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Far East Kingdoms

South East Asia


Dai Viet Kingdom (Restored) (Annam) (Vietnam)
Revival Le Dynasty (AD 1533-1789)

The modern-day nation state of Vietnam emerged out of prehistory's Early Vietnam. Various early (and partially legendary) kingdoms followed but northern Vietnam then endured a sequence of occupations and independence which began with the 'First Chinese Domination of Vietnam' and ended with the 'Third Chinese Domination of Vietnam'.

The Chinese-controlled province of Annam saw various revolts which led to Ngo Quyen winning a glorious victory in AD 938 against occupying Southern Han forces. The restored Nam Viet kingdom oversaw a long period of national independence and growth which started with the Ngo dynasty. The Dinh and Early Le stabilised the new state, while the Later Li and Early Tran revived local culture and traditions. A period of decline saw a brief usurpation by the Ho dynasty, many rebellions, and then an invasion by the Ming.

That occupation was brief, however, being contested by the rebellious Later Tran emperors. The Ming were finally ejected by the founder of the Later Le dynasty. The capital at Thăng Long was renamed Đổng Kinh, and the country was rebuilt after two decades of Chinese control. Later dynastic rulers allowed court intrigues to take precedence over state-building, creating the backdrop for power plays and a usurpation. In 1527 General Mac Dang Dương took control to lead his own Mac dynasty.

Its fortunes were mixed, to say the least. In 1533 it found itself governing the north of the country while the Revival Le dynasty held the south. The civil war came to an end in 1592, but the Mac lingered on in semi-obscurity until 1677. A restored Dai Viet formed the basis of modern Vietnam, although the Revival Le emperors were pretty quickly reduced to the status of figureheads and puppets in the hands of the competing Nguyễn and Trịnh lords of the south and north respectively.

The Nguyen lords finally displaced the remaining semi-independent Cham in the south and the Khmers in the west and, in the eighteenth century, completed their 'southern advance' in the region to the south of Saigon. By that stage the expanding Vietnamese empire had also long been divided between the Nguyễn and Trịnh lords into areas of control, but the Nguyễn Emperor Gia Long unified Nam Viet in 1802.

Traditional House, Vietnam

(Information by Peter Kessler and the John De Cleene Archive, with additional information from Vietnam: A New History, Christopher Goscha, from Early Mainland Southeast Asia, C Higham (River Books Co, 2014), from Southeast Asia: A Historical Encyclopaedia, from Angkor Wat to East Timor, Keat Gin Ooi (ABC-Clio, 2004), from Times Atlas of World History (Maplewood, 1979), from Historical Atlas of the World, R R Palmer (Ed, Chicago, 1963), and from External Links: Encyclopaedia Britannica, and Vietnam (Countrystudies), and Vietnam from the 1st to the 10th centuries AD (Vietnam National Museum of History), and Vietnam from the 10th century AD to the mid-20th century AD (Vietnam National Museum of History).)

1533 - 1548

Lê Trang Tổng

First restored Later Le to oppose Mac dynasty.


With the anti-Mac rebellion in full force the kingdom of Nam Viet fractures. The south quickly falls to the Nguyễn clan in the form of Nguyễn Kim and his son-in-law, Trịnh Kiểm, and neither family, Nguyễn or Trịnh, will easily relinquish their newfound power.

As rival emperor to the Mac they install Lê Trang Tông, a son of Lê Chiêu Tổng, penultimate emperor of the deposed Later Le dynasty. That emperor's successor, Lê Cung Hoàng, is also sometimes claimed as the father. Either way, he leads the Revival Le dynasty.

Mac dynasty courtly dress
Courtly dress of the Mac dynasty in Dai Viet, which would soon be removed from its unlawful hold on power


Mac Dang Doanh is not the warlord his 'retired' father still is. A series of defeats in the civil war have allowed the Revival Le to firmly establish themselves in the south.

Now an official Ming delegation decides that the Mac usurpation of the throne is not justifiable. A large army is dispatched with the stated purpose of reunifying the country under Revival Le rule. In the summer, Mac Dang Doanh dies, forcing his father to resume his position as emperor.


Restored Emperor Mac Dang Dương caves in to Ming pressure even though their enormous army has remained sitting on the northern Viet border. He subjugates himself to Ming demands, retaining only a lordship in the north and accepting Revival Le authority.

The Revival Le, however, are not willing to accept a de facto division of their country with the Mac remaining in command of their small territory. The civil war continues, but events become highly obscure as the Mac continue to launch attacks which are invariably brushed aside.

Revival Le female dress
Female dress within the Revival Le nobility would undergo several revisions from this starting point before being banned entirely in 1744 in the south and in 1830 in the north

1548 - 1556

Lê Trung Tổng

Son. Largely under Trịnh control. No offspring.

1556 - 1573

Lê Anh Tổng

Distant relation. Died trying to oust the Trịnh.

1573 - 1599

Lê Thế Tổng

Son, aged 5. Under Trịnh control. Died aged 33.


The Mac clan finds itself being bested by the Revival Le forces. It flees Cao Bằng where it continues to govern in reduced circumstances, with little more than a reduced lordship and no aspirations to be emperor. This still does not stop the fighting between the Mac and the Revival Le.


The emperors of the Revival Le rule in name only. True power is held in a divided country, by the Nguyễn clan in the south and the Trịnh lords in the north. To date, the latter have largely dominated the imperial throne and led all the battles against the northern Mac, and it is now that Trịnh Tùng effectively creates himself lord of Bnh An in Dai Viet in the emperor's name.

The Trinh lord's palace in Hanoi
The Trịnh lord's palace in Hanoi was not only his abode, it was also his place of work and was therefore an extravagant symbol of the family's power and wealth

1600 - 1619

Lê Kính Tổng / Hoang

Son, aged 11. Under Trịnh control. Murdered.

1619 - 1643

Lê Thần Tổng

Son, aged 12. Under Trịnh control. Retired.

1643 - 1649

Lê Chân Tổng

Son, aged 13. Under Trịnh control. Fate unclear.

1649 - 1662

Lê Thần Tổng

Father, and restored under the Trịnh. Died.

1663 - 1671

Lê Huyền Tổng

Son, aged 8. Under Trịnh control.

1672 - 1675

Lê Gia Tổng

Brother, aged 11. Under Trịnh control.

1673 - 1677

The Manchu invasion and conquest of Ming China climaxes in this decade. A savage struggle takes place in the south when three great provinces rise against the Manchu and their teenage emperor, Kangxi.

The brutal fight is known as the 'Revolt of the Three Feudatories', or the 'Rebellion of Wu Sangui'. The ill-advised Mac Kính Vũ supports the three rebel provinces and while he is distracted he is dealt with by the Trịnh lord of the Revival Le. He is forced to flee to China and his Mac lands are lost to an almost-fully reunited Dai Viet kingdom.

Qin dynasty courtly dress
While the Mac of Dai Viet were refusing to give up dreams of ruling a united Viet country, their Ming overlords were being replaced by the intruding Manchu

1676 - 1704

Lê Hy Tổng

Brother, aged 12. Under Trịnh control. Retired.

1705 - 1728

Lê Dụ Tổng

Son, aged 26. Under Trịnh control.

1729 - 1732

Lê Duy Phường

Son, aged 20. Imprisoned under Trịnh control. Murdered.

1732 - 1735

Lê Thuần Tổng

Brother, aged 33. Under Trịnh control. Died.

1735 - 1740

Lê Ý Tổng

Brother, aged 16. Under Trịnh control. Retired.

1740 - 1786

Lê Hiển Tổng

Son of Lê Thuần Tổng. Isolated in south (1778).


The Tay Son uprising secures central Dai Viet, leaving the ousted Revival Le emperor and his supporters isolated in the south, primarily around Saigon. The three Tay Son brothers come from the village of the same name (they are not part of the Nguyễn clan despite their family name).

1787 - 1789

Lê Chiêu Thống

Grandson. Removed by the Tay Son.

1787 - 1789

The Tay Son eliminate the Trịnh in 1787 so, in the following year, Nguyễn Phuc Anh of the Nguyễn-dominated south declares the Revival Le dynasty to be extinct. He himself assumes the title of emperor of Dai Viet and continues to oppose the Tay Son who remove the last legitimate Revival Le emperor from the throne in 1789.

Tay Son soldier
The Tay Son dynasty was founded by three Nguyễn brothers (who were not connected to the lords of the same name) who rebelled against all of the major parties in Dai Viet's confused political situation, sweeping two of them away and almost destroying a third

These two main powers face off against each other until the Nguyễn are able to force the Tay Son collapse, largely thanks to their own internal purge of leading figures and loss of support, and create a united empire of Dai Viet.

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