Jiaozhi was the name of all or part of Vietnam
Vietnam – sometimes spelled Viet Nam , officially the Socialist Republic of Vietnam – is the easternmost country on the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia. It is bordered by China to the north, Laos to the northwest, Cambodia to the southwest, and the South China Sea –...

's territory, from the Hùng Vương
Hung Vuong
Hùng Vương is a title used in many modern discussions of the ancient Vietnamese rulers of the Hồng Bàng) period. In antiquity this title began to be used for the ruler who was the religious and political leader of united ancient Vietnam...

 era to the middle of the Third Chinese domination, and during the Fourth Chinese domination.

Giao Chỉ in the Văn Lang era

Giao Chỉ was the name of one bộ, an administrative level equivalent to a district, of the former nation Văn Lang
Van Lang
Văn Lang was, according to tradition, the first nation of the ancient Vietnamese people, founded in 2879 BC and existing until 258 BC. It was ruled by the Hùng Kings of the Hồng Bàng Dynasty. There is, however, little reliable historical information available...

 during the Hùng Vương
Hung Vuong
Hùng Vương is a title used in many modern discussions of the ancient Vietnamese rulers of the Hồng Bàng) period. In antiquity this title began to be used for the ruler who was the religious and political leader of united ancient Vietnam...

 era. Its territory included present-day Hà Nội and the land on the right bank of the Hồng river.

The Nanyue

After annexing Âu Lạc (179 BC), the Nanyue
Nanyue was an ancient kingdom that consisted of parts of the modern Chinese provinces of Guangdong, Guangxi, and Yunnan and northern Vietnam. Nanyue was established in 204 BC at the final collapse of the Qin Dynasty by Zhao Tuo, who was the military commander of Nanhai Commandery at the time, and...

 divided the Âu Lạc into two divisions: Giao Chỉ and Cửu Chân.

The Giao Chỉ district under the domination of the Han dynasty

The Han dynasty
Han Dynasty
The Han Dynasty was the second imperial dynasty of China, preceded by the Qin Dynasty and succeeded by the Three Kingdoms . It was founded by the rebel leader Liu Bang, known posthumously as Emperor Gaozu of Han. It was briefly interrupted by the Xin Dynasty of the former regent Wang Mang...

 destroyed the Nanyue
Nanyue was an ancient kingdom that consisted of parts of the modern Chinese provinces of Guangdong, Guangxi, and Yunnan and northern Vietnam. Nanyue was established in 204 BC at the final collapse of the Qin Dynasty by Zhao Tuo, who was the military commander of Nanhai Commandery at the time, and...

 in 111 BC and annexed its territory, including Âu Lạc. Like the Nanyue, the Han divided Âu Lạc into 2 districts: Giao Chỉ and Cửu Chân. The head of the district was Chinese tàishǒu. The Giao Chỉ district (Giao Chỉ quận) was an administrative unit in the Giao Chỉ bộ, whose head was cìshǐ (the first one was Thạch Đái). The capital city of Giao Chỉ was firstly Mê Linh
Me Linh
Mê Linh is a rural district of Hanoi, formerly of Vinh Phuc province in the Red River Delta region of northern Vietnam....

, but later moved to Liên Lâu (a region now at Thuận Thành suburban district, Bắc Ninh province).

According to the book Hanshu, Dilizhi, the Giao Chỉ district contained 10 suburban districts (huyện): Liên Lâu, An Định, Câu Lậu, Mê Linh, Khúc Dương, Bắc Đái, Kê Từ, Tây Vu, Long Biên and Chu Diên. The historian Đào Duy Anh stated that Giao Chỉ's territory contained all the Tonkin
Tonkin , also spelled Tongkin, Tonquin or Tongking, is the northernmost part of Vietnam, south of China's Yunnan and Guangxi Provinces, east of northern Laos, and west of the Gulf of Tonkin. Locally, it is known as Bắc Kỳ, meaning "Northern Region"...

, excluding the regions upstream of the Đà River
Black River (Vietnam)
The Black River is a river located in China and northwestern Vietnam. Its source is in Yunnan Province of China...

 and Mã River
Ma River
The Ma River is a river in Asia, originating in northwestern Vietnam. It runs for 400 km through Vietnam, Laos, and then back through Vietnam, meeting the sea at the Gulf of Tonkin....

. Interestingly, the southwestern area of Guangxi
Guangxi, formerly romanized Kwangsi, is a province of southern China along its border with Vietnam. In 1958, it became the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region of the People's Republic of China, a region with special privileges created specifically for the Zhuang people.Guangxi's location, in...

 was also a part of the former Giao Chỉ district. And the southwest area of present-day Ninh Bình
Ninh Bình
Ninh Bình is a city in the Red River Delta of northern Vietnam. It is the capital of Ninh Binh province.-Geography:Ninh Binh city located in the southernmost plains north Vietnam...

 province was the border area of the Cửu Chân district (behind Giao Chỉ, its territory now belongs to Thanh Hóa
Thanh Hóa
Thanh Hóa is the capital city of Vietnam's Thanh Hoa province. The population is nearly 200,000 with an area of only 57.9 square kilometers....

, Nghệ An, Hà Tĩnh
Ha Tinh
Hà Tĩnh is a city in Vietnam. It is the capital of the Ha Tinh province, in Vietnam's north central coast....

). Afterwards the Han dynasty created another district named Nhật Nam
Nhat Nam
Nhat Nam is a traditional Vietnamese martial art. Nhat Nam was officially introduced in Hanoi on October 23, 1983, by martial arts master Ngo Xuan Binh.- History :...

, located at the south of Cửu Chân (located from the Ngang Pass
Ngang Pass
The Ngang Pass is a mountain pass on the border of the two provinces of Quang Binh and Ha Tinh, on the North Central Coast of Vietnam. It is situated on the National Road 1A, traversing the Hoanh Son, a side-spur of the larger Annamite Range...

 to Quảng Nam).

Trade with countries to the west including the Roman Empire

Jiaozhi and Rinan commanderies in what is now northern Vietnam became the main point of entry to China from countries to the west as far away as the Roman Empire, as recorded in the Hou Hanshu:

"In the ninth Yanxi year [166 CE

Common Era
Common Era ,abbreviated as CE, is an alternative designation for the calendar era originally introduced by Dionysius Exiguus in the 6th century, traditionally identified with Anno Domini .Dates before the year 1 CE are indicated by the usage of BCE, short for Before the Common Era Common Era...

], during the reign of Emperor Huan, the king of Da Qin [the Roman Empire], Andun (Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, r. 161-180), sent envoys from beyond the frontiers through Rinan. . . . During the reign of Emperor He [89-105 CE], they sent several envoys carrying tribute and offerings. Later, the Western Regions rebelled, and these relations were interrupted. Then, during the second and the fourth Yanxi years in the reign of Emperor Huan [159 and 161 CE], and frequently since, [these] foreigners have arrived [by sea] at the frontiers of Rinan [Commandery just south of Jiaozhi] to present offerings."

The Liangshu states:

"The merchants of this country [i.e. Da Qin or the Roman Empire] frequently visit Funan [in the Mekong

The Mekong is a river that runs through China, Burma, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. It is the world's 10th-longest river and the 7th-longest in Asia. Its estimated length is , and it drains an area of , discharging of water annually....

 delta], Rinan (Annam
Annam (Chinese Province)
Annam or Jiaozhi was the southernmost province of the Chinese Empire. It is now part of present-day Vietnam...

) and Jiaozhi [in the Red River delta
Red River Delta
The Red River Delta is the flat plain formed by the Red River and its distributaries joining in the Thai Binh River in northern Vietnam. The delta measuring some 15,000 square km is well protected by a network of dikes. It is an agriculturally rich area and densely populated...

 near modern Hanoi
Hanoi , is the capital of Vietnam and the country's second largest city. Its population in 2009 was estimated at 2.6 million for urban districts, 6.5 million for the metropolitan jurisdiction. From 1010 until 1802, it was the most important political centre of Vietnam...

]; but few of the inhabitants of these southern frontier states have come to Da Qin. During the 5th year of the Huangwu period of the reign of Sun Quan [= CE 226] a merchant of Da Qin, whose name was Qin Lun came to Jiaozhi [Tonkin]; the prefect [taishou] of Jiaozhi, Wu Miao, sent him to Sun Quan
Sun Quan
Sun Quan , son of Sun Jian, formally Emperor Da of Wu, was the founder of Eastern Wu during the Three Kingdoms period of Chinese history. He ruled from 222 to 229 as King of Wu and from 229 to 252 as Emperor of Wu....

 [the Wu emperor], who asked him for a report on his native country and its people."


Jiaozhi is now commonly thought to have been the port known to the geographer Ptolemy
Claudius Ptolemy , was a Roman citizen of Egypt who wrote in Greek. He was a mathematician, astronomer, geographer, astrologer, and poet of a single epigram in the Greek Anthology. He lived in Egypt under Roman rule, and is believed to have been born in the town of Ptolemais Hermiou in the...

 and the Romans as Kattigara or Cattigara, situated near modern Hanoi
Hanoi , is the capital of Vietnam and the country's second largest city. Its population in 2009 was estimated at 2.6 million for urban districts, 6.5 million for the metropolitan jurisdiction. From 1010 until 1802, it was the most important political centre of Vietnam...

. It seems to have been the main port of call for ships travelling to China from the West in the first few centuries CE, before being replaced by Guangdong
Guangdong is a province on the South China Sea coast of the People's Republic of China. The province was previously often written with the alternative English name Kwangtung Province...


The first native cìshǐ of Giao Chỉ

During the rule of Han Ling Di (168-189), Lý Tiến was the first native of Giao Chỉ to be the region's cìshǐ. Lý Tiến then petitioned the Han emperor to allow natives of Giao Chỉ to be officers and mandarins in the Han court, but the emperor only accepted the ones who graduated with mậu tài or hiếu liêm degrees in the ancient Chinese examination, and they were only accredited to low positions in Giao Chỉ. Another native of Giao Chỉ named Lý Cầm tried his best to petition, and eventually the natives were allowed to take higher positions in other regions of the Han empire. For example, a Giao Chỉ native named Trương Trọng was a tàishǒu of Jīnchéng district in China.

Ma Yuan's bronze column

Ma Yuan's bronze column was built by Ma Yuan after he had repressed the uprising of Hai Bà Trưng (40-43). Ma Yuan had made a most brutal assimilation of Yue people to Han dynasty, destroyed all the history & culture of Jiaozhi (Việt) people. He had destroyed Jiaozhi traditional bronze drums in order to build the bronze column in Nam Quan, next to the border of Jiaozhi and China. Six Han letters were carved on the column: Đồng trụ chiết, Giao Chỉ diệt (銅柱折 交趾滅), which means: "If this bronze column collapses, Giao Chỉ will be destroyed." Thus when passing the column, the people of Giao Chỉ always put some rocks beside the column to prevent it from collapsing. Over time, the number of rocks grew so large that they totally covered the column and now nobody can see it anymore. There is another theory that the people threw rocks at the column simply because they hated it so much, not because they didn't want it to collapse.

The Giao Chỉ district under the domination of the Eastern Wu dynasty

The Giao Chỉ district under the domination of the Sui and Tang dynasty

The Sui dynasty
Sui Dynasty
The Sui Dynasty was a powerful, but short-lived Imperial Chinese dynasty. Preceded by the Southern and Northern Dynasties, it ended nearly four centuries of division between rival regimes. It was followed by the Tang Dynasty....

 divided Giao Chỉ district into 9 suburban districts: Tống Bình, Long Biên, Chu Diên, Long Bình, Bình Đạo, Giao Chỉ, Gia Ninh, Tân Xương và An Nhân. One Giao Chỉ suburban district belonged to the Giao Chỉ district.

However, after replacing the Sui, the Tang dynasty
Tang Dynasty
The Tang Dynasty was an imperial dynasty of China preceded by the Sui Dynasty and followed by the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period. It was founded by the Li family, who seized power during the decline and collapse of the Sui Empire...

 changed Giao Chỉ district into a phủ named Giao Châu. Then in 679, the Giao Châu phủ was renamed An Nam đô hộ phủ (Annam Domination phủ). The An Nam phủ was divided into 12 châu (administrative divisions); one of the châu had the old name Giao Châu. The Giao Châu administrative division contained 8 suburban districts: Tống Bình, Long Biên, Chu Diên, Giao Chỉ, Bình Đạo, Vũ Bình, Nam Định, Thái Bình. The Giao Chỉ suburban district was created in 622 due to the separation of Tống Châu. Then, in the year 627, the Tang renamed Giao Chỉ to Nam Từ, and annexed the suburban districts Giao Chỉ, Hoài Đức and Hoằng Giáo to the Tống Bình one.

Giao Chỉ district under the domination of the Ming dynasty

In 1407, the Ming dynasty
Ming Dynasty
The Ming Dynasty, also Empire of the Great Ming, was the ruling dynasty of China from 1368 to 1644, following the collapse of the Mongol-led Yuan Dynasty. The Ming, "one of the greatest eras of orderly government and social stability in human history", was the last dynasty in China ruled by ethnic...

 invaded Đại Việt, destroyed the Hồ dynasty and began the Fourth Chinese domination
Fourth Chinese domination (History of Vietnam)
The fourth Chinese domination was a period of the history of Vietnam, from 1407 to 1427 during which the country was ruled by Ming Dynasty administrators.-Sinicizing the country:...

 (1407–1427). The Ming restored the Giao Chỉ district. At this time, the district's area contained all the territory of Vietnam under the Hồ dynasty. The Giao Chỉ district was divided into 15 phủ and 5 independent châu (administrative divisions):
  • 15 phủ: Giao Châu, Bắc Giang, Lạng Giang, Tam Giang, Kiến Bình (Kiến Hưng in Hồ dynasty), Tân Yên (Tân Hưng in the Hồ dynasty), Kiến Xương, Phụng Hóa (Thiên Trường in the Hồ dynasty), Thanh Hóa, Trấn Man (Long Hưng in the Hồ dynasty), Lạng Sơn, Tân Bình, Diễn Châu, Nghệ An, Thuận Hóa
    Thuận Hóa
    Thuận Hóa is a commune and village in Tuyên Hóa District, Quang Binh Province, in Vietnam....


  • 5 independent châu: Thái Nguyên, Tuyên Hóa (Tuyên Quang in the Hồ dynasty), Gia Hưng, Quy Hóa, Quảng Oai.

Together with the 5 independent administrative divisions, there were other administrative divisions, which were under the phủ. There were 47 divisions in total.

In 1408, the independent administrative division Thái Nguyên, Tuyên Hóa was promoted to phủ, which increased the number of phủ to 17. Afterwards the phủ Diễn Châu was dismissed and its territory became an administrative division.

After the hero Lê Lợi defeated the Ming army and restored Đại Việt's independence, he dismissed all former administrative structure and divided the nation into 5 đạo. Thus, ever since that time, the name Giao Chỉ and Giao Châu have never been applied to official administrative units.

The name's meaning

Jiāozhǐ is also used for the ancient Vietnamese
Vietnamese language
Vietnamese is the national and official language of Vietnam. It is the mother tongue of 86% of Vietnam's population, and of about three million overseas Vietnamese. It is also spoken as a second language by many ethnic minorities of Vietnam...

. Jiāo (交) meaning mix, intersect, communicate, or combine. However, the meaning of Zhǐ has not been clarified yet.

Zhǐ in the books Sima Qian
Sima Qian
Sima Qian was a Prefect of the Grand Scribes of the Han Dynasty. He is regarded as the father of Chinese historiography for his highly praised work, Records of the Grand Historian , a "Jizhuanti"-style general history of China, covering more than two thousand years from the Yellow Emperor to...

's Shiji
, Hanshu,... is written with the set (阯). However, in the Hou Hanshu, Cíyuán, and Cíhǎi, it is written with the set (趾).

The book Cíhǎi and the historian Nguyễn Văn Tố claim that both of the Zhǐ letters are correct. According to Cíhǎi, the zhǐ 趾 has four meanings:
  1. synonymous with "jiǎo" (leg)
  2. means "jiǎozhǐ" (toe)
  3. synonymous with "zōngjī", means "original", "vestige", "trace",...
  4. phonetic loan characters zhǐ have set (址), means base, basis, foundation (jīzhǐ, zhùzhǐ)

Thus Zhǐ is translated in several ways, as is Jiāozhǐ. Scholar Du You
Du You
Du You , courtesy name Junqing , formally Duke Anjian of Qi , was a Chinese scholar, historian and chancellor of the Tang Dynasty, who devoted thirty-six years to the compilation of the Tongdian, a historical encyclopedia with 200 sections , a collection of laws, regulations, and general events...

 wrote in the book Tongdian
The Tongdian is a Chinese institutional history and encyclopedia text. It covers a panoply of topics from high antiquity through the year 756, whereas a quarter of the book focuses on the Tang Dynasty. The book was written by Du You from 766 to 801...

: "Jiāozhǐ are the Southern People; the big toe points to the outside of the foot, so if the man stands up straight, the two big toes point to each other, so people call them Jiāozhǐ (Zhǐ means big toe).". This idea is accepted by many Chinese and Vietnamese scholars.

The book Cíyuán (volume Tý, page 141) offers another interpretation. It explains that "The meaning of the words Jiāozhǐ cannot be understood literally, but the ancient Greek
Ancient Greece
Ancient Greece is a civilization belonging to a period of Greek history that lasted from the Archaic period of the 8th to 6th centuries BC to the end of antiquity. Immediately following this period was the beginning of the Early Middle Ages and the Byzantine era. Included in Ancient Greece is the...

 method of "opposite pillar" and "connecting pillar" to label humans on earth – where "opposite pillar" stood for the South side and its logical opposite the North side, whilst "connecting pillar" stood for the East side with the West side connected to it – could provide a suggested origin. If Jiāozhǐ was intended to characterise "opposite pillar" because this was what people of the Northern directions called the people of the Southern directions, then the feet of the North side "chân phía Bắc" and feet of the South side "chân phía Nam" must oppose each other, therefore rendering it impossible for the feet of a person to cross or intersect each other "không phải thực là chân người "giao" nhau"."

"Theo nghĩa cũ bảo hai ngón chân cái giao nhau là Giao Chỉ, nhưng xét đời cổ bên Hy Lạp, có tiếng "đối trụ", có tiếng "lân trụ" để gọi loài người trên thế giới. "Đối trụ" là phía Nam, phía Bắc đối nhau, "lân trụ" là phía Đông, phía Tây liền nhau. Sở dĩ có tên Giao Chỉ là hợp vào nghĩa "đối trụ", vì dân tộc phương Bắc gọi dân tộc phương Nam, cũng như một chân phía Bắc, một chân phía Nam đối nhau, không phải thực là chân người giao nhau."

Vietnamese historians and scholars Nguyễn Văn Siêu, Đặng Xuân Bảng, Trần Trọng Kim
Tran Trong Kim
Trần Trọng Kim was a Vietnamese scholar and politician who served as the Prime Minister of the short-lived Empire of Vietnam, a puppet state created by Imperial Japan in 1945...

, Đào Duy Anh, and others all agree with the second explanation.

In 1868 Dr. Thorel, in the exploring group of Doudart de Lagrée, commented that the left and right big toes pointing to each other is "a characteristic of Annam people". Many later French scholars made the same comment.

Nonetheless, the "Jiāozhǐ" phenomenon occurs not only in the people of Indochina
The Indochinese peninsula, is a region in Southeast Asia. It lies roughly southwest of China, and east of India. The name has its origins in the French, Indochine, as a combination of the names of "China" and "India", and was adopted when French colonizers in Vietnam began expanding their territory...

 but also in the Malaysian
Malaysian Malay
In Malaysia, the Malay population is defined by Article 160 of the Malaysian Constitution as someone born to a Malaysian citizen who professes to be a Muslim, habitually speaks the Malay language, adheres to Malay customs and is domiciled in Malaysia or Singapore...

, Siam, Chinese
Chinese people
The term Chinese people may refer to any of the following:*People with Han Chinese ethnicity ....

, Arabic people, Melanesian and Negroid as well, though the level varies from race to race. The phenomenon is very rare in the European people. It is not a pathological sign but can be considered as a "variation atavique", because the bones do not grow as straight as usual.
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