Most of Indochina was under European colonial control by the C19th, and it was not until the mid C20th that Vietnam freed itself from French control. This was replaced by the Communist threat from China to the north which led to American involvement. The Vietnam war resulted in the country being divided into two, but the Communist North Vietnam finally won the power struggle and the country was re-unified.
Poverty and persecution caused many people to leave Vietnam by boat in the hope of a better life in the West despite facing dangers from pirates. Many of these 'Boat People' were resettled throughout the world but by the 1990s most countries were becoming reluctant to accept any more and many were held in camps in Hong Kong. Voluntary repatriation was encouraged but most were reluctant to return to Vietnam. With Hong Kong's return to Chinese rule at the beginning of 1997, it is unclear what will happen to those Vietnamese remaining in the colony although improvements in conditions within Vietnam may lead to further repatriations.
|ch||like ti in French tiens|
|hoa, huy||w in we (South VN)
wh in why (North VN)
|kh||j in Spanish Juan
ch in German (a)ch(t)
|ng + ngh||as in singing|
|nh||like 'gn' in French signe|
|qu||w in we (South VN)
qu in queen (North VN
|s||in Spanish si|
|th||as in Thomas|
|u||as in fit|
|v||y in yen (South VN)
v in van (North VN
|oldest child||Hai (Two)|
|second child||Ba (Three)|
|third child||Tu (Fourth)|
|fourth child||Nam (Five)|
|eldest son of first wife/elder brother||Ba|
|eldest son of later wife||Manh|
Women almost always take 'Thi' as a middle name but this is often dropped nowadays.
They usually have only one element but some compound surnames do exist. These were formed when an individual was adopted (adoptive name first, original name second) or to distinguish between different branches of a family. Vietnamese women keep their own family name on marriage.
Most people have the surname of one of the sixteen royal families who have ruled Vietnam. 'Nguyen', the name of the last dynasty, accounts for about half the population. Male descendants of the royal family not in the direct line take the name 'Ton-that' and females 'Ton-nu'.
Ly Dynasty C11th to C13th
|Gia Long||1802-20||Nguyen Phuc Anh|
|Minh Mang||1820-1840||4th son of Gia Long|
|Huong Nam/Tu Duc||1847-1883|
|Bao Dai||abd 1945||Nguyen Vinh Thuy|
Minh Mang wrote this poem from which the middle names of his descendants were to be taken, believing that his family would rule for twenty generations. Although it actually ended only five generations after him., his descendants still follow the tradition.
Mien Huong Ung Buu Vinh
Bao Dinh Qui Long Tuong
Hien Nang Kham Ke The
To Quoc Bao Gia Xuong
This collection of names was compiled by Kate Monk and is ©1997, Kate Monk.
Copies may be made for personal use only.
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