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An Dương Vương

An Dương Vương (Hán Việt: ; literally "Peaceful Sun King") is the ruling title of Thục Phán (), who presided over the ancient kingdom of Âu Lạc as its only Thục Dynasty monarch from 257 to 207 BCE, after defeating the state of Văn Lang and uniting the two tribes of Âu Việt and Lạc Việt. His longevity, said to have been approximately 100 years, is quite disputed.

Origins and history

According to Chinese historical records, Thục Phán was a prince of the Chinese state of Shu, sent by his father first to explore the southern Chinese provinces of Guangxi and Yunnan and second to move their people to modern day northern Vietnam during the invasion of the Qin Dynasty. However, modern Vietnamese scholars claim that "Thục Phán" was a native Austro-Asiatic name which meant "God of crossbow", and that he was an ancient Vietnamese.

Thục Phán apparently came upon the Âu Việt (甌越) territory (modern-day northernmost Vietnam, western Guangdong, and southern Guangxi province, with its capital in what is today the Cao Bang Province). After assembling an army, he defeated King Hùng Vương (雄王) XVIII, the last ruler of the Hồng Bàng Dynasty, around 257 BCE. He proclaimed himself An Dương Vương (安陽王), "King An Dương". He then renamed his newly acquired state from Văn Lang to Âu Lạc (甌雒/甌駱) and established the new capital at Phong Khê in the present-day Phú Thọ Province in North Vietnam. Cổ Loa Thành (Co Loa Citadel), the spiral-shaped fortress/barricade which he also built, lies approximately ten miles north of that new capital.

Thục Phán and Âu Lạc’s Administration

There is not much recorded and or written about how the new Âu Lạc was administered and organized. Historians admit there are a lot of writings about other Vietnamese National dynasties such as the , , Trần, Hồ, etc. except for the period of 257 to 207 BCE, which was under his rule. Nonetheless, based on Thục Phán's accomplishments, he must have been an astute, clever, and significant figure. Certainly he was a talented general who knew how to exploit the confusion and turmoil in China during that period, not only to grab a piece of land for himself but also to secure his state's prosperity and survival. Around that same time, circa 260 - 250 BCE, when Thục Phán ascended to power, further north in China, various states are fighting each other to take control of China. Eventually, the Qin state rose to power and unified China under Emperor Qin Shi Huang. Upon Qin Shi Huang's ascension to the imperial throne, he descended into paranoia-fueled Legalist practices. Hoping to prevent potential civil unrests and rebellions, he ordered the burning of millions of books, other significant official documents from previously conquered warring states, and forced thousands of intellectual officials to be buried alive. Qin Shi Huang also ordered the beginning of the construction of the Great Wall, and around the same time, further south, An Dương Vương had begun the construction of a spiral-shaped fortress called Cổ Loa Thành to fend off future northern invasions and attacks.

The Legend of Cổ Loa Thành and the Magic Crossbow

Cổ Loa Thành and Âu Lạc

After Thục Phán defeated the last Hùng Vương King and ascended to the throne as An Dương Vương, he renamed Văn Lang to Âu Lạc and established Co Loa Citadel (古螺) as the new capital. He saw the strategic and geographic importance of Cổ Loa. On two of its sides, Co Loa was surrounded by impenetrable mountains and forests. There was also a river flowing by. No one knows why did An Dương Vương favored the spiral, shell-like shape of Cổ Loa Thành, but legend has it that its construction was extremely tough, and difficult to complete. Each time it seemed it was almost done, it was undone at night by a coalition of spirits which were thought to be allied to the son of a previous king.

The Legend of Cổ Loa and the Magic Crossbow

An Dương Vương burnt incense, prayed, made offerings, and evoked all the gods of those days to help him. One night, in a dream, a very, very old and venerable man with long, white hair came to him and told him the only person who could help him out of this conundrum was a golden turtle that lived somewhere around Cổ Loa.

A few days later, while wandering in a boat on the river and thinking about the meaning of his dream, a gigantic golden turtle appeared suddenly at the surface of the water. The golden turtle told An Dương Vương that he would need one of its claws in order to accomplish anything in his life. Pulling out one of its claws and throwing it to An Dương Vương, the turtle vanished.

An Dương Vương had Cao Lỗ, his weaponry engineer, build a crossbow incorporating this claw. It is said a single arrow shot from this crossbow of the Kim Qui (Golden Tortoise) could kill hundreds, even thousands of enemies. Indeed right after obtaining this claw, An Dương Vương saw his fortunes change. His capital started taking shape. His kingdom prospered and soon was coveted by neighboring states. Among one of those who coveted his territory was Zhao Tuo (Triệu Đà in Vietnamese), a Qin general under the reign of Qin Shi Huang and his successor. For a period of ten years around 217 to 207 BCE, Triệu Đà attempted many invasions to conquer Âu Lạc state, but failed each time due to An Dương Vương's military skills and defense tactics.

Triệu Đà's Scheme

Triệu Đà (趙佗), having been beaten several times, devised a new plan. Keeping to himself that it was just a temporary ploy to buy time, he negotiated a peace treaty with Âu Lạc (甌雒/甌駱) state. He set out to determine where lay the strength and strategies of his foe. He even went so far as to propose marriage between An Dương Vương’s daughter, Princess Mỵ Châu () and his son Trọng Thủy (). In time Triệu Đà found out through his daughter-in-law Mỵ Châu that An Dương Vương had a magic crossbow that made him almost invincible. In reality, the secret military technology of bronzed-cast arrows with some kind of fire-attachment invention by the Âu Lạc state was one of their famous arsenals that was used against the Qin armies and soundly defeated them on many occasions in the past. Eventually, when Triệu Đà figured out a new scheme to infiltrate the war arsenal secrets and military tactics of Âu Lạc was when he told his son Trọng Thủy to sneak into his father-in-law's armory and steal this "magic crossbow", replacing it with a fake. Triệu Đà, with the magic crossbow in his hands, launched a final, decisive attack on his foe and in-law An Dương Vương.

The loss of Cổ Loa and the Magic Crossbow

Miraculously enough, Cổ Loa fortress fell into Triệu Đà's hands. For An Dương Vương this was a major disaster. He grabbed Mỵ Châu, his only daughter, and fled the scene of the battle. Riding on his horse with Mỵ Châu behind him he called out in despair, “What happened to my crossbow? It does not work anymore! Why? Why?” At that very moment, the giant golden turtle An Dương Vương had not seen for years and years, suddenly reappeared in the river. He replied to An Dương Vương, “The person responsible for this disaster, the enemy you are looking for, is sitting right behind you, your majesty!”

An Dương Vương reined in his horse and confronted his daughter, who was in tears. Angered, feeling betrayed by his daughter and son-in-law, the king slew his daughter (in a popular version of the tale he beheaded her). Then he jumped into the river with the giant golden turtle. Some say he drowned himself; some say his faithful servant the golden turtle took him to the depths of the river.

Trọng Thủy, searching for his beloved wife, arrived a few minutes later at the scene. The body of his beloved wife was lying in a pool of blood and his father-in-law was nowhere to be seen. In accordance with conjugal fidelity and devotion, he drew his sword and killed himself as well, in order to be with his wife forever and eternity.

Having achieved the defeat of his rival, Triệu Đà annexed the newly conquered territory to his own, ascended to the throne, and proclaimed himself a new emperor, founding the Triệu Dynasty (207-111 BCE).

References

See also

Name Birth-Death Reign
Thục Phán
?-207 BC 257 BC to 207 BC

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