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Far East Kingdoms

South East Asia


Anarchy of the Twelve Warlords of Nam Viet (Vietnam)
AD 945 - 968

The modern-day nation state of Vietnam emerged out of prehistory's Early Vietnam. Various early (and partially legendary) kingdoms followed, leading to the earliest Nam Viet state which was created by an errant Qin general by the name of Zhao Tuo. Nam Viet enjoyed nearly a century of independence until the Chinese returned under the Han to conquer the kingdom's capital of Panyu.

Northern Vietnam endured a sequence of occupations and independence which began with the 'First Chinese Domination of Vietnam', between 111 BC and AD 40, and ended with the 'Third Chinese Domination of Vietnam' of AD 602-939. The Viet aristocracy retained Chinese political and cultural forms but grew increasingly independent of Chinese controls during this period and afterwards. A series of revolts in the eighth century helped to feed the growing Viet sense of national consciousness.

In AD 938, the prefect of occupied Annam, Ngo Quyen, won a glorious victory against occupying Southern Han forces along the banks of the River Bach Dang. This victory, during the 'Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms' period, put an end to a thousand years of near-continuous Chinese domination, replacing it with the beginning of a long period of national independence and sovereignty in newly-independent Nam Viet, starting with the Ngo dynasty.

Ngo Quyen and his immediate successors were unable to subdue a dozen local military chiefs and never managed to secure recognition from China. Their control remained tenuous, and at times the newly-established throne only barely remained in their hands to be passed onto the next successor, a period which formed part of the 'Anarchy of the Twelve Warlords'.

Traditional House, Vietnam

(Information by John De Cleene, 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 The Birth of Vietnam, Keith Weller Taylor (California, 1983), 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), and Nam Viet (Rulers.org).)


Duong Tam-Kha, brother of the wife of Ngo dynasty founder, Ngo Quyen, is sworn in as regent for the king's two young sons. As soon as the king dies, he instead usurps the throne, forcing the boys to abdicate.

This begins a period which is known as the 'Anarchy of the Twelve Warlords'. Twelve local warlords rule autonomous areas of the state, with the king himself holding very little direct authority at all.

Map of Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms China around AD 951-960
The collapse of the Tang dynasty in AD 907 had ushered in the 'Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms' period of civil war and political division in China, although by the time of this map, AD 951-960, not all of them had survived (click or tap on map to view full sized)

945 - 963

Kiu Công Hãn

Warlord in Phong province. Submitted.

945 - 968

Kiu Thun

Brother, and co-warlord in Phong province.

945 - 968

Nguyn Khoan

Warlord in on the eastern border of Phong province.

945 - 968

Nguyn Siêu

Warlord in Đi-la.

945 - 968

Đ Cnh Thc

Warlord on the Đ-đng river to the west of Đi-la.

945 - 968

Lý Khuê

Warlord to the south of the Dưng river.

945 - 968

L Đưng

Warlord to the south of the Dưng river.

945 - 968

Trn Lãm

Warlord in B-hi, at the mouth of the Hong river.

945 - 954

Phm Bch H

Warlord in the lower Hong river plain. Submitted.


Phm Bch H, a warlord who controls territory in the lower Hong river plain, now submits to a rival in the form of Đinh Bộ Lĩnh who will one day create his own Dinh dynasty. This event takes place, perhaps not coincidentally, close to the death of Ngo Vuong Ngap of the Ngo dynasty.

Ngo dynasty temple in Nam Viet
This temple was constructed to honour the Ngo success in 938, a victory which ushered in a long and eventually successful period of independence for the Viet people

945 - 963

Nguyn Th Tip

Warlord in Tiên-dư, just east of C-loa. Defeated and fled.

945 - 963

Ngô Nht Khánh

Warlord near Mount Tan-vien. Submitted.


Nguyn Th Tip of the Tiên-dư region of Ngo dynasty Nam Viet is defeated by a rival warlord, Đinh Bộ Lĩnh. He flees to the Champa frontier where he dies, while his conquering rival is pushing on towards creating his own Dinh dynasty.

Ngô Nht Khánh, leader of the Ngo family who rules territory in the Ngo home district near Mount Tan-vien, on the right bank of the Hong river in Phong province, also submits, as does Kiu Công Hãn from his Phong province territory.

945 - 968

Ngô Xương Xí

Warlord in an uncertain location.

965 - 968

Struggling to retain the state's cohesion, the restored king, Ngo Vuong Van, leads his Ngo dynasty troops against a Duong rebellion, only to be killed in the middle of the battle by an arrow which is fired at him by his own general.

The entrance to a Dinh dynasty temple in Nam Viet
Dinh Bo Linh defeated all twelve warlords, one after another, and unified the country in 967, before this entrance to a Dinh dynasty temple could be built

The final stages of the 'Anarchy of the Twelve Warlords' sees the general fail to establish meaningful rule of his own while the country is pressured by the Northern Sung dynasty of China. The increasingly powerful rival general, Đinh Bộ Lĩnh, does that himself by 968 to found the Dinh dynasty.

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