Communication Yearbook 11

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First published in 2012. Routledge is an imprint of Taylor & Francis, an informa company.
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May 23, 2012
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Language Arts & Disciplines / Communication Studies
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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.

Tri Cao established his first kingdom in 1042, at the age of seventeen, but was captured by Vietnamese troops. After his release in 1048, he announced the founding of a second kingdom, but an attack by Vietnamese forces drove him to flee into Chinese territory. Tri Cao made his final attempt in 1052, proclaiming a new kingdom and leading thousands of his subjects in a revolt that swept across the South China coast. But within a year, Chinese imperial troops had forced him to flee to the nearest independent kingdom. Official Chinese and Vietnamese accounts of the rebel leader's end vary: according to the Chinese, the ruler of the independent kingdom had Tri Cao executed, but in popular accounts, Tri Cao was granted safe passage into northern Thailand, where his descendants are said to flourish today.

Scholar James Anderson places Tri Cao in context by exploring the Sino-Vietnamese tributary relationship and the conflicts that engaged both the Song and Vietnamese courts. The Rebel Den of Nung Tri Cao reconstructs the series of negotiations that took place between border communities and representatives of the imperial courts, examining the ways in which Tai and other ethnic groups deftly navigated the unstable political situation that followed the demise of China's cosmopolitan Tang dynasty. Though his rebellion was ill-fated, Tri Cao is, almost a thousand years later, still worshipped in temples along the Sino-Vietnamese border, and his memory provides a point of unity for people who have become separated by modern political boundaries.

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.
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