The Baiyue, Hundred Yue or Yue were various indigenous non-Chinese peoples who inhabited the region stretching along the coastal area from Shandong to the Yangtze basin, and as far to west as the present-day Sichuan province between the first millennium BC and the first millennium AD. Meacham (1996:93) notes that, during the Zhou and Han dynasties, the Yue lived in a vast territory from Jiangsu to Yunnan, while Barlow (1997:2) indicates that the Luoyue occupied the southwest Guangxi and north Vietnam. The Han shu (漢書) describes the lands of Yue as stretching from the regions of Kuaiji(會稽) to Jiaozhi ( 交趾). In the Warring States period, the word "Yue" referred to the State of Yue in Zhejiang. The later kingdoms of Minyue in Fujian and Nanyue in Guangdong were both considered Yue states.
The Yue tribes were gradually displaced and assimilated into Chinese culture as the Han empire expanded into what is now Southern China and Northern Vietnam during the first half of the first millennium AD. Many modern southern Chinese dialects bear traces of substrate languages originally spoken by the ancient Yue. Variations of the name are still used for the name of modern Vietnam, in Zhejiang-related names including Yue Opera, and in the abbreviation for Guangdong.
The term "Hundred Yue" first appears in the book Lüshi Chunqiu compiled around 239 BC. It was used as a collective term for the non-Chinese populations of south and southwest China and northern Vietnam.
Ancient texts mention a number of Yue states or groups. Most of these names survived into early imperial times:
From the 9th century BC, two northern Yue tribes, the Gou-Wu and Yu-Yue, were increasingly influenced by their Chinese neighbours to their north. These two states were based in the areas of what is now southern Jiangsu and northern Zhejiang, respectively. Traditional accounts attribute the cultural change to Taibo, a Zhou prince who had self-exiled to the south. However, this piece of information originates from Shiji by Sima Qian, who tended to assign Chinese ancestors to most non-Chinese groups. This practice, according to von Stella Xu, was used to justify the incorporation of non-Chinese people into his historical records.Sima Qian also assigned Chinese ancestor to King Goujian of Yue, claiming that he was descended from the legendary Yu the Great. It is common to craft ancestor myths for non-Chinese people that justify Chinese expansions when needed and also explain the difference between Chinese-ness and non-Chinese-ness.
The marshy lands of the south gave Gou-Wu and Yu-Yue unique characteristics. According to Robert Marks (2017:142), the Yue lived in what is now Fujian province gained their livelihood mostly from fishing, hunting, and practiced some kind of swidden rice farming. Prior to Han Chinese migration from the north, the Yue tribes cultivated wet rice, practiced fishing and slash and burn agriculture, domesticated water buffalo, built stilt houses, tattooed their faces and dominated the coastal regions from shores all the way to the fertile valleys in the interior mountains. Water transport was paramount in the south, so the two states became advanced in shipbuilding and developed maritime warfare technology mapping trade routes to Eastern coasts of China and Southeast Asia. They were also known for their fine swords.
In 512 BC, Wu launched a large expedition against the large state of Chu, based in the Middle Yangtze River. A similar campaign in 506 succeeded in sacking the Chu capital Ying. Also in that year, war broke out between Wu and Yue and continued with breaks for the next three decades. In 473 BC, Goujian finally conquered Wu and was acknowledged by the northern states of Qi and Jin. In 333 BC, Yue was in turn conquered by Chu. After the fall of Yue, the ruling family moved south to what is now Fujian and established the Minyue kingdom.
What set the Yue apart from other Sinitic states of the time was their possession of a navy. Yue culture was also distinct from the Chinese in its practice of naming boats and swords. A Chinese text described the Yue as a people who used boats as their carriages and oars as their horses.
The Yayoi people, the ancient people of Wa, in Japan are genetically and archeologically linked to the early people of the Yangtze-river and share several cultural aspects with them.
Sinification and displacement
Tai-Kadai migration routes from the state of Chu. The movements of Tai-Kadai speaking peoples across the region of South China resulted in the formation of various Yue tribes.
Qin empire and Yue peoples, 210 BC
After the unification of China by Qin Shi Huang, the former Wu and Yue states were absorbed into the nascent Qin empire. The Qin armies also advanced south along the Xiang River to modern Guangdong and set up commanderies along the main communication routes. Motivated by the region's vast land and valuable exotic products, Emperor Qin Shi Huang is said to send a half of million troops divided into five armies to conquer the lands of the Yue. The Yue defeated the first attack by Qin troops and killed the Qin commander. A passage from Huai nan tzu of Liu An quoted by Keith Taylor (1991:18) describing the Qin defeat as follows:
The Yue fled into the depths of the mountains and forests, and it was not possible to fight them. The soldiers were kept in the garrisons to watch over abandoned territories. This went on for a long time, and the soldiers went weary. Then the Yue went out and attacked; the Chi'n (Qin) soldiers suffered a great defeat. Subsequently, convicts were sent to hold the garrisons against the Yue.
Afterwards, Qin Shi Huang sent reinforcements to defend against the Yue. By 214 BC, Guangdong, Guangxi and northern Vietnam were subjugated and reorganized into three prefectures within the Qin empire. Qin Shi Huang imposed sinification by sending a large number of Chinese military agricultural colonists to what are now eastern Guangxi and western Guangdong.
In 208 BC, the Qin Chinese renegade general Zhao Tuo defeated the kingdom of Ou Luo and captured its capital. Towards the end of the Qin dynasty, many peasant rebellions led Zhao Tuo to claim independence from the imperial government and declared himself the emperor of Nanyue in 207 BC. Zhao led the peasants to rise up against the much despised Qinshi Emperor. Zhao established his capital at Panyu (modern Guangzhou) and partitioned his empire into seven provinces. Unlike Emperor Qin Shi Huang, Zhao respected Yue customs, rallied their local rulers, and forced local chiefs to be controlled by central government administrators, but let them continue their old policies and local political traditions. Under Zhao's rule, he encouraged Han Chinese settlers to intermarry with the indigenous Yue tribes through instituting a policy of “Harmonizing and Gathering" while creating a syncretic culture that was a blend of Han and Yue (Tai) cultures.
Following annexation of Nanyue, the Han dynasty set up two outposts which functioned as frontier garrisons. The Han court also established nine commanderies in the former territory of Nanyue and the whole area was made part of the Han dynasty proper. Nanyue was seen as attractive to the Han rulers as they desired to secure the area's maritime trade routes and gain access to luxury goods from the south such as pearls, incense, elephant tusks, rhinoceros horns, tortoise shells, coral, parrots, kingfishers, peacocks, and other rare luxuries to satisfy the demands of the Han aristocracy. Other considerations such as frontier security, revenue from a relatively large agricultural population, and access to tropical commodities all contributed to the Han dynasty's determination to regain control of this region.
Sinification of Nanyue was brought about by a combination of Han imperial military power, regular settlement and an influx of Han Chinese refugees, officers and garrisons, merchants, scholars, bureaucrats, fugitives, and prisoners of war. Northern and central China was a theater of imperial dynastic conflict and huge episodes of dynastic conflict sent waves of Han Chinese refugees into the south. Throughout the Qin-Han period, large waves of Han Chinese immigrants from the northern and central plains slowly penetrated southern China. The difficulty of logistics and the malarial climate in the south made Han migration and eventual sinification of the Yue a slow process. Describing the contrast in immunity towards malaria between the indigenous Tai and the Chinese immigrants, Robert B. Marks (2017:145-146) writes:
The Tai population in southern China, especially those who lived in the lower reaches of the river valleys, may have had knowledge of the curative value of the "qinghao" plant, and possibly could also have acquired a certain level of immunity to malaria before Han Chinese even appeared on the scene. But for those without acquired immunity—such as Han Chinese migrants from north China—the disease would have been deadly.
After rebellions by Luo (Lac) peoples in 39-43 C.E., direct rule and greater efforts at sinification were imposed by the Han, the territories of the Luo (Lac) states were annexed and ruled directly, along with other former Yue territories to the north, as provinces of the Han empire. Division among the Yue leaders were exploited by the Han dynasty with the Han military winning battles against the southern kingdoms and commandaries that were of geographic and strategic value to them. Han foreign policy also took advantage of the political turmoil among rival Yue leaders and enticed them with bribes and lured prospects for submitting to the Han Empire as a subordinate vassal.
Map showing directions of Han attacks on the Yue home region to the south and the Xiongnu territories to the north in 2nd century BC
Motivation of Han dynasty to expand to the southern parts of the present-day China was driven, in part, from a desire to capture the region's exotic and rare goods, the abundance of untapped natural resources as well as securing international maritime trade routes. Continuing internal migration of the Chinese during the Han dynasty eventually brought all the non-Chinese Yue coastal peoples scattered from Fujian to the Red River delta under Chinese political control and cultural influence. As the number of Han Chinese migrants intensified following the annexation of Nanyue, the Yue people were gradually absorbed and driven out into poorer land on the hills and into the mountains. Chinese military garrisons showed little patience with the Yue tribes who refused to submit to Han Chinese imperial power and resisted the influx of Han Chinese immigrants, driving them out to the coastal extremities and the highland areas where they became marginal scavengers and outcasts. Han dynasty rulers saw the opportunity offered by the Chinese family agricultural settlements and used it as a tool for colonizing newly conquered regions and transforming those environments.
Traditional Chinese view about the world has it that China was located at the center of the universe, superior to other nations and peoples, and that whose who lived in the peripheral territories were less culturally advanced for their perceived lack of civilization, and thus peripheral peoples were considered as "barbarians". During the Han dynasty, it was advocated that Confucianism be used to re-educate and reform non-Han people as they were believed to be able to be culturally absorbed laihua, "come and be transformed", or hanhua, "become Han". Some administrators of Han sought to "Confucianize" non-Han people of the south under their authority through the additional establishment of Confucianist institutes and schools dedicated towards teaching the texts, philosophies and morality of the north, but at the same time they attacked and put down the traditional spiritual leaders of the southern community who were described as "wu", magicians or shamans.
Knowledge of Yue speech is limited to fragmentary references and possible loanwords in other languages, principally Chinese. The longest is the Song of the Yue Boatman, a short song transcribed phonetically in Chinese characters in 528 BC and included, with a Chinese version, in the Garden of Stories compiled by Liu Xiang five centuries later.
There is some disagreement about the languages they spoke, with candidates drawn from the non-Sinitic language families still represented in areas of southern China, Tai–Kadai, Hmong–Mien and Austroasiatic. The hypothesis proposed by Jerry Norman and Tsu-Lin Mei arguing for an Austroasiatic homeland along the middle Yangtze has been largely abandoned in most circles, and left unsupported by the majority of Austroasiatic specialists. Chinese, Tai–Kadai, Hmong–Mien and the Vietic branch of Austroasiatic have similar tone systems, syllable structure, grammatical features and lack of inflection, but these features are believed to have spread by means of diffusion across the Mainland Southeast Asia linguistic area, rather than indicating common descent. The Austroasiatic predecessor of modern Vietnamese language has been proven to originate in modern-day Bolikhamsai Province and Khammouane Province in Laos as well as parts of Nghệ An Province and Quảng Bình Province in Vietnam, rather than in the region north of the Red River delta.
Wolfgang Behr (2002) points out that some scattered non-Sinitic words found in the two ancient Chinese fictional texts, Mu tianzi zhuan 穆天子傳 (4th c. B.C.) and Yuejue shu 越絕書 (1st c. A.D.), can be compared to lexical items in Tai-Kadai languages:
Besides a limited number of lexical items left in Chinese historical texts, remnants of language(s) spoken by the ancient Yue can be found in non-Han substrata in Southern Chinese dialects, e.g. Wu, Min, Hakka, Yue, etc. Robert Bauer (1987) identifies twenty seven lexical items in Yue, Hakka and Min varieties, which share Tai-Kadai roots. The followings are some examples cited from Bauer (1987):
to beat, pound: Yue-Guangzhoutap8 ← Siamesethup4/top2, Longzhou tupD1, Po-ai tup3/tɔpD1, Mak/Dong tapD2, Tai Nuea top5, Sui-Lingam tjăpD2, Sui-Jungchiang tjăpD2, Sui-Pyo tjăpD2, T'entjapD2, White Tai tup4, Red Tai tup3, Shanthup5, Lao Nong Khai thip3, Lue Moeng Yawng tup5, Leiping-Zhuang thop5/top4, Western Nungtup4, Yaytup5, Saekthap6, Tai Lo thup3, Tai Mawthup3, Tai No top5, Wuming Zhuangtup8, Li-Jiamao tap8.
to bite: Yue-Guangzhoukhap8 ← Siamesekhop2, Longzhou khoop5, Po-ai hap3, Ahomkhup, Shan khop4, Lükhop, White Tai khop2, Nung khôp, Hsi-lin hapD2S, Wuming-Zhuang hap8, T'ien-pao hap, Black Tai khop2, Red Tai khop3, Lao Nong Khai khop1, Western Nungkhap6, etc.
to cover (1): Yue-Guangzhouhom6/ham6 ← Siamesehom2, Longzhou hum5, Po-ai hɔmB1, Lao hom, Ahom hum, Shan hom2, Lü hum, White Tai hum2, Black Tai hoom2, Red Tai hom3, Nunghôm, Tayhôm, Thohoom, T'ien-pao ham, Dioi hom, Hsi-lin hɔm, T'ien-chow hɔm, Lao Nong Khai hom3, Western Nungham2, etc.
Li Hui (2001) identifies 126 Tai-Kadai cognates in Maqiao Wu dialect spoken in the suburbs of Shanghai out of more than a thousand lexical items surveyed. According to the author, these cognates are likely traces of 'old Yue language' (gu Yueyu 古越語).
Zheng Xuan (127–200 AD) wrote that 扎 (middle Chinese: "jaat", modern Mandarin Chinese zā, modern Sino-Vietnamese: "trát") was the word used by the Yue people (越人) to mean "die". Norman and Mei reconstruct this word as OC *tsət and relate it to Austroasiatic words with the same meaning, such as Vietnamese chết and Monchɒt. However, Laurent Sagart points out that 扎 is a well‑attested Chinese word also meaning 'to die', which is overlooked by Norman and Mei. This word occurred in the Yue language in Han times could be because Yuè borrowed it from Chinese. Therefore, the resemblance of this Chinese word to an Austroasiatic word is probably accidental.
According to the Shuowen Jiezi (100 AD), "In Nanyue, the word for dog is (Chinese: 撓獀; pinyin: náosōu; EMC: nuw-ʂuw)", possibly related to other Austroasiatic terms. Sōu is "hunt" in modern Chinese. However, in Shuowen Jiezi, the word for dog is recorded as 獶獀 with its most probable pronunciation around 100 CE must have been ou-sou or ou-ʂou, which resembles proto-Austronesian*asu, *u‑asu 'dog' than it resembles the palatal‑initialled Austroasiatic monosyllable Vietnamese chó, Old Mon clüw, etc.
The early Chinese name for the Yangtze (Chinese: 江; pinyin: jiāng; EMC: kœ:ŋ; OC: *kroŋ; Cantonese: "kong") was later extended to a general word for "river" in south China. Norman and Mei suggest that the word is cognate with Vietnamese sông (from *krong) and Mon kruŋ "river".
Scholars in China often assume that the Yue spoke an early form of Tai–Kadai. The linguist Wei Qingwen gave a rendering of the "Song of the Yue boatman" in Standard Zhuang. Zhengzhang Shangfang proposed an interpretation of the song in written Thai (dating from the late 13th century) as the closest available approximation to the original language, but his interpretation remains controversial.
The fall of the Han dynasty and the succeeding period of division sped up the process of sinicization. Periods of instability and war in northern and central China, such as the Northern and Southern dynasties and during the Song dynasty sent waves of Han Chinese into the south. Waves of migration and subsequent intermarriage and cross-cultural dialogue has resulted to a mixture of Chinese and non-Chinese peoples in the south. Large incoming waves of Han Chinese immigrants from Northern and Central China poured into the south over the centuries through various succeeding Chinese dynasties has resulted in large-scale intermixing between the Han Chinese and Yue with much of the indigenous Yue tribes assimilating into Chinese civilization or ended up being driven out into the hills and mountains. Successive waves of migration in different localities during various times in Chinese history over the past two thousand years have given rise to different dialect groups seen in Southern China today. Modern Lingnan culture contains both Nanyue and Han Chinese elements: the modern Cantonese language closely resembles Middle Chinese (the prestige language of the Tang Dynasty), but has retained some features of the long-extinct Nanyue language. Some distinctive features of the vocabulary, phonology, and syntax of southern varieties of Chinese are attributed to substrate languages that were spoken by the Yue.
In ancient China, the characters 越 and 粵 (both yuè in pinyin) were used interchangeably, but they are differentiated in modern Chinese:
The character "越" refers to the original territory of the state of Yue, which was based in what is now northern Zhejiang, especially the areas around Shaoxing and Ningbo. The Shaoxing opera of Zhejiang, for example, is called "Yue Opera". It is also used to write Vietnam, a word adapted from Nányuè (Vietnamese: Nam Việt), (literal English translation as Southern Yue).
The character "粵" is associated with the southern province of Guangdong. Both the regional dialects of Yue Chinese and the standard form, popularly called "Cantonese", are spoken in Guangdong, Guangxi, Hong Kong, Macau and in many Cantonese communities around the world.
^The second syllable na:3 may correspond to Tai morpheme for 'field'.
^Diller, Anthony; Edmondson, Jerry; Luo, Yongxian (2008). The Tai-Kadai Languages. Routledge (published August 20, 2008). p. 9. ISBN 978-0700714575.
^Old Chinese pronunciation from Baxter, William H. and Laurent Sagart. 2014. Old Chinese: A New Reconstruction. Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0-19-994537-5. These characters are both given as gjwat in Grammata Serica Recensa 303e and 305a.
^The Annals of Lü Buwei, translated by John Knoblock and Jeffrey Riegel, Stanford University Press (2000), p. 510. ISBN 978-0-8047-3354-0. "For the most part, there are no rulers to the south of the Yang and Han Rivers, in the confederation of the Hundred Yue tribes."
^Chang, Kwang-chih; Goodenough, Ward H. (1996). "Archaeology of southeastern coastal China and its bearing on the Austronesian homeland". In Goodenough, Ward H. (ed.). Prehistoric settlement of the Pacific. American Philosophical Society. pp. 36–54. ISBN 978-0-87169-865-0.
^. Kim, Nam C (2015). The Origins of Ancient Vietnam (Oxford Studies in the Archaeology of Ancient States). Oxford University Press (published November 2, 2015). p. 251. ISBN 978-0199980888.
^Stuart-Fox, Martin (2003). A Short History of China and Southeast Asia: Tribute, Trade and Influence. Allen & Unwin (published November 1, 2003). p. 18.
^Marks, Robert B. (2011). China: An Environmental History. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. p. 127. ISBN 978-1442212756.
^Crooks, Peter; Parsons, Timothy H. (2016). Empires and Bureaucracy in World History: From Late Antiquity to the Twentieth Century. Cambridge University Press (published August 11, 2016). pp. 35–36. ISBN 978-1107166035.
^Ebrey, Patricia; Walthall, Anne (2013). East Asia: A Cultural, Social, and Political History. Wadsworth Publishing (published January 1, 2013). p. 53. ISBN 978-1133606475.
^Peterson, Glen (1998). The Power of Words: Literacy and Revolution in South China, 1949-95. University of British Columbia Press. p. 17. ISBN 978-0774806121.
^Michaud, Jean; Swain, Margaret Byrne; Barkataki-Ruscheweyh, Meenaxi (2016). Historical Dictionary of the Peoples of the Southeast Asian Massif. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers (published October 14, 2016). p. 163. ISBN 978-1442272781.
^Hutcheon, Robert (1996). China-Yellow. The Chinese University Press. pp. 4–5. ISBN 978-9622017252.
^Marks, Robert B. (2011). China: An Environmental History. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. p. 339. ISBN 978-1442212756.
^Novotny, Daniel (2010). Torn Between America and China: Elite Perceptions and Indonesian Foreign Policy. Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (published August 23, 2010). p. 183. ISBN 978-9814279598.
^Tsung, Linda (2009). Minority Languages, Education and Communities in China. Palgrave Macmillan (published April 15, 2009). p. 37. ISBN 978-0230551480.
^Evans, Grant; Hutton, Christopher; Eng, Kuah Khun (2000). Where China Meets Southeast Asia: Social and Cultural Change in the Border Region (1st ed.). Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 36–37. ISBN 978-1349631001.
^Yue-Hashimoto, Anne Oi-Kan (1972). Studies in Yue Dialects 1: Phonology of Cantonese. Cambridge University Press. pp. 14–32. ISBN 978-0-521-08442-0.
Bauer, Robert S. (1996), "Identifying the Tai substratum in Cantonese"(PDF), Proceedings of the Fourth International Symposium on Languages and Linguistics, Pan-Asiatic Linguistics V: 1 806- 1 844, Bangkok: Institute of Language and Culture for Rural Development, Mahidol University at Salaya.
Sagart, Laurent (2008), "The expansion of Setaria farmers in East Asia", in Sanchez-Mazas, Alicia; Blench, Roger; Ross, Malcolm D.; Ilia, Peiros; Lin, Marie, Past human migrations in East Asia: matching archaeology, linguistics and genetics, Routledge, pp. 133–157, ISBN 978-0-415-39923-4, Quote: in conclusion, there is no convincing evidence, linguistic or other, of an early Austroasiatic presence on the southeast China coast.
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