THE NGUYEN DYNASTY

FROM THE LE TO THE NGUYEN RULERS

The Le Dynasty ended in 1788 after ruling Vietnam for 360 years, making it the longest in Vietnamese history. Although northern Trinh Lords and southern Nguyen Lords had long been rivals, each serving the Le emperors, they controlled their separate areas for more than 200 years. Before 1788, they had expanded and consolidated their areas of influence at the expense of the Cham peoples and the Khmers. They had also dealt successfully with Chinese efforts to return to Vietnam several times.

Despite a long tradition in which the Vietnamese regarded China an enemy, culturally the Vietnamese continued to borrow heavily "things Chinese." Le emperors and their local lords used Chinese-type government administration, the influence of Confucianism in education, and Chinese characters in their writing.

 

When in Hanoi, many will visit Van Mieu, the Temple of Literature, which dates from 1070. It is today located in a quiet zone within busy streets of Hanoi, but it was the original site of Ly rule.

 

 

 

 

Within one of the temples on this site is a representation of Confucius.

 

Van Mieu's plan is similar to the Qufu, China site which honors Confucius, born nearby. One walks through several sections of five courtyards, lawns and ponds, pavilions, and relics -- all comprising the temple complex. At one time, there were seventy-two altars to the disciples of Confucius, and there are almost 100 stelae (inscribed stone slabs) containing names of those who passed the competitive exams for the civil service. These "documents" relate to an elaborate Chinese testing system in use as a means of selecting the best educated men for government service. Today one can observe the record of those who passed the oldest of the exams whose tablets remain, those of 1442 and 1448. One may also be entertained by musicians who play traditional Vietnamese music using traditional instruments. The expect a donation and a purchase of their wooden instruments and modern tapes.

One part of Van Mieu once housed Vietnam's first university, the National Academy. Founded in 1076, it remained on this site until it was moved to Hue in 1802.

Consolidation and enlargement of Vietnam occurred in part by waring against the Kingdom of Champa. From the eleventh century to the final Vietnamese defeat of the Cham in 1471, Cham capitals were overrun and the Vietnamese seized large land holdings of the Cham people. By this process, Vietnam extended from the border with China southward to the Hai Van Pass near Da Nang.

Vietnamese also warred against the Khmers who had long before spilled over into southern Vietnam from the Kingdom of Cambodia west of modern Vietnam. The Khmers lived in the Mekong River Delta and they put up great resistance before falling to superior power late in the eighteenth century.

The Le Dynasty (1428-1788) ended from internal and not external challenge. First, there was a peasant uprising, involving rival Nguyen families, against the southern Nguyen Lords and the Trinh Lords of the north. The rebellion, which occurred in central Vietnam's Binh Dinh Province, is known as the Tay Son Rebellion, and it dates from 1771 to 1789.

When the Le emperor invited China to defend him, the large Chinese army was defeated by the rebels in the battle of Dong Da (January 1789). The leading hero of Dong Da was the most able of the three rebel Nguyen brothers -- Nguyen Hue. Earlier, in 1785, he had led Vietnamese forces to victory, also, against neighboring Siamese (Thai). The Nguyen brothers ruled only briefly before they died, but by then nom had become the official language of Vietnam.

With the death of Nguyen Hue in 1792, and the succession of his ten-year-old son, Nguyen Phuc Anh stepped into the political and leadership vacuum that existed. The strongest of still surviving Nguyen lords, he soon had established himself as emperor and head of the Nguyen Dynasty (1802-1945). This first of the Nguyen rulers is known as Emperor Gia Long, and his first significant act was to move the capital to Hue.

 

 

The last of the Nguyen emperors was Bao Dai, who abdicated in 1945 and died in 1997.

 

Go to Professor Bolt's Photos and Comments on a Visit of Hue, 1997

Go to Emperor Gia Long

Go to Emperor Minh Mang

Go to Emperor Tu Duc

Return to Interactive Outline History of Vietnam

Return to Pre-Colonial Vietnam Page