This article seeks to tell the story of a river and a canal in pre-fifteenth-century Thanh Hóa. Although apparently dissimilar, the fate of both waterways reflected a similar process, as both lived or died from the consequences of dynastic attempts to promote integration by bridging the territory of northern Vietnam with that of Champa. Integration was a central goal for the Việt authorities and water was one of their most important means. The story of water in the Thanh Hóa area illustrates the ongoing historical tension between integration and disintegration in Vietnamese history.
This article attempts to piece together the available data on Sino-Vietnamese trade of northern Vietnam in the early nineteenth century with a focus on its upland region. This essay shares the views expressed in the works by Oscar Salemink, Philip Talor, Sarah Turner and other scholars on northern uplands, and in particular their rejection of the “urban-rural,” “advanced-backward,” “civilized-barbarian,” lowland-highland dichotomies. But building upon these works, this essay also tries to determine what proportion of overland and maritime trade made up the Nguyễn revenue, and to understand the interactions among various peoples living between the mountains and the sea. The data seems to suggest that, contrary to the view that this upland region was remote and consequently isolated, the upland region (outer provinces) near the Sino-Vietnamese border represented an important and even crucial portion of the overall revenue of Nguyễn Vietnam in the early nineteenth century.