Gulf of Tonkin
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese北部灣
Simplified Chinese北部湾
Literal meaningNorthern Gulf
Gulf of Tonkin
Vietnamese name
Vietnamese alphabetVịnh Bắc Bộ
Vịnh Bắc Phần
Vịnh Đông Kinh
Vịnh Bắc Việt
Chữ Hán泳北部
True color satellite image of the Gulf of Tonkin

The Gulf of Tonkin is a gulf at the northwestern portion of the South China Sea, located off the coasts of Tonkin (northern Vietnam) and South China. It has a total surface area of 126,250 km2 (48,750 sq mi). It is defined in the west and northwest by the northern coastline of Vietnam down to the Hòn La Island, in the north by China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, and to the east by the Leizhou Peninsula and Hainan Island.

Description and etymology

The name Tonkin, written "東京" in chữ Hán characters and Đông Kinh in the Vietnamese alphabet, means "eastern capital", and is the former toponym for Hanoi, the present capital of Vietnam. It is not to be confused with Tokyo, which is also written "東京" and also means "eastern capital". During the French colonial era, the northern region of today’s Vietnam was called Tonkin.

Bắc Bộ is the native Vietnamese name of Tonkin. The bay's Vietnamese and Chinese names – Vịnh Bắc Bộ and Běibù Wān, respectively – both mean "Northern Bay".

The Gulf of Tonkin is a relatively shallow portion of the Pacific Ocean; the majority of the gulf's ocean floor is less than 75 metres (246 ft) in depth, and no part of the gulf is submerged in more than 100 metres (330 ft) of water.[1]


Gulf of Tonkin incident

Main article: Gulf of Tonkin incident

On 4 August 1964, United States President Lyndon B. Johnson claimed that North Vietnamese forces had twice attacked American destroyers in the Gulf of Tonkin.[2] Known today as the Gulf of Tonkin Incident, this event spawned the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution of 7 August 1964, ultimately leading to open war between North Vietnam and South Vietnam. It furthermore foreshadowed the major escalation of the Vietnam War in South Vietnam, which began with the landing of US regular combat troops at Da Nang in 1965.

See also


  1. ^ Sterling, Eleanor; Hurley, Martha (2005-07-01). "Conserving Biodiversity in Vietnam: Applying Biogeography to Conservation Research Conserving Biodiversity in Vietnam: Applying Biogeography to Conservation Research". Proceedings of the California Academy of Sciences. 4. Retrieved 2023-01-09.
  2. ^ Fletcher, Martin (1 December 2001). "LBJ tape 'confirms Vietnam war error'". The Times. Archived from the original on 1 December 2001.

Further reading

19°45′N 107°45′E / 19.750°N 107.750°E / 19.750; 107.750