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History, Independence Restored

Trung Sisters, Dai Viet, Ngo Quyen, powerful empire, Young Vietnamese

In the succeeding centuries a series of unsuccessful uprisings against Chinese rule followed. Finally in ad 939 Ngo Quyen took advantage of chaotic conditions in China and led a successful Vietnamese rebellion against the local occupation forces. He established the Ngo dynasty, but after his death in 944 the dynasty disintegrated and a long period of civil strife followed. In the early 11th century Ly Thai To founded the first of the great Vietnamese dynasties. Under the astute leadership of several dynamic rulers, the Ly dynasty ruled Vietnam from 1010 to 1225. The rise of the new state, known as Dai Viet (Great Viet), reflected the emergence of a strong sense of Vietnamese national identity. The Ly rulers, however, found Chinese techniques useful in controlling and mobilizing their subjects; therefore they retained many of the political and social institutions that had been introduced during the long centuries of Chinese rule. For example, they adopted the Confucian civil service examination system, formalized in China during the 8th and 9th centuries, as a means of selecting government officials. This method of selection allowed talented individuals to rise to positions of power based on their abilities, not their political connections. At first, only members of the ruling aristocracy were authorized to compete in the examinations, but eventually the right was extended to most males. The Ly used the educational system to spread moral principles valued in China. Young Vietnamese who prepared for the examinations learned the Confucian classics and grew up conversant with the great figures and ideas that had shaped Chinese history.

But Vietnamese society was more than just a pale reflection of China. Beneath the veneer of Chinese thought and fashion popular among the upper classes, native forms of expression continued to thrive. Young Vietnamese learned to appreciate the great heroes of the Vietnamese past, many of whom—like the Trung Sisters—had built their reputation on resistance to Chinese occupation. At the village level, social mores reflected native traditions more than patterns imported from China. In Vietnam, for example, the legal rights of women were more extensive than in neighboring China. Although to the superficial eye Vietnam may have looked like a “smaller dragon” under the watchful eye of the powerful empire to the north, it continued to develop a separate culture with vibrant traditions of its own.

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Article key phrases:

Trung Sisters, Dai Viet, Ngo Quyen, powerful empire, Young Vietnamese, Chinese occupation, Vietnamese society, social mores, moral principles, Chinese history, social institutions, upper classes, watchful eye, educational system, new state, emergence, rise, patterns, positions of power, death, males, abilities, examinations, government officials, ideas, China, resistance, reputation, means, subjects, example, right, members


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