ABSTRACT

During the twentieth century Vietnamese revolutionaries have attempted to blend some aspects of their national traditions with more modern demands for extensive changes in society. In their fifty-year battle against the Japanese, French, and United States governments, Vietnamese Communists reinterpreted ancient folk values to suit the contemporary situation. They also mobilized support by relying on certain structures associated with the traditional Vietnamese village. Unlike several other countries of Southeast Asia, Vietnam has experienced a lengthy common identity going back nearly four thousand years. The term "Vietnam" means "south of China"; whereas "Viet" is the national term, "nam" denotes "south." Historically the Vietnamese national identity developed through a continuing military struggle against Chinese domination. Beginning around 200 B.C. the northern segment of Vietnam, the Red River Delta region, came under conquest by the Chinese. Not until 939 did the Vietnamese kingdom first win independence from Chinese rule. Between 1000 and 1800 the northern-based kingdom of Vietnam fought to ward off successive Chinese invasions and also to gain dominance over the southern regions of Vietnam controlled by the Champa and Khmer

(Cambodian) empires. Thus in their twentieth-century drive to liberate themselves from Western powers, Vietnamese revolutionaries stressed the historical relevance of their ancient military struggles against foreign invaders. Now as in the past, although accepting some key Chinese values, the Vietnamese have rejected Chinese structural domination.