I have never seen anyone compare the Yao with the Việt, but someone should.

The Yao (or Dao in Vietnamese) are a people who lived in the mountains in an area from Hunan to northwestern Vietnam. Like the Việt, the Yao invented an early history for themselves based on material that was first recorded by Chinese writers. They recorded this information in texts that were alternately known as the “Charter of Emperor Ping” (Pinghuang quandie 評皇券牒) or the “Passport for Crossing the Mountains” (Guoshan bang 過山榜).

Yao people

The information in these texts claimed that the Yao were descended from a dog-human ancestor by the name of Panhu 槃瓠. The Yao did not create this story. Instead, Chinese writers did, and we can find a version of this story in Fan Ye’s History of the Later Han (Hou Hanshu 後漢書). In that work, Fan Ye told a story in which he said that all of the “Southern Savages” (Nanman 南蠻) were descended from Panhu.

In this story, Panhu, a dog, assists Emperor Ku of the Gaoxin clan by killing his rival. Emperor Ku then grants Panhu his daughter. The emperor later regrets this and tries to get her back, but he is obstructed from doing so by bad weather that magically appears.

Panhu’s wife gives birth to six girls and six boys. They intermarry and have children and their numbers grow. These people then live in the mountains and rule over themselves.

charter 5

The History of the Later Han then says this about the organization of their society: “There were community chiefs, all of whom received imperial seals and ribbons of investiture. They wore caps made of otter skin. They called their chief generals jingfu 精夫, and each other angtu 姎徒.”

This story was written by Fan Ye in the fifth century about the “Southern Savages,” but by 1,000 years later, the Yao were using this story to talk about themselves. The only difference was that they changed the name of the emperor from Emperor Ku to Emperor Ping, an emperor that they invented.

For anyone who has read the Lĩnh Nam chích quái, some similarities here should be obvious. In the Yao story a Chinese emperor gives away his daughter to a dog-man, whereas in the Tale of the Hồng Bàng Clan (Hồng Bàng thị truyện) in the Lĩnh Nam chích quái, a Chinese emperor’s wife is abducted by a dragon lord.


In both of these cases the respective emperors encounter supernatural obstructions when they seek to get back these women. In their new marriages, both of these women then give birth to a large number of children who are equally divided into two groups.

Finally, in both of these stories, “indigenous” terms are used for the titles of officials. The Lĩnh Nam chích quái states that, “[The Hùng king] divided the group of brothers [50 of whom had followed their mother and 50 of whom had followed their father] to rule over [this area]. He established his subordinates as ministers and generals. Ministers were called lạc marquises. Generals were called lạc generals. Princes were called quan lang, and [the king’s] daughters, mỵ nương. Officials were called bồ chính.”

It’s interesting how the Lĩnh Nam chích quái mirrors this earlier story about Panhu and his descendants.

[For a translation of the Panhu story as it appears in the History of the Later Han, see pages 5-6 in this work.]