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How and when did this land come to be called Vietnam? The sound "Viet" is the pronunciation of a Chinese character meaning "far off," "beyond," or "to cross over, to go beyond." In the Chinese mind, the word conveyed the idea of a distant land, far away from China proper, which seeks freedom and expansion. These connotations will ever remain the characteristics of the Vietnamese race.

The word Viet was used for the first time in the eleventh century B.C., during the Chu dynasty (1050-249 B.C.), to designate territories located southeast of China and on the Pacific border. A descendent of Emperor Vu was crowned king of all of these remote countries-the Viet countries - around 1042 B.C.

In the years 496-465 B.C. the kingdom was ruled by Long, also called Cau Tien, of the Long (dragon) family. War had just swept over the country, and now the aftermath of a serious defeat jeopardized the existence of the reduced kingdom. Cau Tien was fiercely determined to take revenge and regain his territories. It was not possible to consider resuming the battle with arms. And so a trick would be used. Advised by Pham Lai, King Cau Tien presented the conqueror, King Ngo Phu Sai, with a present which was not unusual then. He offered him Tay Thi, who was recorded by history as the most beautiful woman of these ancient times. She seduced the conqueror into discharging his wisest advisors and his power declined. Cau Tien was thus able to annex Ngo Phu Sai's territories. Later, early in the fifth century B.C., he extended his power over Bach Viet [the hundred remote areas] along the coast, which included present North Vietnam. The powerful king then dispatched one of his sons and a strong fleet to the mouth of the Red River. They established a principality named Viet Chuong. A brass junk was sunk the sea to mark its territorial limits.

When the limits of the new principality had been defined it was renamed Van Lang, meaning "land of learned people." Its totems were a horse (giao or keo) and the willow (duong lieu) .For several centuries, the Lac Viet were to worship these two signs. In brief, the first kingdom of the Viet was founded on the southern coast of China in 1042 B.C., some 3,000 years ago and the first Viet Chuong or Lac Viet kingdom in North Vietnam 2400 years ago, at the beginning of the fifth century B.C. Since then, the name has been changed several times, depending on historical events. It was, successively:

Van Lang Under the Hung or Lac dynasty (257 B.C.)

An Lac Under the Thuc dynasty (257-207 B.C.)

Nam Viet Under the Trieu dynasty (207-11 B.C.)

Giao Chi Under the Han dynasty (first part) (111 B.C.- A.D. 203)

Giao Chau Under the Han dynasty (second part) (A.D. 203-544)

Van Xuan Under the Ly dynasty (A.D. 544-603)

An Nam Under the Duong dynasty (A.D. 603-939) Dai Co Viet Under the Dinh dynasty (968-1054)

Dai Viet Under the Ly and Tran dynasty (1054-1400 )

Dai Ngu Under the Ho dynasty (1400-1407)

Dai Viet Under the Le and Nguyen dynasties (1427-1802)

Vietnam Name given by King Gia Long in 1802

Dai Viet Name given by King Minh Mang in 1832

Vietnam Name resumed in April, 1945, by the first national government of Vietnam.

The ethnic origin of the present Vietnamese people is different from that of the Han people along the Yellow River. These are Chinese, strictly speaking. Before they expanded southward, the Viet people in the delta of North Vietnam included people of Indonesian origin and those from the valley of the Yang Tse Kiang (Blue River) in Mongolia.

These immigrants, who settled on the coast, gradually proceeded into the inner land and pushed the natives, including the Muong of Hoa-Binh and Thanh-Hoa, back towards the highlands. The phonetics and syntaxes of the dialects of these nations enabled them to be considered as part of the Vietnamese group.

Gradually the Vietnamese progressed southward, but still along the coast. For the first time, after fifteen centuries of settlement in North Vietnam, they came to Annam in 1069, Hue in 1306, Quang Ngai in 1402, Binh Dinh in 1470, Phu Yen in 1611, Nha Trang in 1653, Saigon in 1674, Phan Thiet in 1697, and Ha Tien in 1714.