After driving the Chinese out of the country, Ngo Quyen went on to vanquish a number of local rival chiefs. He then constructed his capital at Co Loa, which dates back to the third century B.C., in an effort to associate his authority with the old royalty of Vietnam. the stronghold of An Duong Vuong.
However, the dynasty that Ngo Quyen founded only survived for a little over a quarter of a century until it was toppled in 968 by a local chieftain named Dinh Bo Linh, who ruled under the name Dinh Tien Hoang. Dinh Bo Linh was also known as Dinh Tien Hoang.
He brought political unification to the nation, which he called Dai Co Viet when he completed his work (Great Viet). Both the construction of a diplomatic foundation for Vietnamese independence and the implementation of universal military mobilization may be considered to be among Dinh Bo Linh’s most notable achievements during his reign.
He established a peasant army of one hundred thousand people known as the Ten Circuit Army, which consisted of ten circuits (geographical districts). Each circuit had 10 armies defending it, and inside each army were ten brigades. These brigades were organized into armies. In turn, brigades were composed of 10 companies, each of which had ten squads consisting of ten individuals.
Dinh Bo Linh, upon completing the unification of the Vietnamese people and establishing his kingdom, sent a tribute mission to the recently-established Northern Song dynasty in China (A.D. 960-1125). This diplomatic ploy was an effort to fend off China’s reconquest of its former vassal, and it was successful in doing so.
Dinh Bo Linh received recognition by the Song emperor, but only as the “King of Giao Chi Prefecture,” which is a state that is part of the Chinese empire. The Vietnamese monarchy did not succeed in consolidating its grip over the nation until the establishment of the Ly dynasty (1009-1225), which lasted from that time period.
The Great Ly Dynasty and the Flowering of Buddhism
After Dinh Bo Linh’s death in 979, the Song dynasty sought to regain Chinese dominance over Vietnam via a number of different means. In the year 981, Le Hoan, who was the commander in chief of Dinh Bo Linh’s army, successfully ousted Dinh Bo Linh from the king and defeated the Chinese army. In 1009, a former temple orphan named Ly Cong Uan, who had worked his way up to the position of commander of the palace guard, replaced Le Hoan as emperor. This event led to the establishment of the renowned Ly dynasty, which lasted until 1225. Taking the name Ly Thai To as his reign name, he relocated the capital to Dai La. (modern Hanoi). The early kings of Ly are credited with establishing a flourishing kingdom that is characterized by a stable monarchy that is placed at the head of a centralized bureaucracy. In the year 1054, Emperor Ly Thanh Tong made the decision to alter the name of the nation to Dai Viet.
Warfare with China and the two Indianized kingdoms to the south, Cambodia and Champa, characterized the first century of Ly’s reign. This conflict lasted for the whole century. After these dangers were effectively dealt with, the second century of Ly’s reign was largely calm. This allowed the Ly kings to build a Buddhist governing tradition that was closely tied to the ruling traditions of other Buddhist kingdoms in Southeast Asia during that time period. As members of the royal family and the nobles participated actively in Buddhist rituals and practices, including making pilgrimages, supporting the construction of pagodas, and even entering monastic life on occasion, Buddhism evolved into a kind of official religion in this region. The Bonzes evolved into a privileged landed elite that was free from both taxation and mandatory military service. At the same time, Buddhism, which was practiced in an increasingly Vietnamized form and was connected with sorcery, spirits, and medicine, gained popularity among them.
At the cost of the Cham and the Khmer, the Vietnamese started their long march to the south (known as nam tien) at the beginning of the Ly dynasty. After the Cham people’s former capital of Indrapura was destroyed by Le Hoan in 982, they moved their government to the newly founded city of Vijaya. Despite this, it was taken by the Vietnamese on two separate occasions, and in 1079, the Cham monarchs were coerced into handing up control of its three northern provinces to the Ly. Soon after that, Vietnamese peasants started migrating into the once-tilled lands of the Cham people, converting them into rice fields, and persistently advancing southward down the narrow coastal plain, delta by delta. The Ly monarchs promoted the strengthening of Vietnam’s agricultural system by building and restoring dikes and canals and by enabling troops to return to their villages to work for six months each year. As their realm and people grew, the Ly rulers turned to China as a model for creating a powerful, centrally governed kingdom. They did this in order to take advantage of China’s advantages. In the year 1075, examinations were used for the first time to choose minor officials. The next year (1076), a civil service training institution and an imperial school were both established. In the year 1089, a set hierarchy of state officials was established, consisting of nine degrees of civil and military scholar-officials. Examinations for public service were made obligatory, and literary contests were organized to decide the grades of officials.
The Tran Dynasty And The Defeat Of The Mongols
The Tran family, who had virtually controlled the Vietnamese crown for many years, dethroned the Ly dynasty in 1225. To do this, they arranged a marriage between one of their family members and the last monarch of the Ly dynasty, a princess who was only eight years old at the time. Throughout the time of the Tran dynasty (1225-1400), the rulers of the kingdom carried out major land reforms, improved public administration, and supported the study of Chinese literature. As a result, the nation developed and prospered during this time period. The Tran, on the other hand, are most well-known for their role in protecting the kingdom from invasion by the Mongols and the Cham. By the year 1225, the Mongols had taken control of the majority of northern China and Manchuria and were looking to expand their territory into southern China, Vietnam, and Champa. The Mongol armies led by Kublai Khan invaded Vietnam in 1257, 1284, and 1287, and on each occasion, they sacked the capital city of Thang Long (which would later be renamed Hanoi in 1831). However, each time they did so, they discovered that the Vietnamese had anticipated their attacks and fled the city in advance. The first two invasions were unsuccessful because of things like disease, a lack of supplies, the environment, and the Vietnamese policy of harassing and using techniques like scorched earth. The Vietnamese, under the command of General Tran Hung Dao, were successful in repelling the third Mongol invasion, which consisted of 300,000 soldiers and a massive navy. The Vietnamese drove iron-tipped stakes into the bed of the Bach Dang River (located in northern Vietnam in present-day Ha Bac, Hai Hung, and Quang Ninh provinces), and then, with a small Vietnamese flotilla, they lured the Mongol fleet into the river just as the tide was starting to ebb. This strategy was borrowed from Ngo Quyen, who had used it in 938 to defeat an invading Chinese fleet. The whole fleet of 400 Mongol ships was either destroyed, seized, or set ablaze by fire arrows fired by the Vietnamese. They were either trapped or impaled by the iron-tipped stakes. The Mongol army was forced to retire to China, where they were met with resistance by Tran Hung Dao’s soldiers.
Warfare with Champa, which had been reduced to the status of a feudal state by the Tran by the year 1312, dominated the fourteenth century. After regaining its independence in 1326, Champa went on to launch a series of invasions against Vietnam between 1360 and 1390, including the sacking of Thang Long in 1371. These attacks were led by the Cham hero Che Bong Nga. As a direct result of Che Bong Nga’s demise, the Vietnamese were once again able to regain the initiative and continued their push toward the south at the cost of Champa. In spite of the fact that they had been successful in the past, the quality of the Tran rulers had significantly decreased by the end of the fourteenth century. This made it possible for the feudal landlord class to exploit the peasants, which resulted in a series of uprisings. In the year 1400, General Ho Quy-ly overthrew the previous ruler and anointed himself as the founder of the Ho dynasty. This dynasty did not last long (1400-07). He instituted a number of reforms that were unpopular with the feudal landlords, including a limit on the amount of land that a family could hold and the rental of excess land by the state to landless peasants; proclamations printed in Vietnamese, rather than Chinese; and free schools in the capitals of the provinces. Both of these reforms limited the amount of land that a family could hold. Some of the landowners felt threatened by the changes, so they made an appeal to China’s Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) for assistance. Using the restoration of the Tran dynasty as a justification, the Ming reasserted Chinese authority in 1407.
The Le Dynasty and Southward Expansion
It is believed that Le Loi, one of Vietnam’s most revered historical figures, freed Vietnam from Ming rule in 1428. Le Loi is one of Vietnam’s most honoured heroes. He came from an affluent family that owned property, and he worked as a senior scholar-official up to the Ming dynasty, when he refused to serve them. He was born into this family. In 1428, after Le Loi and his soldiers had spent the previous decade organizing a resistance organization around themselves, they were eventually successful in defeating the Chinese army. Instead of putting the kidnapped Chinese troops and officials to death, he was very gracious and supplied ships and provisions so that they might be sent back to China. After that, Le Loi gained the throne of Vietnam, took the reign name Le Thai To, and established the Le dynasty (1428-1788).
Le Thanh Tong, who ruled from 1460 to 1497 and was the most influential member of the Le dynasty, was responsible for reorganizing the administrative divisions of the kingdom and upgrading the system of civil service. In addition to revising the tax system and commissioning the development of national history, he mandated the conduct of a census of the population and their holdings of land every six years. During his reign, he was successful in the following endeavors: the conquest of Champa in 1471; the suppression of Lao-led uprisings in the western border region; and the continuance of diplomatic contacts with China via the establishment of tribute missions by Le Thai To. Le Thanh Tong also issued an order that resulted in the creation of the Hong Duc legal code. This code was based on Chinese law but included aspects that were uniquely Vietnamese. For example, it acknowledged the elevated status of women in Vietnamese society in comparison to the position of women in Chinese society. Under the new law, parental permission was no longer necessary for a couple to be married, and girls were given the same rights to an inheritance as their male counterparts. Additionally, Le Thanh Tong was responsible for the building and restoration of granaries, the deployment of his soldiers to reconstruct irrigation works after floods, and the provision of medical help during epidemics. A well-known author and poet in his own right, he advocated for and placed an emphasis on the Confucian examination system.
Under Le Thanh Tong’s leadership, a significant phase of growth in the south also got underway. Borrowed from the Chinese, the don dien method of land settlement was used to a significant degree in order to occupy and develop territory that had been taken from Champa. Under this method, military colonies were founded in which soldiers and landless peasants would clear a new area, begin rice cultivation on the new land, construct a hamlet, and serve as a militia to protect it. These individuals would then go on to the next step in the process. After a period of three years, the hamlet was integrated into the administrative system of Vietnam, a community village meeting house known as a dinh was constructed, and the workers were provided with the chance to partake in the communal lands that were provided by the state to each village. The state was the owner of the remaining portion of the property. Following the establishment of a hamlet in each cleared region, the troops of the don dien would move on to the next location to clear additional land. This strategy was a significant factor in Vietnam’s ability to successfully expand its territory to the south.
Despite the fact that the rulers of Le had ordered substantial land distribution, a significant number of peasants continued to lack access to land, while members of the aristocracy, government officials, and military commanders continued to accumulate enormous tracts. Peasants progressively marched southward along the coast onto state-owned common lands when the ultimate conquest of Champa took place in the year 1471. This made the situation slightly easier to manage. However, the majority of the newly acquired property was reserved for government officials, and despite the fact that the nation became richer, the existing socioeconomic structure was not altered. The loss of land as a result of the fall of the Le dynasty was a significant cause that contributed to the tumultuous era that followed it. During this time, the peasants questioned the authority of their rulers.
According to the worldview of Confucianism, rulers were considered to have the “mandate of heaven” to govern their people, and the people believed that they owed the emperor their complete and utter loyalty. In spite of the fact that he had total authority, an emperor was held accountable for the well-being of his subjects as well as the upkeep of law and order. If an emperor did not fulfill his Confucian obligations, then there was a possibility that he might lose his mandate. In actuality, the Vietnamese people were forced to suffer a large number of poor emperors who were both weak and powerful. Village institutions served both to restrain the power of the emperor and to provide a buffer between central authority and the individual villagers. The Vietnamese proverb “The laws of the emperor yield to the customs of the village” illustrates how the power of the village served as a counterbalance to the power of the emperor. Every community had its own council of notables, and that council was in charge of fulfilling the commitments that the community had made to the state. When the central government imposed levies for taxes, for corvee labor for public projects, or for soldiers for defense, these levies were based on the report of the resources of the villages that were provided by the council of notables. However, this report frequently understated the number of resources that were required to protect the village. In addition, there was a distinction made between the obligations of the state and those of the local government. Village authorities were responsible for overseeing the building of centrally planned public works projects like roads, dikes, and bridges, while the central government was in charge of the military, the courts, and the religious institutions. On the other hand, the autonomy of the villages was a contributing factor to the fragile nature of the political structure in Vietnam. If the reigning dynasty was no longer able to safeguard a village, the residents of the hamlet would often choose to seek protection from political forces that were hostile to the governing dynasty. In turn, these groups would have difficulties sustaining the loyalty of the villages unless they were able to both provide security and institutionalize their political authority. Without this ability, they would find it impossible to keep the villagers’ support. Although it ensured the maintenance of a feeling of national and cultural identity, the power of the villages was a factor that contributed to the political instability of the society as it moved southward. This instability was caused by the fact that the villages were so powerful.