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The Rebel Den of Nung Tri Cao

loyalty and identity along the Sino-Vietnamese frontier

James A. Anderson

Publication Year: 2012

The Rebel Den of Nung Tri Cao examines the rebellion of the eleventh-century Tai chieftain Nung Tri Cao (ca. 1025-1055), whose struggle for independence along Vietnam's mountainous northern frontier was a pivotal event in Sino-Vietnamese relations. Tri Cao's revolt occurred during Vietnam's earliest years of independence from China and would prove to be a vital test of the Vietnamese court's ability to confront local political challenges and maintain harmony with its powerful northern neighbor.

Published by: University of Washington Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. v

List of Maps

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pp. vii

List of Figures

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pp. viii

List of Appendix Figures

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pp. ix

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Preface and Acknowledgments

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pp. x-xiv

My own interest in Nung Tri Cao is three-fold. First, early on I found his life story to be an intriguing narrative. In the course of my studies on the evolution of post-Tang Sino-Vietnamese tribute relations, the bold and perhaps "devil-may-care" attempts of Tri Cao and his clan to carve out a political place between two powerful overlords stood out starkly in the reams of materials I...

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pp. xv

I have attempted to remain as historically precise as possible when naming kingdoms and periods through various time periods and political shifts. However, some of the language I have used may not satisfy every reader. Prior to the twentieth century, modem names for the countries examined in this book and modem names for their inhabitants would not be relevant. In his recent study of East...

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1. The Great King Nung Tri Cao: A Rebel's Role in Shaping Regional Identity along the Modern Sino-Vietnamese Border

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pp. 3-14

Why should we in the early twenty-first century pay particular attention to the collective identity of and historical relationship between the regions now ruled as the People's Republic of China and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam? I once asked myself this question while standing in a valley near the commune of Hit Quang on the Sino-Vietnamese frontier, where Chinese tanks...

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2. The Legacy of the Chinese Imperial Tribute System in the South: Balancing Ritual Harmony with Frontier Stability

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pp. 15-32

In 1034, a local non-Han leader, Tran C6ng Vinh (dates unknown), along with more than six hundred followers, crossed the frontier into Song territory. Cong Vinh had earlier announced that his home region should become a neifu (interior dependency) of the Song court. Neifu status placed a region under the direct protection of the Chinese court. After doing so, any disturbance...

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3. Examples of Negotiated Autonomy: Sino-Vietnamese Relations Before the Eleventh Century

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pp. 33-67

Chinese court relations with the nomadic peoples to the north always differed from the types of arrangements rulers made with the non Han peoples inhabiting China's shifting southern frontier. Specifically, from the founding of the Song dynasty in 968, the court at Kaifeng treated the Vietnamese people of the Red River delta differently from other neighboring societies that supported...

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4. Gaining Legitimacy at the Empire's Edge: Indigenous Tai-Speaking Communities along the Sino-Vietnamese Frontier through the Early Song Period

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pp. 68-87

In late 1038, the Tai-speaking Sino-Vietnamese frontier chieftain Nimg Ton PhUc (or Toim PhUc) (d. 1039) made his bid for kingship.l Ton Phuc's grab for power was as bloody as it was sudden when, in late autumn, he allegedly murdered both his brother and his brother-in-law and seized their lands. Ton Phuc gave his newly amalgamated realm the hopeful name Kingdom of Longevity...

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5. The Specter of Southern Power: Nung Tri Cao's Insurrection, Court Reaction, and the Legacy of Nam Viet

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pp. 88-118

...In 1041, two years after his father and uncle were executed by Vietnamese troops, Nung Tn Cao and his mother A NUng led a small militia to seize control of Thling Do prefecture.1 Thus began a series of efforts by Tn Cao and his mother to carve out another semiautonomous polity in the Sino-Vietnamese frontier region. Tn Cao's series of revolts would far surpass efforts...

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6. Tempting "Treacherous Factions" : The Manipulation of Frontier Alliances on the Eve of the 1075 Sino-Vietnamese Borderlands War

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pp. 119-151

No one in either Thang Long or Kaifeng was likely to have imagined that the suppression of Nung Tn Cao would lead to war. Nonetheless, the official containment of the frontier chieftain eventually had the effect of escalating rather than decreasing tensions along the Sino-Vietnamese frontier region. In fact, the pacification campaign launched against NiIng Tn Cao's followers...

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7. Monumental Pride: Sino-Vietnamese Cross-Border Commemorations of Nung Tri Cao

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pp. 152-182

Nowhere else is Nimg Tn Cao more revered than in his own home region within the Tai-speaking communities along the modem border between China's Guangxi Autonomous Region and Vietnam's Cao BfuIg province. Many families with the Nung surname still reside in the border region, and most consider themselves to be direct descendants of Nung Tri Cao, his...

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8. Conclusion

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pp. 183-185

This book was constructed as a series of related case studies, connected by the theme of political language. The political language and the political authority this language evoked carried clout in the dynamic but inherently unstable Sino-Vietnamese frontier region. Political actors who chose to employ this language either accepted titles from greater powers from outside the region or created titles that enhanced or transformed their local political standing among...

Appendix 1: Inscriptions from the Ky Sam Temple

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pp. 186-188

Appendix 2: Inscriptions from the Nung Tri Cao Temple

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pp. 189-192


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pp. 193-220


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pp. 221-243


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pp. 244-264


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pp. 265

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780295800776
E-ISBN-10: 0295800771
Print-ISBN-13: 9780295986890
Print-ISBN-10: 0295986891

Publication Year: 2012