Civilization of Mekong Delta - About History of Inhabitant & Culture

Downstream Delta Mekong River seemed to be a free buffer zone and be forgotten for a long time. Until the thirteenth century, as officials Chau Dat Quan from Nguyen Dynasty, on the way to Chau Lap from 1296 to 1297, had described this area as: "From the entrance of Chan Bo (Ba Ria, Ba Ria Vung Tau) onwards, most of the forest are dwarfs. The river is long and the port is wide, stretching hundreds of miles with birds singing. Coming to new port, there are extensive fields, without an inch of tree top. Look away to see paddy field only. Thousands of buffalo gathered there. Bamboo had been spread long for hundreds of miles. That bamboo, burning thorns, shoots very bitter ". About the weather, he described: "During the year the weather is like in May and June of us and people do not know the cold and snow.  It rains half of the year, the other half is not rain”. Regarding the richness of this land, he described:" typically, people can do three or four seasons in a year. "
These notes are based on which public old books need to be examined. However, based on the archaeological site we can imagine partly especially based on bibliographic sources to verify by vivid vision.
From 16th to 17th century, Vietnamese people gradually explored this land. Trinh Hoai Duc also recorded in Son Xuyen Chi: "there are many ponds, fish and shrimps. In April, May, when rains heavily, the fish grows and feeds in fields. We also find fish in the place that has water and grass; from October onwards there is no rain, fish returns the river. "
Le Quy Don described rich fields as: it has "many streams, waterline is crowed and uncomfortable to walk." (2) "Upstream from the estuary almost everything is fields which look immense and flat to grow rice, glutinous rice”.
After 5th centuries, Viet, Khmer, Cham and Hoa people use their knowledge and experience of the Red river civilization to conquer the Central land with Laos wind, sand, flood and poor soil and then develop the Mekong Delta as a upgrading step of the water civilization formed from thousands years ago. Professional Vu Minh Giang wrote that Mekong Delta civilization is the spread and development to a new peak of civilization which has been formed and nurtured from the cradle of the Red River Delta, through the stages of Van Lang - Au Lac civilization and Thang Long - Dai Viet civilization. That is a source of smooth flow from the past to the present, which makes up the cultural identity of Vietnam and connects all ethnic communities."

Thien Hau Pagoda - the ancient pagoda of Chinese in Saigon.
Thien Hau Pagoda - the ancient pagoda of Chinese in Saigon.

To be more specific, this new development is clearly evident in hydraulic structures and irrigation value of this civilization. Water resources and Irrigation are the basic conditions to form the water rice civilization. Perhaps the ancient Vietnamese people going down to the plain to conquer marshes have discovered differences in the productivity of upland rice- a type of rice that grows on the slopes of the dry soil and wet rice growing in wetland areas of the big rivers. Water rice can only thrive when living in areas having suitable climate as tropical regions and when the big rivers bring large amount of alluvium.
However, it is crucial to have enough water to grow rice. The reliability of suitable amount of water has forced residents to do irrigation – balance of necessary water. Natural irrigation is thickening fields and canals leading water into fields and controlling the height of the water outlet. "The largest canal" is the system of dams in both two sides to prevent the water flowing in the field.

Mekong River with the big branches,
Mekong River with the big branches.
Compared to the structure of Red River civilization, structure of the Mekong River has quite fundamental differences. That difference is that residents of the Red River Delta from Tran - Ly dynasty through to the Le dynasty had focused on irrigation and hydro-therapy.
Characteristic of this civilization has been praised in a recent study by Pascal Bourdeaux - lecture of Paris Sorbonne University: "The Mekong Delta has really taken off thanks to the active Vietnamese pioneer (...) from the 17th century to reclaim land and forest which is filled with devil and disease, conquer the swamps, set villages, and create a diversified economy and a mixed society separate from the traditional mold of Vietnam ".

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The author has shown that adaptation to the ecological environment is the foundation of social and cultural Mekong River Delta region: "Thus they have created a pioneering culture and a river civilization by adapting to the ecological environment and master it, to free themselves from the constraints of society – politics with a closed organization, and by integrating many weak exotic elements of different cultures”.
Currently, in the delta region Mekong River (the total area of about 3.3 million hectares of agricultural land), there are about 17 million people living at the beginning of 2006, an increase of 5 million compared to 16 years ago in which there are about  9.5 million people of working age (over 15 years), or 55%. This is tremendous human resources to exploit and develop the river civilization in this region. But the increase in population, the impatient mining process and lack of scientific computing are damaging the foundation of this civilization that does not include climate change.
Thanks to Mother Nature, Vietnam's south is always abundant with immense rice fields.
Thanks to Mother Nature, Vietnam's south is always abundant with immense rice fields.
Obviously, geographical conditions, soil and climate are important factors in the formation of cultural ethnicity. "Culture is the private line and the special adaptation of humans with the natural environment and economic needs" (Dauson). Mekong Delta civilization has an important contribution in the complete structure of the river civilization which is the base of united diverse Vietnamese culture: Hong Ha - Mekong.
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