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The Tongking Gulf Through History

Edited by Nola Cooke, Li Tana, and James A. Anderson

Publication Year: 2011

Since 2005, a series of significant developments has been unfolding in the area of the Tongking Gulf under the rubric of an ambitious project called "Two Corridors and One Rim." Proposed by Vietnam in 2004 and enthusiastically embraced by China, the project is designed to link their shared shores and hinterlands by superhighways and high-speed rail. An area that had seemed a backwater for two hundred years has suddenly become a dynamic engine of growth.

Yet how innovative are these developments? Drawing on fresh historical insights and recent archaeological research in northern Vietnam and southern China, The Tongking Gulf Through History reveals that this region has long been a center of cultural, political, and economic exchange. From a historical point of view, contributors argue, the Gulf of Tongking has come full circle. Inspired by the Braudelian vision that regionality arises from long-term human interactions, essays avoid state-centered approaches of nationalist histories to focus on local communities throughout the Gulf. In doing so, they reveal a complex pattern of interrelationships and geopolitical factors that has shaped the gulf region for over two millennia.

The first half of the volume covers the era from the Neolithic to the tenth century, when an independent state emerged from old Chinese Jiaozhi, or modern northern Vietnam; the second surveys the nine centuries that followed, in which only two states came to share the maritime shores of the Tongking Gulf. Together, the essays illuminate how millennia of recurring human interactions within this geographical space have created a regional ensemble with its own longstanding historical integrity and dynamics.

Published by: University of Pennsylvania Press

Series: Encounters with Asia


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-x

In 2004 Vietnam opened negotiations with China about an ambitious joint project that would make the Gulf of Tongking an important economic motor of development for both countries. The approach resulted in a joint agreement called “Two Corridors and One Rim” that was signed in October 2004. This grand project proposed to link the two land corridors of Yunnan and Guangxi with Hanoi and Hải...

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Introduction. The Tongking Gulf Through History: A Geopolitical Overview

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pp. 1-21

Since 2005, a series of significant developments has been unfolding in the Gulf of Tongking area under the rubric of an ambitious project called “Two Corridors and One Rim.” Proposed by Vietnam in 2004 and enthusiastically responded to by China, the term “Two Corridors and One Rim” appeared in the official joint declaration and agreements signed in Hanoi during Chinese premier Wen Jiabao’s...


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1. Textile Crafts in the Gulf of Tongking: The Intersection of Archaeology and History

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pp. 25-38

Craft production played an important role in the overall structure of economic life in the Gulf of Tongking region during both the prehistoric and protohistoric periods.This is evidenced by the large number of bronze drums found at archaeological sites in Vietnam, Yunnan, and Guangxi, discussed in the chapters by Li Tana and Michael Churchman. These drums indicate not only that metal production was a major...

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2. Jiaozhi (Giao Chi) in the Han Period Tongking Gulf

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pp. 39-52

This chapter introduces early Jiaozhi, a territorial unit covering the present-day Red River plains, coastal Guangxi, and western Guangdong, and discusses its importance in the exchange system of the Gulf of Tongking and South China Sea nearly two millennia ago. Contrary to conventional scholarship, which has stressed political forces pushing from north to south that resulted in Chinese colonization...

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3. Han Period Glass Vessels in the Early Tongking Gulf Region

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pp. 53-66

Archaeological investigations in Han dynasty tombs in Guangxi, China, have uncovered a small number of unusual glass vessels. The chronology of the tombs suggests that their initial production started around the middle or late Western Han period (206 B.C.E.–8 C.E.) and continued well into the Eastern Han period(25–220 C.E.). Although first thought to be imports, later chemical analyses of...

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4. “The People in Between”: The Li and Lao from the Han to the Sui

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pp. 67-83

The lands that lie north of the Tongking Gulf, between the Pearl and Red Rivers, have been long divided up for historical analysis into areas that correspond to the modern national boundaries of China or Vietnam. As this region is now a borderland, intersected by a national boundary, its story has been overlooked as marginalin comparison with the great traditions of nation-centered history; so too the...


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5. “Slipping Through Holes”: The Late Tenth- and Early Eleventh-Century Sino-Vietnamese Coastal Frontier as a Subaltern Trade Network

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pp. 87-100

The tenth century was a period of significant new beginnings in the TongkingGulf region. Political upheaval and the end of the Tang dynasty (618–907) farther north enabled the Jiaozhi elite under Đinh Bô Lĩnh (923–79) to strike out on their own account and establish an independent kingdom, Đai Cô (968–1054). A few years prior to the appearance of the new Vietnamese kingdom, a new dynasty was also emerging in China, the Song (960–1279)....

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6. Vân Ðôn, the “Mac Gap,” and the End of the Jiaozhi Ocean System: Trade and State in Ðai Viet, Circa 1450–1550

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pp. 101-116

Vân Đôn, a network of island harbors stretching northeast of the Red River Delta into the Gulf of Tongking, was the major location of international trade for the kingdom of Đai Viêt for about three and a half centuries. It first appeared in the chronicle of Đai Viêt (Đai Viêt sử ký) in 1149, and the last explicit reference to it was in 1467,1 although other evidence suggests it was still in operation for almost half a century after that...

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7. The Trading Environment and the Failure of Tongking’s Mid-Seventeenth-Century Commercial Resurgence

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pp. 117-132

Tongkingese raw silk was one of the most coveted mercantile commodities in the South China Sea region in the mid-seventeenth century. The Dutch East India Company (VOC) and Chinese private traders were engaged in exporting Tongkingese raw silk to its primary market in Japan. While several studies have focused on the Dutch role in this branch of trade,1 little attention has been given...

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8. Chinese “Political Pirates” in the Seventeenth-Century Gulf of Tongking

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pp. 133-142

Like all pirates throughout the centuries, the seventeenth-century pirates of the Gulf of Tongking cruised the seas and harassed passing ships and junks. But unlike those in the rest of the South China (or Eastern) Sea, most of the pirates active in the Tongking Gulf came from either Southern Ming or Mac armed forces, and were involved in the politics of the time. Since most of them had mandarin...

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9. Chinese Merchants and Mariners in Nineteenth-Century Tongking

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pp. 143-159

In 2006, a leading Vietnamese economist observed in a Chinese newspaper that “Sino-Vietnamese trade is more frequent than domestic trade between northern and southern Vietnam.”1 As several chapters in this book have shown, this pattern of interregional economic interaction in the Tongking Gulf is a centuries-old phenomenon. This impulse to exchange and the economic complementarity on which...


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pp. 161-205


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pp. 207-212

List of Contributors

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p. 213


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pp. 215-222

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p. 223

The editors wish to thank Professor Gu Xiao Song and the Guangxi Academy of Social Sciences for their strong support of the workshop, and Professors Roderich Ptak, Brantly Womack, Claudine Salmon, John E. Wills, Sun Laichen, Ho

E-ISBN-13: 9780812205022
Print-ISBN-13: 9780812243369

Page Count: 240
Publication Year: 2011

Series Title: Encounters with Asia
Series Editor Byline: Victor H. Mair, Series Editor See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 794700625
MUSE Marc Record: Download for The Tongking Gulf Through History

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Subject Headings

  • China -- Commerce -- Vietnam, Northern -- History -- Congresses.
  • Vietnam, Northern -- Commerce -- China -- History -- Congresses.
  • Tonkin, Gulf of, Region -- Commerce -- History -- Congresses.
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