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The Ancient Black Empires of Vietnam: Power of The Seafaring Chams!

South East Asia was peopled several times by migrations of humans. The earliest were almost 60,000 years ago. These were the African ancestors of the Semangs, Orang Asli and Sentinelese. These ancient Homo sapiens also further colonized the continent of Australia forming it’s Aboriginals. They had very dark brown and black skin thus the Europeans called them ‘Negrito’ because they were short and had dark skin. Most of South east Asia is peopled by Austroasiatic people that migrated into the region much later, so you could describe the earliest Vietnamese as melanated or ‘black’.

The Semang have a deep ancestry within the Malay Peninsula, dating to the initial settlement from Africa more than 50,000 years ago. The Senoi appear to be a composite group, with approximately half of the maternal lineages tracing back to the ancestors of the Semang and about half to Indochina. The Etymology of the word Indigenous (genous/genus (n.1600), from Latin genus (genitive generis) "race, stock, first, kind; family, birth, descent, origin" (from suffixed form of PIE root *gene- "give birth, beget," with derivatives referring to procreation and familial and tribal groups).The prefix "Indi" is Sanskrit (Aryan) and means "Without" or "Outside of" Others." Thus the word Indigenous (indi-genous) literally means "without people" (implying you are without a united community to protect you) or "without genes." Indi is a word Aryans used to describe people without Aryan genes (Black People) or without a united people.

In Vietnam, the civilization of the Black ancients was called "Champa" The Chinese called them Lin Ye (Black Men) like the majority of ancient civilizations the literal translations of their names mean Black men or people. Unlike Northern Vietnam Kinh people ( meaning people of the "metropolitan" centered around the Red River Delta) who assimilated Han Chinese immigrants into their population, and have a Sinicized culture and carry the patrilineal Han Chinese O-M7 haplogroup, Cham people carry the patrilineal R-M17 haplogroup of Austronesian Dravidian Subclaves recent origin most likely from South Asian Black merchants spreading Hinduism to Champa. Khmer people are Austroasiatic people who reside mainly in Cambodia, South Vietnam, and East Thailand. They came from Mekong estuaries. Cham people are Austronesian people who reside mainly in Central and South Vietnam, Cambodia, and Southeast Laos. Both were described by the ancient Chinese as small and Black skinned!

The Champa describe themselves as being the descendants of the Sa Huynh people are thought to have been related to Austronesian-speaking people who also inhabited the Philippines, evidence of whom have been found across Southeast Asia. Sa Huynh culture was a culture predominantly present in Vietnam between 1,000 BC and 200 AD. One of the most notable features of Sa Huynh culture was their artefacts, a plethora of which have been found in many Sa Huynh excavation sites across Vietnam. Items discovered included iron axes, swords, spearheads, knives and sickles. In addition, the Sa Huynh people were known for creating ear ornaments and intricate beads from a number of special materials including glass, agate, zircon, garnet and gold. Interestingly, many of these materials were not found in the region and as such many historians believe the population was importing goods via established trade routes. Some of these routes may have extended as far as West Africa. Excavations in Africa have provided evidence that glass production at Igbo Olokun dates to the 11th through 15th centuries A.D., well before the arrival of Europeans along the coast of West Africa. The presence of the high alumina glass at other important early West African sites suggests that it was widely traded. Rather, the glass beads have a high-lime, high-alumina (HLHA) composition that reflects African geology and raw materials, the researchers said these same beads were found in ancient Khmer digs as well.

We know very little of Champa ancient history, we do know the Chams were a seafaring people with a maritime trading tradition. So they were very likely to have come in proximity to many cultures. but by about 400 A.D, Champa were united under the rule of a King called Bhadravarman. According to Chinese texts, in 192 c.e., Champa was formed during the aftermath of the breakup of the Han dynasty of China. The Champa kingdom was situated along the coastal plains of present-day central and southern Vietnam. The Chams shared many phenotypical traits with the Malays and Polynesians of that time most notably dark brown skin. In about 446 A.D, - in retaliation for Cham raids on their coast - the Chinese invaded Champa, bringing down Bhadravarman, and placing the region under Chinese suzerainty.

One hundred and fifty years later, in about 600 A.D, a new Cham dynasty arose, and Champa was able to expel it's Chinese overlords. This ushered in a new era of independence and prosperity, which produced great artistic achievements. The Chams were then in a strategic position to conduct trade between West and East Asia. The kingdom played a key role along this trade route, which became known as the Silk Route of the Sea. At the height of their success, they became a prosperous seafaring power that actively participated in commerce and piracy along the coastline. It is also at this time, in its early "recorded" history, that the Chams attacked the superpower of the region - Funan in Cambodia - and bring an end to that Empire. From the 7th to the 10th centuries, the Cham controlled the trade in spices and silk between China, India, the Indonesian islands, and the Abbasid empire.

But by the late 8th century A.D, the Chams were at war with either Java to the south, China to the north, or the Khmer in the west, sometimes more than one at a time. So that by the late 15th century A.D, incessant wars had for all practical purposes, wiped out the Champa kingdom. One by one their provinces were annexed, until finally Champa and its people, were entirely absorbed by the current Mongol inhabitants in the 17th century A.D. In the 17th and 18th centuries, after the fall of the Kingdom the Cham pirates were particularly active in raiding the coastlines of the Khmer Empire (present-day Cambodia) and Vietnam.

The Hindu kingdom of Champa that had emerged around present-day Danang in the late A.D. 2nd century was gone. Like Funan, it adopted Sanskrit as a sacred language and borrowed heavily from Indian art and culture. But by the 8th century even though Champa had expanded southward to include what is now Nha Trang and Phan Rang for centuries this culture of warriors and pirates, had defended their vast and prosperous Kingdom of Champa from numerous invasions. However, in 1471, the empire finally collapsed before Vietnamese and Khmer invaders.Early Cham history is divided into two major periods. The first, from the 2nd to the 10th centuries, was characterized by fighting between the Cham and Chinese. The second, from the 10th to 15th centuries, was characterized by fighting between the Cham and Annamese (Vietnamese). Champa endured until 1471 when it was defeated by the Annamese emperor Thanh Ton.

These aren't the only Black Vietnamese in recent history because of the Vietnam war there is another population of Black Vietnamese in Vietnam. They are typically children of a black parent who was stationed in Vietnam and his/her Vietnamese spouse. The vast majority are children of black GIs who came to Vietnam during the war, but there are also children of French Legionnaires who arrived from Africa in the French colonial days. These blacks were often mistreated by the Vietnamese, hated by the Communists and initially ignored by the US.

Many of them were repatriated and arrived to the US by the thousands after the Amerasian Homecoming Act passed in March 1987. The Act implemented a "repatriation" policy which gave Vietnamese children of American GIs preference/priority to emigrate to the US, along with their families. As a result, these (mostly) young black children at the time who were left in many cases to fend for themselves on the street became very desirable as a ticket for wealthy Vietnamese families to legally immigrate from Vietnam. The rule was that if you have one Amerasian in the family, the whole family can come. Many who had families were sometimes voluntarily separated from their own family, and “adopted” into other rich families so the rich family can leave. Some were abandoned, once their adopted rich family arrived in the US.

These blacks adults are now naturalized US residents, and it's not uncommon to walk in a Vietnamese shopping mall in and hear perfect Vietnamese spoken by a black person! The opening of the country since 1990 has allowed a more cosmopolitan influx of blacks from America, Europe and Africa coming to vacation or do business in Vietnam. The question of the physical appearance of ancient Vietnamese people is complex and cannot be answered with a simple yes or no. It's important to understand that Vietnam, like many other regions in the world, has a complex history of migration, cultural exchange, and intermixing of different populations. Also like the first peoples of the majority of the planet they had dark skin but the other phenotypical features vary and are almost as diverse as the continent of Africa itself!


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