Cao Bang Province General Information

Cao Bang Province, Northern Vietnam
Region: Northeast
Capital: Cao Bang
Population: 530,341 (2019 Census)
Area: 6,700.26 km²
Density: 79/km² (200/sq mi)
Demographics: Tày, Nùng, Dao, H’Mong, Vietnamese, Hoa, Sán Chay
Calling code: 206

Offroad Vietnam Motorbike Adventures - Ban Gioc waterfalls, Cao Bang province, Northern Vietnam


The old days

Cao Bang’s proximity to China has meant that it has had a somewhat turbulent history, having changed hands a number of times. The Âu Viet was a conglomeration of upland tribes living in what is today the mountainous region of northernmost Vietnam, western Guangdong, and southern Guangxi, China, since at least the 3rd century BC. Their capital was located in what is today Cao Bang Province of northeastern Vietnam. What is now the Vietnamese provinces of Cao Bang and Lang Son were known as châu Quang Nguyên during the time of the Lý and Tran Dynasties. Quang Nguyên became part of Đai Viet in 1039 when Emperor Lý Thai Tong expelled Nùng Trí Cao, a Nùng leader, from the area.

Cao Bang history can be traced to the Bronze age when the Tày au Kingdom flourished. They had shifted their capital to Co Loa in the Red River Delta but the Vietnamese culture dominated. The Kings fortified their territory around the 10th century due to its proximity to the Chinese border. The feudal dynasties that ruled the area were Tay lords, Be Khac Thieu and Nga Dac Thai.

In the 1430s, the Lê Dynasty had many rebellions. Royalty faced strong revolt during the 16th and early part of the 17th century – Mac Dang Dung initially occupied the territory and the Lê throne in 1527. However, the Lê kings were reinstated in 1592. Still, the war for control of the region continued and the Mac family had the upper hand as they declared it an independent region and ruled for 75 years. as a witness to this period, here lie ruins of a temple, which was also the place of the Mac Kings.

The French intervention

It can be seen in the town of Cao Bình, which is located about 12 kilometres (7.5 mi) north of the town of Cao Bang. Cao Bình was a prominent administrative town until the French occupied the territory; the capital was shifted to the Cao Bang peninsula when the French conquered the area in 1884. They fortified the town with a fort on a hill overlooking the town (ruins of this fort are seen even now). This fort area is now a high-security zone of the People’s army of Vietnam.

Cao Bang has a long history of revolutionaries and nationalists. The significant history of the peninsula to the present regime is recorded from the 1920s when it became the “cradle of the revolutionary movement in the north”. Many pro-independence groups based themselves in the mountains. The Communist Party of Vietnam chose the province as a base, using the rough terrain as protection. Its historicity was further accentuated when Ho Chí Minh, on his return from China in exile in 1941, made his headquarters at Pac Bó, in Truong Hà commune, Hà Quang district, 56 kilometres (35 mi) north of Cao Bang for the decisive revolutionary movement between 1940 and 1945.

Breaking and merging of Cao Bang Province

In 1950, the province had 10 districts: Bao Lac, Ha Lang, Hòa Aan, Nguyên Bình, Phú Thach, Phuc Hòa, Quang Uyên, Thach an, Tran Biên and Trùng Khánh. In 1958, Tran Biên was renamed Trà Linh. The district of Thong Nong was created out of part of the district of Hà Quang by Decision 67-CP on 7 April 1966. The districts of Phuc Hòa and Quang Uyên were merged to become Quang Hòa by Decision 27-CP on 8 March 1967. The district of Ha Lang was abolished and integrated into the districts of Quang Hòa and Trùng Khánh by Decision 176-CP on 15 September 1969.

In December 1978, the two districts of Ngân Son and Cho Ra were transferred from the province of Bac Thái to Cao Bang by a decree of the Congress of the Communist Party. This meant that Cao Bang had 11 districts: Bao Lac, Hà Quang, Hòa An, Nguyên Bình, Quang Hòa, Thach an, Thong Nong, Trà Linh, Trùng Khánh, Ngân Son and Cho Ra. The district of Cho Ra was renamed Ba Be by Decision 144-HĐBT on 6 November 1984.

Vietnam – China war

On 27 February 1979, during the Sino-Vietnamese War, Chinese infantry entered the city of Cao Bang and occupied it, inflicting a “scorched earth” policy by levelling most of the city, including places of worship. The historical areas near the Pác Bó caves in the commune of Truong Hà in Hà Quang district were mined and bombed, demolishing most of the cave mouth where Ho Chí Minh based his guerrilla activities in the 1940s and 1950s. In 1996, the districts of Ngân Sơn and Ba Be were transferred into the newly-created province of Bac Kan. The district of Bao Lâm was created by carving out a portion of Bao Lac district, in accordance with Decree 52/2000/NĐ-CP on 25 September 2000.


There is a legend that is narrated to the first rulers of Vietnam. That happened 2838-2698 BC in a small settlement in Bac Bo (North Vietnam). According to this legend, De Minh, the great-grandson of the Chinese emperor Shennong, married an Immortal in Hunan Province. Their youngest son, Loc Tuc, was appointed to rule over Xich Quay which included, apart from the territory in China, North Vietnam. Loc Tuc’s son then married the daughter of King De Lai, Princess Âu Co. They had 100 sons, and, as per the prevailing societal custom of the Vietnamese which was matriarchal, the 100 sons were under the care of Âu Co, while her husband lived with his own mother.

Suddenly, one day Âu Co’s husband announced to her that he belonged to the race of dragons. In contrast, she belonged to the race of the Immortals and that they could not live together. He thereafter moved south with his 50 sons; his wife moved to the hills in China with the other 50, thus ushering a shift in the social culture of Vietnam, from matriarchal to patriarchal. This separation is said to have been the first divorce in Vietnam. It is conjectured that a hundred sons who were thus “scattered across the south of China were the Pai Yueh (Hundred Vietnamese)”. The sons of Lac Long Quân who inherited the kingdom took the title of “Hùng Vuong” (“Brave King”) and founded the Hong Bàng Dynasty, which lasted from 2879 BC to 258 BC.


Bordering with China

Cao Bang Province is in the northern part of the country. It borders Hà Giang, Tuyên Quang, Bac Kan, and Lang Son provinces. It also has a common international border (322 kilometres long) with the Guangxi province of the People’s Republic of China. The main town is Cao Bang.

The geographical setting of the province is mostly mountainous, with land available for habitation thus being limited. The average temperature reported in the province is 22 °C (72 °F). Winter temperatures in some areas occasionally experience freezing conditions and some amount of snowfall. The Ban Gioc Waterfall which is on the border with China is a well known natural feature in the province.

Bordering with other provinces

The western side of Cao Bang borders Tuyên Quang and Hà Giang Provinces. The southern side of Cao Bang borders the provinces of Bac Kan and Lang Son. The north-west expanse of the province is 80 kilometres (50 mi), from Trong Con in Thach An district to Đuc Hanh in Bao Lâm district). It stretches170 kilometres (110 mi) from east to west, from Quang Lâm in Bao Lâm district to Lý Quoc in Ha Lang district. Cao Bang has an area of 6,724.6 square kilometres (2,596.4 sq mi) (2008 figures). Mountainous forests take up more than 90% of the province.

The Peninsular valley of the Cao Bang Province is formed between the Bang Giang and Hien rivers. The two rivers confluence to the northwest of the town. In the war with China, the town was damaged in 1979 and has been since rebuilt. The market in Cao Bang town is believed to be the largest in Vietnam. Cao Bang town is located on Highway 3 and is 270 kilometres (170 mi) from Hanoi. The road from Nao Pac to Cao Bang passes through the Cao Bac Pass. Since the elevation of the town is 300 metres (980 ft) it has a salubrious temperate climate throughout the year.

Offroad Vietnam Motorbike Adventures - Cao Bang Province, Northern Vietnam


Cao Bang province is home to many people belonging to Vietnam’s ethnic minority groups. The most notable of these are the Tày, Nùng, Dao, and Hmong.

According to the General Statistics Office of the Government of Vietnam, the population of Cao Bang province as of 2008 was 528,100 with a density of 79 persons per km² over a total land area of 6,724.6 square kilometres (2,596.4 sq mi) of the province. It is one of the least populated provinces in the north midlands and mountain areas of Vietnam. The male population during this period was 256,300 with females accounting for 271,800. The rural population was 445,100 against an urban population of 83,000 (about 5% of the rural population).

Languages spoken in Cao Bang province include the following.
Hmong-Mien languages
Kim Mun
Tai languages
Tày Bao Lac – Bao Lac District
Tày Trùng Khánh – Trùng Khánh District
Nùng an – Quang Uyên District
Nùng Giang – Hà Quang District
Giáy – Bao Lac District
Kra languages
En (Nùng Vên) – Hà Quang District
Tibeto-Burman languages
Black Lolo – Bao Lac District

Cao Bang Province Administrative Divisions

Cao Bang is subdivided into 10 district-level sub-divisions and 161 commune-level sub-divisions.

City (1)

Cao Bang (8 wards, 3 communes)

Districts (9)

Bao Lac (1 town, 16 communes)
Bao Lam (1 town, 12 communes)
Ha Lang (1 town, 12 communes)
Ha Quang (2 towns, 19 communes)
Hòa An (1 town, 14 communes)
Nguyen Binh (2 towns, 15 communes)
Quang Hoa (3 towns, 16 communes)
Thach An (1 town, 13 communes)
Trùng Khánh (2 towns, 19 communes)

For more details about other provinces and cities of Vietnam, please follow this link.

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