In 1967, Văn Tân published an article in Nghiên cứu lịch sử entitled “The problem of the period of the Hùng kings in the history of the nation(ality) of Vietnam.” In this article, Văn Tân examines various issues, one of which is whether there were figures who ruled over parts of the Red River delta in the first millennium B.C.E. who were called the “Hùng kings” (Hùng vương).
He notes that the Chinese sources which first recorded information about these figures contain conflicting information.
Shen Huaiyuan’s Treatise on Southern Yue is one such work. It was reportedly compiled in the fifth century but is now no longer extant. Nonetheless, passages from it, including the one which mentions the Hùng kings, are quoted in a tenth-century text.
Two other works, both of which are likewise no longer extant but which are quoted before the tenth century in other texts refer to “Lạc kings” (Lạc vương). These works are the Record of the Outer Territory of Jiao Region and the Record of Guang Region.
Văn Tân then says on page 17 that the characters for lạc and hùng are similar and that Shen Huaiyuan mistakenly wrote Hùng instead of Lạc.
He then says, “As such (như vậy), during the period of remote antiquity in the land of the country of Vietnam there definitely were individuals who were either called Hùng kings . . . (following the Treatise on Southern Yue) or who were called Lạc kings. . . (following the Record of the Outer Territory of Jiao Region and the Record of Guang Region).”!!!
Right before making this statement, Văn Tân declares that “Hùng” was mistakenly written for “Lạc.” So how can both names be acceptable? This is completely illogical.
Văn Tân’s lack of logic continues on page 19 where he makes the following conclusion:
“In summary, the period of the Hùng kings is a period which definitely exists in the ancient history of the country of Vietnam. We can follow Shen Huaiyuan’s Treatise on Southern Yue and call that period the period of the Hùng kings. We can also follow the Record of the Outer Territory of Jiao Region or the Record of Guang Region and call that period the period of the Lạc kings.”
The next paragraph then begins as follows:
“The society of the Hùng kings truly existed from the seventh to third centuries B.C.E. The Hùng kings were the ancestors of the Việt people when the society of the Việt people entered history.”
Let us examine what Văn Tân does here.
His article is entitled, “The problem of the period of the Hùng kings in the history of the nation(ality) of Vietnam.” From this title we can see that Văn Tân already thinks that there was a “period of the Hùng kings.”
He then looks at the issue of the term “Hùng,” and determines that it is a mistaken character for “Lạc.” From this, the logical point to make is that people should refer to “Lạc kings” rather than “Hùng kings.” Văn Tân, however, states that both terms are acceptable. How can they both be acceptable if one is a mistaken version of another?
Beyond the lack of logic in Văn Tân’s ideas, the terms “Lạc” and “Hùng” are not treated as equals in this paper even though he claims that they are. We see this in the title, but also in the conclusion. While he states there that it is acceptable to refer to “Lạc kings,” in his discussion of the society and the time period, he uses the term “Hùng kings.”
This is completely illogical. However, I have found that this is highly representative of the scholarship in the DRV at that time (the 1960s). This is a period when people supposedly “debated” the past, but as is apparent from this article, there is no “debate” here. Instead, the entire article is packaged in a way which completely contradicts Văn Tân’s findings. He concludes that the term “Hùng” is incorrect, but talks about the “period of the Hùng kings” and “the society of the Hùng kings.”
What is tragic about this is that the “conclusions” of studies like this one here became the foundation for the knowledge which Vietnamese now have of their past. In other words, knowledge of the past in Vietnam today is built on a foundation of illogical and flawed reasoning and the “facts” which such ways of thinking produced.
Văn Tân, “Vấn đề thời đại Hùng vương trong lịch sử dân tộc Việt Nam” [The problem of the period of the Hùng kings in the history of the nation(ality) of Vietnam], Nghiên cứu lịch sử 98 (1967): 16-19.