of the Chinese invasion. Although they were aware of the “stable, structured, productive, populous, and somewhat sophisticated” culture they encountered, they rejected in situ cultural growth or social complexity, attributing any advancement to Sinicization.
The Âu Lạc Economy
Agriculture with wet rice cultivation, draft animals, metal plowshares, axes, and other tools, as well as irrigation complexes, were the main economic factors. According to palynological sequences, the cultivation of irrigated rice may have begun at the beginning of the second millennium BCE, and metal tools were widely used before any significant Sino-Vietic interaction. Line fishing, as well as certain specialization and labor division, were also mentioned by Chapuis (1995).
Thanks to its strategic location, access to important interaction routes and resources, including proximity to major rivers or the coast which cradles the best islands in Vietnam, and high distribution of natural resources, Northern Vietnam was also a significant hub of interregional access and exchange, connected to other areas through an extensive extra-regional trade network, since well before the first millennium BC.