Lang Son province, Northern Vietnam
Capital: Lang Son
Area: 8,327.6 km² (3,215.3 sq mi)
Population: About 800,000
Density: 91/km² (240/sq mi)
Demographics: Vietnamese, Tày, Dao, Nùng
Calling code: 25
Lang Son is a province in far northern Vietnam, bordering Guangxi province in China. Its capital is also Lang Son, which is a strategically important town at the border with China. In fact, Lang Son province is only 137 kilometres (85 mi) northeast of Hanoi by rail and road. Lang Son province borders China in the north and Cao Bang Province the northwest, Ha Bac Province on the south, Quang Ninh Province starting on the south and extending to the eastern border and Thái Nguyên Province to the west. The province covers an area of 8327.6 square kilometres and as of 2008, it had a population of 759,000 people.
The province’s name derives from a Sino-Vietnamese word.
History of the province is the history of Lang Son town. Ancient history is traced to the Bronze Age. This period is marked by the trade route that existed between China and India that passed from the Red River Delta through Nanning to Guangzhou. 7000 – 9000 years ago the limestone caves of the province were inhabited by early settlers of the Bac Son culture.
The Dinh kings (968-980) encouraged the growth of trade in the region and requested the Sung emperors of China that they establish trade relations at Yong Zhou. The Chinese Annals have revealed that the Vietnamese traded perfumes, elephant ivories, rhinoceros horns, gold, silver and salt in return for Chinese fabrics. Later, under the Lý Dynasty, an extensive market was established at Vinh Bình on the Ky Cùng River.
On 4 April 1406, as a Chinese Ming envoy crossed the border into Lang Son, Ho Quý Ly’s forces ambushed them and killed the Tran prince that the Ming were escorting back. Consequently, the Yongle Emperor (of Ming China) launched a punitive expedition against him due to this hostile act. During the reign of the Ming Dynasty, during the period 1527 and 1592, Lang Son was vastly fortified in view of its strategic importance at the border, which is seen even now; a citadel of this dynasty is located to the west of the Lang Son town on a lime stone rock outcrop.
Lang Son province was one of the 13 original provinces in northern Vietnam under the reign of Emperor Minh Mang in 1831. Then since the establishment of the Nguyen Dynasty in 1802 until then, northern Vietnam had been under the rule of a viceroy.
The town was occupied by the French in 1885 when it was a very prosperous town. The French converted it into a military base considered as important to their other base in Cao Bang. In 1906, archaeologist Henri Mansuy discovered the Tham Kanh cave near Pho Binh Gia which he named the Ho Binh Gia. He unearthed unique stone implements and human remains. In 1922-25 M. Coloni extensively explored Lang Son province and identified 43 sites related to the ancient Bac Son culture in the mountains.
During the Second World War, even though the Japanese had signed an agreement with Vichy Indo China, they soon reneged on the Agreement, without waiting for the ink to dry on the accord, and launched an offensive on Vietnam by withdrawing their troops from China. They crossed the Vietnam China border and entered 12 kilometres (7.5 mi) inside, very close to the Lang Son railway station. The Japanese attacked on 22 September 1940 and by the 25th they captured Lang Son province. However, Vichy had lodged a protest with Emperor Hirohito for the breach of the agreement signed between the two countries, which resulted in a ceasefire to the hostilities by the evening of 26 September, and soon Lang Son was reoccupied by the Vichy forces.
After Ho Chi Minh’s government was established in September 1945, Japanese had surrendered to the British and Indian Army, under the terms of the Potsdam Conference, to the south of the 16th parallel, while the Chinese Nationalist Party (the Kuomintang). As a strategy, Ho Chi Minh entered into an agreement with the French so that he could face any threat from the Chinese and a Franco-Vietnamese agreement was signed. This provided for a free Vietnam within the French Union and the Indochinese Federation.
However, the French launched an offensive against the Viet Minh in October 1947 with Lang Son as their base. Surprisingly, the Viet Minh managed to thwart the French Offensive and forced the French to withdraw to Lang Son. Finally, the Viet Minh pursue the French Army, they had a very decisive victory on Highway 4 and they had to finally withdraw from Lang Son province. This marked the beginning of First Indochina War.
In 1950 the Vietminh took control of the province and the town. During February 1979, the Chinese invaded Vietnam through the border town of Don Dong (18 kilometres (11 mi) to the north of Long Son town). In this war, which lasted for five days, 600,000 soldiers had descended on Vietnam; Lang Son town was the major town that received the major thrust of 200,000 soldiers from China and occupied the capital city of the Northern Province. However, the Vietnamese had the last say as the Vietnamese army was successful in defeating the Chinese army, which bid a hasty retreat. This was has achieved the status of a folk lore in the province.
The frontier village, which became famous during the war with China, has remnants of the war on display to the visitors. However, the border has been rebuilt and brisk trade flourishes between Vietnam and China through this town. During the Chinese invasion in 1959 the Lan Son town was also severely damaged, however, it has been rebuilt since then. The old part of the town, near the Kyu Kung River, has some interesting historical sites.
Battle of Nui Bop
On June 7, 1949, the district of Loc Bình was transferred from Hai Ninh Province into Lang Son. During the First Indochina War, Lang Son was a part of Liên khu Viet Bac. In 1950 the province had 10 districts: Bang Mac, Bac Son, Bình Gia, Cao Loc, Điem He, Loc Bình, Ôn Châu, Thoát Lang, Tràng Đinh and Văn Uyên. On July 1, 1956, the district of Huu Lung of Bac Giang Province was transferred into Lang Son, which was placed in the Khu tu tri Viet Bac (Region of Northern Vietnam), which was formed the same day. The RNV lasted until December 27, 1975.
In 1963 agricultural corporatization began between the nationalities of the province. On December 16, 1964, the district of Điem He and six communes of Bang Mac were merged to form the new district of Văn Quan; at the same time, the district of Ôn Châu and eight communes of Bang Mac district came together to form the new district of Chi Lăng. From December 27, 1975, until December 29, 1978, Lang Son and Cao Bang Provinces were merged to form Cao Lang Province, before being re-partitioned. At the same time, the district of Đình Lap in Quang Ninh Province was transferred to Lang Son, and since then it has had its current 10 districts. In 1979, a Chinese attack on the border was defended.
The province is set in karstic limestone mountains and valleys. Mountains and forests comprise 80% of the province’s area. The province measures approximately 123 kilometres from north to south and 126 kilometres from west to east. The average altitude of the province is 252 metres (827 ft) above sea level. The lowest point in the province is 20 metres (66 ft) towards the south of Huu Lũng district and the highest point is at Mau Son Mountain, which is 1,541 metres (5,056 ft). Mau Son is to the east of the town of Lang Son by 30 kilometres (19 mi) and is surrounded by a series of small peaks, and snow falls on these peaks in winter. The Bac Son Mountains are located in the province and are calcareous in nature. Fertile valley is framed by high mountain ridges, creating a scenic landscape.
The north of the province adjoins Cao Bang Province. The 243 kilometres (151 mi) Ky or Kyu River flows through Lang Son town and alluvial plains are formed in the valley that is surrounded by high mountains of about 1,000 metres (3,300 ft) height. The Ky has a basin area of 6,660 square kilometres (4,140,000 mi) and has its source in the mountainous area of Bac Xa at an altitude of 1,166 metres (3,825 ft) in the district of Đình Lap. The river is part of the Tây Giang River basin in China. The Ban Thín River, a tributary of the Ky Cùng, which is 52 metres (171 ft) long with a catchment area of 320 square kilometres (120 sq mi) has its source in a mountainous region in Guangxi in China, and empties into the Ky Cùng in the commune of Khuat Xá in Loc Bình Province.
Other tributaries of the Ky include the Bac Giang River, which is 114 km long with a catchment area of 2,670 square kilometres (1,030 sq mi) and the Bac Khê River, which is 54 kilometres (34 mi) long with a catchment area of 801 square kilometres (309 sq mi). Other rivers of note in the province include the Thuong Là River, which is the second largest in the province, sourced from the Na Pa Phuoc range in the district of Chi Lang and is 157 km long with a basin area of 6,640 square kilometres (2,560 sq mi), the Hoá Đo River, which is 47 kilometres (29 mi) in length with a catchment area of 385 square kilometres (149 sq mi) and the Trung River, which is 35 km in length with a catchment area of1,270 square kilometres (490 sq mi).
Lang Son city
Lang Son has two international border crossings. The most accessed is the Friendship Gate called the Huu Nghi Quan crossing at Dang Dang connecting to the Pingxiang town in China. This is the historical first land link in the north of China and Vietnam that connects Lang Son and Guangxi, China. The border is open daily, from 07:00 to 17:00 and involves a walk of 500 m through the no man’s territory between Vietnam and China. There is an international train service, an express route, opened in 1996 from Hanoi to Beijing (China), which operates twice a week on Tuesday and Friday that passes through Long Son Town and Dong Dang through this gate which has three-hour stop at the border town to complete formalities of entry from one country to the other. Passengers are not allowed to board the train at any intermediate station between Hanoi and Beijing.
Lang Son is 155 kilometres (96 mi) to the northwest of Hanoi and National Highways 1 and 1 A. Chi Lang pass is a famous battlefield (a pass which has the historical record of Le Loi’s victory over 100,000 Ming invaders from China, in 1427). Lang Son is 135 km from Cao Bang on the National Highway No 4.
Lang Son province has an average annual temperature of 17-22°C and an average annual rainfall of 1,200-1,600 millimetres (47-63 in). The average temperature in the summer is 28.5°C (83.3°F) and 12-13°C (54-55°F) in the winter, It has an average humidity of 80-85% and an average of 1600 hours of sunlight a year.
Lang Son has one town municipality, 10 rural districts, five precincts, 14 towns and 207 communes. The 10 districts (huyen): Bac Son District, Bình Gia District, Cao Loc District, Chi Lang District, Đình Lap District, Huu Lung District, Loc Bình District, Tràng Đinh District, Văn Lang District and Văn Quan District and 207 communes.
According to the General Statistics Office of the Government of Vietnam, the population of Lang Son province as on 2008 was 759,000 with a density of 91 persons per sq km over a total land area of 8,327.6 square kilometres (3,215.3 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 370100 with females accounting for 386900. The rural population was 605,600 against an urban population of 153,400 (about 2.5% of the rural population).
The ethnic groups which inhabit the province are the Viet (Kinh), Tay, Nung, Dao, Mong and San Chay and Ngai. Montagnards still retain their tribal life styles. Nungs comprised 42.97% of the population, followed by Tay people with 35.92%. Ethnic Vietnamese are 16.5%, and the remainder is mostly Dao, Hoa, Sán Chay and Hmong.
Nung dialects include Nùng Phan Sinh in eastern Lang Son, Nùng Cháo around Lang Son city, and Nùng Inh in western Lang Son.
Lang Son’s economy is 80% based on agriculture and forestry. The province has significant mining reserves of bauxite, phosphate and coal. It also has notable reserves of gold, silver and lead. Main crops include rice, which accounted for 40,000 hectares out of a total of 55,000 hectares grown in 1986, and sweet potato, maize and manioc. It is also known for its commodities of tea and yellow tobacco. These crops are generally grown in the valleys of the Bac Son Mountains, Binh Gia Mountains and the Van Quan Mountains and along the rivers plains of the Ky Cung River and the Thuong River.
Some of the districts such as Huu Lũng District have sugar cane plantations and grow oranges and pineapples, others grow tea and plums. Animal husbandry is developed in Lang Son Province; in 1986, 140,000 buffalo and oxen were recorded in the province and 150,000 pigs. The province is also noted for its That Khe duck speciality.
As against the national figure of 273 agriculture, forestry and fishery cooperatives, 15 are agricultural cooperatives and four are fisheries cooperatives.The number of cooperatives is 32 as against 7592 cooperatives in the country. There are only 26 farms as against the national number of 120699.
The output value of agriculture produce at constant 1994 prices in the province was 1,076.5 billion đongs against the national value of 156,681.9 billion dongs.
Lang Son Heger II
Apart from the war ravaged Dong Don Border town, which has rich war history and attracts visitors, the other historical places of interest in the province are two large limestone caves within a short distance from the Long Son town, and a 16th-century citadel of the Ming Dynasty.
Temple in Lang Son
The two caves with Buddhist altars, well illuminated are the Tam Thanh Cave and the Nhi Thanh Cave.
The Tam Thanh Cave is very large with three chambers. In addition, it has a water pond, with a window opening, which provides scenic views of vast rice fields outside. The outer chamber of the cave on the right has the Tam Giao Pagoda (built in 1777) with six shrines. The second chamber of the cave on the left also shrines, the Ngoc Tuyen River flows through this cave into the mountain, an unusual feature which is described as “a dramatic sight.”
The Nhi Thanh Cave, about 700 m away from the Tam Thanh Cave, was discovered in the 18th century by Ngo Thin Sy, military commander of the Lang Son garrison, whose poems have been inscribed at the entrance to the cave. A plaque erected in the cave depicts a French resident of Long Son in full European dress. The Ngoc Tuyen River flows through the cave.
The Mac Dynasty Citadel, a 16th-century monument is in a desolate area on a rock outcrop. It is on the way from the Tam Tinh road to Lang Son city. Series of steps from the road leading to the ruins of the citadel.
The Lang Son city also has ancient walls built in the 18th century. A monastery existed here.
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