Welcome to my brand new series about Vietnam history, mashed up with modern Vietnamese issues and news! So much better than a dry (ha) description of soups, especially since I’ll be talking a lot about food and food prep in the context of my Market To Table series (which is debuting this week!). This has been a fascinating and, frankly, way more interesting topic to pursue than my original plan. There’s a lot of exciting things I’ve got lined up, and I’m looking forward to going on this journey with you.
Over the course of 30 posts, I’m going to delve into major events from Vietnam’s past, both ancient and modern, and explore related issues. But for this first one, let’s keep it light and fun – mythology is awesome!
This post is about the mythological origins of the Vietnamese people, and involves legends: kings, fairies, and dragons appear in the birth of the Vietnamese people, and they launch a history that spans many millennia.
There’s something special about knowing your people and nation have a long history. As an American, we find this mythology in narrative: endless police procedurals, Hollywood movies, and “The Great American Novel” haunt our collective unconsciousness. We celebrate our most recent origins on the Fourth of July and try to uphold traditions our ancestors brought with them from all over the world. But we’re still babies compared to the great civilizations of the world. Check this out.
In Southeast and East Asia, the Viet people were first identified as a group over 3,000 years ago, and were Australasian in origin. Genetically, the geographical home of the main ethnic group, the Kinh, is what is currently northern Vietnam and southern China.
But before we knew this, advanced science and technology confirming ancient migration patterns and the history of our genes themselves, the Vietnamese people knew something truer.
They know their true origins…
At the beginning of the world, there was a fairy. Her name was Au Co, and she was excruciatingly lovely. Her beauty was uncanny to behold, but she was more than just a pretty face. She also radiated inner beauty, helping and curing any who came to her for help.
One day, while gathering herbs she found useful and delicious, she was caught unawares by a horrific monster, a demon intent upon devouring the beautiful fairy. So startled was she that she could not help herself – she immediately transformed into a crane and flew away on powerful wings.
The assault did not go unnoticed, however.
|Loc Long Quan: Not into fairy-beating.|
Lac Long Quan, the son of a powerful sea dragon, saw this transgression and was enraged. As Au Co fled upward, he ripped himself from the rocky outcropping overlooking the valley and launched himself at the demon. A great match ensued, with Lac Long Quan and the beast locked in combat for a short period before the dragon god smote the presumptuous predator, letting out a bellow of triumph.
|Cue the Vietnamese obsession with romance and true love.|
Au Co, hearing his victory bellow high above the valley, wheeled around to view the aftermath and catch her breath. It was in the instant that her eyes met those of the venerable dragon lord. Neither could look away. Kindess, justice, mercy, and strength recognized in each other what each self had long pined for, and they resolved to be married henceforth.
|Let’s just not talk about the biology of this, ok?|
Au Co soon became pregnant, and gave birth to a bag full of 100 eggs. As mother and father looked on these began to hatch – and birthed the very first Vietnamese. Their eldest son, Hung Vuong, was the first Viet king, and founded the first Viet dynasty in 2879 B.C.
B. EFFIN’ C.
|Welcome to existence, Vietnamese people!|
It wasn’t long before Lac Long Quan, desiring to return to the coast from whence he came, and Au Co, desperate to return to her mountains, split up. Each took 50 sons and seeded the ancient area with Vietnamese people – Lac Long Quan settling his brood on the seas, and Au Co and her followers in the high mountains.
They seem happier now.
So there you have it – the divine mythology concerning the beginning of the Vietnamese people. It’s especially interesting that this myth doesn’t particularly concern the country of Vietnam, only the origin of the people that live there – in fact, there was another great civilization that held control of South Vietnam (The Cham Empire), and South Vietnam wouldn’t come under the control of Vietnamese until the mid-1500’s, almost 4,500 years after the first Viet king, Hung Vuong, reigned over Lac Viet in the North.
That date sure puts my own personal history in perspective… just saying’.
Up Next in my Vietnamese History series, we get into actual history:
- 192 A.D.: The Chams and Champa Kingdom in the Land Before Vietnam
- October 1887: French Indochina and Vietnam’s Amazing Literacy Rates
Please join me on my cultural journey towards understanding modern Vietnam (ha, as if)!
What’s your ethnic origin story? Got a good one? Please share in the comments!