Isnin, 2 Ogos 2010



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.
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.


Nguyen Phuc Anh (1761-1820) was the strongest of Nguyen leaders who faced the Tay Son and other rivals for many years. He was also the first to turn to the French for help against his rivals. This was before he became the first Nguyen emperor of Vietnam and the founder of the Nguyen Dynasty (1802-1945).
He actually permitted a French missionary, Pierre Pigneau de BĂ©haine, to intercede in 1787 to seek French aid against his rivals.
The original treaty-based relationship of 1787 between Vietnam and France promised missionary and commercial rights to France and military aid to Nguyen Anh. France was also promised the city of Da Nang (which later under the French became Tourane) and the island of Con Son. The terms of the 1787 treaty were not to be realized, however, until much later (1862).
Nguyen Anh, therefore, accomplished his goals without French assistance. He declared himself Emperor Gia Long. His newly acquired name reflected the joining of Gia Dinh (then the name used for Saigon) and Long (part of the old name for Hanoi, Thang Long). Thus, he as emperor represented a unification of Vietnam not known for centuries.
To confirm his power and to symbolize his dynasty, he moved the capital from Hanoi to Hue and he changed the name of the state to Vietnam.
Nevertheless, Gia Long obtained recognition of his newly established power by seeking the endorsement of China and by adopting Chinese as Vietnam's official written language. This meant an end to use of nom.
Up until his death in 1820, when his son succeeded as Emperor Minh Mang, Gia Long tolerated French missionaries but disapproved further French economic developments in Vietnam.


Minh Mang (1791-1841) succeeded his father as emperor at the age of twenty-nine. Over his two-decade rule (1820-1841), he led in an administrative reorganization of Vietnam, he oversaw enlargement of programs for civil service exams and education, and he built an expansive Vietnamese empire which included much of neighboring Laos and Cambodia.
Emperor Minh Mang was also important as a poet and writer. In regard to other nations, he rejected official diplomatic relations with both France and the United States but tolerated French commerce.
Minh Mang also proved suspicious of Western missionaries and prohibited the practice of Christianity in Vietnam, and there was some persecution of Christians. These attitudes and policies were the result of his strong advocacy of morality and his desire to protect Vietnamese culture.
Minh Mang was also a builder of many of the temples and other structures within the Imperial City in Hue, the capital of Vietnam and home of the Nguyen emperors. In particular, he is remembered for construction of the Mieu Temple in 1821. This temple today honors ten of the Nguyen emperors. Minh Mang also ordered the casting of nine dynasty urns still remaining outside the Hien Lam Pavilion and in front of the Mieu Temple. These bronze urns are quite large and bear carvings depicting rivers, mountains, seas, sea products, and other images important to the Vietnamese.
In a burst of nationalistic pride, the Vietnamese writer of a present-day guidebook for the Hue Citadel complex notes that bronze casting is "a traditional trade of Hue people and Nine Dynastic Urns are its gems. With their bare hands, artisans of Hue have produced what could only be made in other countries with machinery of light or heavy industries."


Tu Duc (1829-1883), according to Pham Cao Duong (Encyclopedia of the Vietnam War: A Political, Social, and Military History, page 706) was independent Vietnam's last emperor, 1847-1883. Some would perhaps regard him as the emperor who lost Vietnam to French domination. Tu Duc served as the fourth of the thirteen Nguyen Dynasty emperors and is certainly one of the most interesting.

Tu Duc's rule began as the French expressed their interests in Indochina in increasingly aggressive forms. In 1847, for example, the French navy attacked Da Nang. Our printed course materials, to be read later, relate fully the story of the beginning of French colonialism.

It was Emperor Tu Duc who faced those challenges, and he and his political aides signed several treaties with the French. Gradually Vietnam lost entire provinces, and in 1884, the year following Tu Duc's death, Vietnam became a French protectorate.

Were this loss of sovereignty under French colonialism the entire record of Emperor Tu Duc, he would not be remembered by Vietnamese today as kindly as he is. He showed interest in modernizing Vietnam, and he took a personal interest in Vietnam's education and culture. Among his own writings, he produced poetry, philosophical texts, and history. In addition, he often invited Vietnamese scholars to interact with him at the site of his mausoleum complex.

That was a massive building project which he undertook long before his death. Built on the Perfume River between 1864 and 1867, the complex contains gardens, pavilions, and a temple used earlier as a palace. He visited there for recreation (fishing especially), for meditation, and to write, as well as to meet with other writers and intellectuals.

Tu Duc lived longer than the other Nguyen emperors. During his lifetime he had 104 wives and many more concubines, but he fathered no children. He was often ill, and he was likely sterile due to smallpox early in his life.

In keeping with Chinese and Vietnamese traditions, there is a Stele House on the Tu Duc Mausoleum site. Within this pavilion, open on all four sides, is a 20-ton stele containing Tu Duc's 4,000-character eulogy. Written in Chinese characters, it is actually an autobiography of the emperor.

Study Module for Online Course, Fall 1999

Module prepared Summer 1999 by Dr. Ernest Bolt and Amanda Garrett, University of Richmond graduate student in History. This online module is part of a course development project of the Associated Colleges of the South. The course at Centenary College is English 315: The American Experience in Vietnam. At the University of Richmond, it is History 398: The Vietnam Experience. At Rollins College, the course is Political Science 393: The Vietnam Experience.

Ernest Bolt
University of Richmond