Earlier this month, I presented the ancient Vietnamese legend of Lạc Long Quân, the Dragon Prince, in order to illustrate the origins of the Vietnamese people. It chronicles the life of the Prince, his meeting with Âu Cơ the Fairy Princess, and the birth of their hundred sons. These hundred sons would become known as the Hundred Việts, otherwise known as the Bách Việt, or Bai Yue civilization.
In turning our sights from the story of the Hundred Sons over to the history of the Hundred Việts, we have crossed the line from myth into reality. The Hundred Việts were an actual people, who once inhabited the vast region now known as Southern China, as far back as 4000 B.C. They were an agricultural people who engaged in farming, fishing, and the raising of animals. The traditions of these people included dying their teeth to black, as well as the art of tattooing.
The culture of the Bách Việt people was rich with folklore, poetry, and humanistic teachings. The system of government was at the village level, as many clans, tribes, and families cooperated with each other, with a king or village chief at the top. It is from these numerous clans that the people, as a whole, became known in modern history as the Hundred Việts. The main source of food for these societies was rice, as the rich fertile soil of the south made it perfect for rice cultivation.
In reality, there were about ten to twenty different clans, the name Bách Việt (Hundred Viet, Bai Yue), is just the general title to describe the society as a whole. Bách Việt was a peaceful society that did not engage in warfare with other regions. The philosophy of the Bai Yue always spoke of peace, compassion, and the importance of the human heart. Unfortunately, due to their peaceful nature, the society became highly vulnerable to the nomadic tribes from the north, who raided and captured much of the Bách Việt’s land, along with their culture.
As a result of their peaceful ways and unpreparedness for combat, the clans of Âu Việt, Ư Việt, Hồ Việt, Mân Việt, Đông Việt, and many others, slowly fell to the northern invaders, one by one. The invaders subsequently erased the history of these clans in order to assimilate them, a strategy that proved to be devastating to the people of Bách Việt. The plans resulted in the vanishment of Việt culture for over two thousand years, only to be rediscovered in the 21st century.
Of the dozen Việt clans that existed throughout history, only one has prevailed in the face of northern aggression. This one surviving clan, the one clan able to resist the relentless invasions of the north for more than 4000 years, is the clan of Lạc Việt. The Lạc Việt clan was the main branch of the Hundred Viets,
The descendants of the Lạc are the forefathers of Vietnam today, carrying on the traditions of a culture that has existed for more than 6000 years. In distant history, they were the warriors of Nam-Việt, Jiaozhi, and then Đại Việt. Today, they represent the 3 million people oversees, who live from places like Europe, to Australia, to North America. They are also the 87 million inhabitants of Vietnam today.