Dong Son Culture is one of three well-known archaeological cultures that contributed to form the first administrative state of Vietnam. The first site was accidentally discovered in 1924 at Dong Son village (Thanh Hoa province). In 1934, R. Heine-Geldern, an archaeologist, proposed to take a name of Dong Son Culture.
4. The social structure of Dong Son culture
The social structure of Dong Son culture was said to be formed on the basis of the development level and the specialization of the economic sectors, particularly the handicraft sector and the handicraft centre.
The society was organized and generated the social gap as the result of the agricultural and the handicraft development, especially the iron casting that helped some people became rich and powerful. Those then became important or local leaders in the community. A dawn of a kingdom was appeared by establishing the administrative, economic and political centre in Co Loa, Lang Ca, Viet Khe, Vinh Quang – Phu Luong, Dong Son – Quy Chu and Lang Vac.
Hoang Ha bronze drum
Reproductions of Dong Son bronze drum
Co Loa bronze arrows
Bronze stick head
Bronze lamp with human decoration
The model that the kingdom formed at the dawning can be summarized into the stages as: development of production at high level; wide exchange; invasive possibility and defense; conflicts and struggles to overcome and adjust to the natural conditions.
5. The exchange relationships to Dong Son culture
Dong Son culture had exchange relationships with the contemporary cultures of Sa Huynh culture, South East Asia region and South of China.
5.1. The relationship with Sa Huynh culture
Sa Huynh culture was contemporary with Dong Son culture. It is well known for its burial custom of ceramic jar casket and the grave goods made of ceramic, bronze, metal, crystal and onyx. Dong Son culture had made influences on Sa Huynh in terms of grave goods (bronze drum, axe, dagger...) and the custom of earth tomb. Vice versa, Sa Huynh culture had influenced on the Dong Son regarding the burial rituals and accessories, for example, the earrings with two animal heads, crystal beads and onyx.
Bai Coi excavation site (Nghi Xuan, Ha Tinh)
5.2. Exchanges with South East Asian region
A number of Dong Son bronze drums are found in the South East Asian regions (Laos: 5 pieces, Cambodia: 2 pieces, Thailand: 16 pieces, Malaysia: 6 pieces and 28 pieces in Indonesia.
Salavo bronze drum decorative patterns (Indonesia)
The jar burial tradition is mainly popular in the island areas of South East Asia, in the Central and South of Vietnam, and some locations in Thailand (Thung Kula- Ronghai).
The trunk caskets or boat shape burials are found in South East Asian countries including Thailand (Niah cave), Malaysia (Sarawak), Philippine (Lunggun, Kurwanan, Palawan). They are different from Dong Son in terms of the distribution, or inside the caves instead of open-air.
5.3. Exchanges with South of China region
South of China had exchanged with Dong Son culture, particularly during the period from the Warring States Era to the Han dynasty (5th century B.C to 2nd – 3rd centuries A.D).
The influences of Dong Son on South of China region are viewed by the objects of Dong Son culture as bronze drums, axes, daggers, jars discovered in a tomb in Quangxi, China. While the influences of South of China on Dong Son are seen by the objects of Han culture in Thuy Nguyen (Haiphong), Phu Luong, Lang Ngam, Duong Co sites (late periods of Dong Son). The Han bricked tombs and the grave goods of China mixed with Dong Son objects are found in many sites of Dong Son.
Dr. Nguyen Van Doan (Deputy Director – VNMH)
EN: Tran Trang