This is my firm conviction. We Vietnamese should not claim folks as our people if they refuse the claim, meaning if they insist that they are not Vietnamese, we should not place that honorific on them…even if it’s true.
I remember when I was younger, much younger, I dyed my hair blonde and pretended that I didn’t know Vietnamese at all because I didn’t want people to associate me with Vietnam. It worked quite well because although I am Vietnamese, for some strange genetic reason, my skin is very fair and I don’t look like the typical Vietnamese girl. Now, you may ask yourself, why would I think like this? My answer to you would be, ‘Have you ever been in a typical American High school?’
The kids are vicious!
Growing up in America, I saw first-hand how kids picked on others who were different in the slightest way. The rule of the day was…DON’T FUCKING STICK OUT!!! If I just looked like everybody else, acted like everybody else, thought like everybody else, I would escape ridicule, prejudice, and persecution.
In any case, living in America, I could meld myself into society quite easily. I could be whomever and whatever I wanted to be. Nobody knew, and frankly nobody cared. The only thing that tied me to my heritage was my name, but that was easily remedied. I acquired a nickname and that was what I went by. Since I no longer stuck out, I was able to go about my daily life with little traumatic disruptions. As an aside, acquiring a nice strong boyfriend who knew martial arts helped too, but that’s another story for another day.
Applying it to this situation, I can see how this would play out more than two thousand years ago, in the time of Lao Tzu and Confucius (roughly between 722 BC and 481 BC, aka the Spring-Autumn Period).
The warm and fertile Great South has been settled by the one-hundred-tribal-Viet people for thousands of years, and all of a sudden, they are overrun by the fierce nomadic tribes from the north. With no recourse, they have to try and fit in, all the while, maintaining as much normalcy as they can so they can get on with the daily chores of getting the plantings done on time and getting the community fed. That’s not a small task, especially when there are overlords demanding taxes and harvesting in return for keeping one’s head securely on one’s shoulders.
Then imagine being born into a royal family of the Great South, and having to try to blend in to keep from being ambushed. Obviously, that had to be a major balancing act. Those who were able to completely eradicate their ties to Âu Việt and assimilate as quickly as possible to the Han Chinese from the north were the ones who were able to most effectively live to a ripe old age. Those who insisted on maintaining their Việt heritage were more likely to have ‘things’ happen to them.
Imagine being a famous writer of a book that has survived thousands of years, and yet the name of the author of that famous book is nowhere to be found.
Obviously, we are not talking about Confucius. We know exactly when he was born (551 AD), when he died (479 AD). We know where he was born (somewhere in the state of Sòng (宋國) north of the Yangtze) and what his birth name is (Kong Qiu). We know he is a descendant of either the Shang kings or priests (more likely both sides) through the Dukes of Sòng. In other words, he was a properly-documented Chinese of royal birth from the northern states.
But what happens to a royal person who was documented as having been born from the area south of the Yangtze river? What if he had been born to a southern tribal king and lived in an area called Âu Việt? What if he insisted on being considered a part of the Âu Việt population?
As has been exhaustively documented by historians, in subsequent assimilation attempts by the Han Chinese, most if not just about every vestige of known Vietnamese history was completely wiped out, leaving very little left for us to examine.
The ramification of that act is also the biggest reason why there would be so few records of such an important figure as Lao Tzu. The only parts left untouched which would vouch to his existence on this Earth were the several documented conversations that he had with the more illustrious Confucius, who was younger than he was and had come asking for wisdom and knowledge. After all, Confucius’ documented sayings and activities had to be preserved at all costs. He was a direct link to the powerful, elite, technologically advanced civilization north of the Yangtze.
All I can say is, thank heavens for those documented meetings with Confucius or we would have never known anything about this man.
Chinese documents reveal that Lao Tzu’s final days on earth were obscured by the fact that he took a water buffalo and headed due west, to the dessert beyond. Nobody knew where he went and what happened afterwards.
I have talked about this extensively in my previous post Damn Stubborn Water Buffalo, and I have detailed the reasons why he could not have gone into the desert. Since he could not possibly go eastward (the Pacific Ocean is a wonderful deterrent to any excursions eastward that would completely obliterate a person’s existence from the annals of history), and since there were no water buffalo in the northern regions (which is why the Han Chinese had to exchange the water buffalo for the cow in the twelve animals of the zodiac…but more on that later, I promise…) the animal would not be wandering northward.
The only logical conclusion that we can come to is that the water buffalo went HOME, south of the area where he was sent to pick up the venerable old Lao Tzu. Contrary to what little has been left in modern Chinese history, Lao Tzu’s story doesn’t end with the swishing of the buffalo’s tail and his slowly disappearing form into the distant hills.
If we follow the direction of his buffalo’s route, we find that his story continues onward.