Vietnam's national identity has been shaped by over two millennia of invasion, resistance and internal conflict. In 111 B.C.E. China's Han Dynasty conquered the Red River Delta in the northern part of modern Vietnam and ruled the area, which it called Annam, for nearly 1,000 years. In 1284, Kublai Khan's half-million man invasion force was virtually destroyed by Vietnamese guerillas. The Vietnamese gradually began moving south toward the Mekong Delta, and in 1471 conquered the Champa Kingdom in what is now central Vietnam. For hundreds of years, feuding families in the north and south waged a series of civil wars.
In the mid 19th century, France, lagging seriously behind the other European powers in Asian colonial holdings, saw Vietnam as an easy way to expand its sphere of influence in the region. Using the persecution of Catholic missionaries by Emperor Minh Mang as a pretext for invasion, French and Spanish forces entered the port city of Da Nang in August 1858. By 1887 France controlled the entire Indochinese peninsula, including modern-day Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. For the next half-century it ruled Indochina with an iron fist, quickly crushing any sign of nationalist rebellion.