Sunday, May 11, 2014

Week 7: Ancient History of Viet Nam, Cambodia, and Laos

South East Asian countries have had a long bearing history of relations with China that have impacted them culturally, socially, and politically. Nayan Chanda's Brother Enemy: The War After the War and Sucheng Chan's Vietnam Before the Mid-nineteenth Century, essentially describe to us the history of Vietnam and its relationships with other countries to lead it to where it is today. Through all of the trials and tribulations that it faced, we are able to see how this small country came to be. According to Chanda, both Vietnam and Cambodia turned to China for protection from outside threats. However, Cambodia accepted China as its protector, whereas Vietnam resisted the Chinese control. Vietnam sought authority on the boarders of Southern China and they also wanted to maintain an alliance among Laos and Cambodia, which initiated a persistent disapproval for many decades from China, the communist country.

Sucheng Chan essentially describes to us the history of Vietnam and how it came to be through all of the trials and tribulations it faced. According to this article, many Vietnamese individuals claim to be ancestors of the "Lac" people, who originated from the Hong River Vally. However, scholars have revealed that the "Lac" were only one of the many ethnic groups that merged to form the Vietnamese people. In truth, Vietnam was heavily influenced by the Chinese, despite their paradoxical relationship. After fighting off the Chinese and gaining their freedom, Vietnam actually adapted many of the Chinese social, cultural, and political institutional forms because they liked the Confucian ideologies and saw it useful for exerting social and political over their subjects. Throughout this article, we are presented with the different countries and world powers that colonized and invaded Vietnam and we are introduced to the history of Vietnam and how it expanded over time. The trials and tribulations of being invaded and colonized really put a strain on the Vietnamese individuals. We are presented with instances such as the Le Code, where Buddhism and Taoism lost their standing and Confucianism reigned supreme. Then we are also faced with the Catholic missionaries and their attempt to convert Vietnam to Catholicism, and how they were persecuted, imprisoned, and ran out by the Nguyen Dynasty. 

In Gary Yia Lee's Disapora and the Predicament of Origins: Interrogating Hmong Postcolonial History and Identity, we are presented with the fact that the history and identity of the Hmong have been ambiguous in social and political narratives that search for their origin and individuality. The Hmong have directly been under Chinese rule in Southern China and Western colonial and neo-colonial rule when they migrated to Indochina. The Hmong history has repeatedly been perceived and written about from outside perspectives that revolve around their regional residence in China and Indochina. They too have been recognized directly under an umbrealla term known as "Miao" by the Chinese. This identification, however, has allowed confusion and uncetainty with defining the Hmong identity since Miao groups acquired layers of differences and histories of their own. After fleeing Laos and Southeast Asia, Hmong has been used as a term of identification. Those outside of South China find the term "Miao" offensive for it's derogatory meaning of "cat." The co-ethnics in South China, however accept this term. In order to critically understand the Hmong history, it is of essence to include the social and political narratives of the Hmong. This understanding will relay its' significance into conversations with the Hmong and scholarship, to provide accurate depictions of their identity and history. 

Authority and colonialism are prime themes in understanding the history of Southeast Asia as a region sought to be overpowered. China also plays a significant role in the history as their supremacy had an influence in these specific countries. As Gary Yia Lee states, the Hmong have roots that connect them to the rule of China that ultimately led to their displacement mainly to Southeast Asia. The aftermath of the Vietnam War once again displaced the Hmong to different parts of the world seeking refuge while many Hmong still reside in Southeast Asia, mainly in China. This separation has caused a conflicting view on signifying a clear identity of the Miao/Hmong groups in postcolonial terms and this conflict reveals how the history of Southeast Asia and the role of colonialism have impacted the identity of the Miao/Hmong people due to the physical relocation, which results in a new ethnic label for identification. According to Chan and Chanda, Vietnam has had its fair share of also being influenced by China who has also provided strong Confucian ideologies for Vietnam to inherit. Vietnam's efforts to maintain their independence led the Vietnamese to endure colonialism and post-colonial effects that have affected the inhabitants and those in diaspora. The people affected have resulted in relocating, re-creating their identities and also resulted in many natives to take political positions. This history help us rethink about how contemporary borders and ethnic labels are created by the persistent struggles Southeast Asian countries endure in resisting colonial and imperial rule. These countries, such as Vietnam, sought independence which neighboring country China grew strongly opposed to which initiated a history that involved deaths, and losses of culture, identity, and homes.

1. Ancient History of Southeast Asia revolve around the themes of authority, displacement, and ethnic identity. How do these themes present a critical view on how Southeast Asian has been structurally created? 
2. Taking the history of Southeast Asia into consideration, how has the term of Southeast Asia been constructed and what does the umbrella term impose on these countries and people? 
3. Now knowing more about the history of Vietnam and its' relationship to other Southeast Asian countries, how possible do you think it is to stand together in solidarity against oppression (keeping in mind the bad blood between certain Southeast Asian ethnic groups)?
4. If religion was not a factor for colonization or invasion of Vietnam, would there be other reasons or influences for these other countries to invade?
5. Compare and contrast the role of China and the U.S. in Southeast Asia. 

Works Cited:

Chanda, Nayan. Brother Enemy: The War After the War.

Gary Yia Lee. “Diaspora and the Predicament of Origins: Interrogating Hmong Postcolonial History and Identity.”

"Vietnamese History - Eng Sub (Story of an S-shaped Country)." YouTube. YouTube, 17 Mar. 2013. Web. 11 May 2014. <>.
"WHO ARE THE HMONG." YouTube. YouTube, 19 Oct. 2012. Web. 11 May 2014. <>.
Blog by: Nancy Fang and Nancy Le

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