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Far East Kingdoms

South East Asia

 

Nam Viet Kingdom (First Restoration) (Vietnam)
AD 544 - 602
Incorporating Dã-Năng & Vạn Xuân

What today is Vietnam emerged from a prehistoric Early Vietnam which included a largely mythical kingdom in the north, known as Van Lang. In the third century BC, the small state of Annam conquered Van Lang and was in turn conquered by Nam Viet. This state was set up 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 in 111 BC.

While the southern Cham states and Funan generally remained outside of Chinese control, Nam Viet endured the 'First Chinese Domination of Vietnam' until AD 40. Then the rebellion by the Trưng sisters swept out Late Han dynasty controls and set up an unnamed 'Autonomous State' for three years before being defeated and submerged within the 'Second Chinese Domination of Vietnam'.

That domination was generally peaceful, despite a dedicated process of Sinicisation taking place. Direct imperial government was imposed for the first time, but the Cham people especially launched several revolts against it. Despite this, Chinese rule remained secure so long as China itself was secure. That security was damaged by the 'Sixteen Kingdoms of the Five Barbarians' civil war period between AD 317-439, and then further by the 'Northern & Southern Dynasties' civil war period of AD 439-589.

A wealthy noble with Chinese origins by the name of Lý Bí chose this moment to seize control of the Southern Liang province of Giao, along with the internal districts of Ai and Đc. Seemingly this took place before AD 544 when he established autonomy from the Southern Liang dynasty, proclaiming himself emperor of Nam Viet. He founded the Early Li dynasty and established a literary name of Vạn Xuân for the kingdom. This quickly suffered calamity, allowing an independent successor named Triu Quang Phc to claim the kingdom, and a rival rebel state called Dã-Năng to oppose his rule.

Translations of Vietnamese names vary, sometimes wildly. Early twentieth-century translations have since been revised (often more than once), with the result that those early translations can be very different from the most recent attempts. Where possible, early forms of each name are show first below, and then the more modern version.

Traditional House, Vietnam

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from Vietnam: A New History, Christopher Goscha, from A Biographical Dictionary of Later Han to the Three Kingdoms (23-220 AD), Rafe de Crespigny (Handbook of Oriental Studies, Section 4 China, Vol 19, Brill, 2006), 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 From the Eastern Han through the Western Jin (AD 25-317), David R Knechtges (part of The Cambridge History of Chinese Literature, Vol 1, Stephen Owen (Ed), Cambridge University Press, 2010), from The Cambridge History of China: Volume I: the Ch'in and Han Empires, 221 BC-AD 220, Denis Twitchett & Michael Loewe (Cambridge University Press, 1986), and from External Links: Encyclopaedia Britannica, and Vietnam (Countrystudies), and Vietnam from the 1st to the 10th centuries AD (Vietnam National Museum of History).)

Early Li / Lý Dynasty (Nam Viet) (Vietnam)
AD 544 - 602

Lý Bí was the founder of the Early Li dynasty, which was also known as the Former Li or Anterior Li. Both are common Chinese names for the first instance of a dynasty name which would later be repeated (in the first case) or an outlying state (in the second). He and his brother grew up under a system which was dominated by the Southern Liang Chinese state, one of four fractured imperial states of the 'Northern & Southern Dynasties' civil war period of AD 439-589.

In 543, the brothers launched a revolt against the Liang dynasty with the intention of securing independence. The reasons for the revolt are uncertain. The brothers came from a wealthy family which had Chinese origins, but after four centuries in the far south they may still have been subjected to the vicissitudes of a system which favoured Chinese or Sinicised Viets. Either way, the revolt formed an important part of the growing Viet awareness of nationhood after two periods of Chinese domination.

Lý Bí seized the Southern Liang province of Giao, along with the internal districts of Ai and Đc, and declared himself emperor of Nam Viet in the tradition of Zhao Tuo of the original Nam Viet state in 207 BC. He set up an imperial court at Long Biên and established a literary name of Vạn Xuân for the kingdom. Straight away he had to send troops south to head off a raid from Lâm Ấp, instigated by the Liang. Unfortunately, his own success did not last long as he was forced into the highlands by a Liang reprisal attack where the natives killed him.

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 The Birth of Vietnam, Keith Weller Taylor (University of California Press, 1983), and from External Links: Encyclopaedia Britannica, and Vietnam (Countrystudies).)

544 - 548

Bon / Lý Bí

Founded the state from Southern Liang territory. Killed.

546 - 548

Lý Bí's successes in recreating the Nam Viet state (under the name of Vạn Xuân) last for about a year before the Southern Liang launch a retaliatory campaign against him. They reconquer much of their lost territory, forcing Lý Bí to seek refuge in the mountainous regions of Nam Viet. He is killed there in 548 by hostile highlanders.

His brother continues to exert some influence from the mountainous regions, attempting to rule in the style of mountain lords of old and engaging the Liang in guerrilla warfare. Down in the swamps, though, a separate Lý Bí-inspired resistance movement against the Southern Liang emerges in 546 under the command of Triu Quang Phc. The Liang do not control these areas.

Map of Northern & Southern Dynasties China AD 460
The fracturing of the north into a mosaic of states and borders had gradually been reversed by the Northern Wei until they dominated at the time of this map, around AD 460 (click or tap on map to view full sized)

548 - 570

Kuan Phuc / Triu Quang Phc

Son of a Lý general and resistance leader. Defeated.

548 - 551

The Southern Liang begin to withdraw from Nam Viet in 548, unable to counter the effective guerrilla tactics of the locals. By 550 or 551, Triu Quang Phc is able to re-established the kingdom of Nam Viet. When Lý Thiên Bảo dies of illness in 555 the senor military leaders place Triu Quang Phc in full command of the kingdom, but this annoys other Lý clan members.

549 - 555

Thien Bao / Lý Thiên Bảo

Brother of Lý Bí. Died without heirs.

557

The Southern Liang are succeeded by the Southern Chen dynasty, but the change of control is violent, and Liang resources are withdrawn from Nam Viet to assist. Lý Phật Tử, already claiming the title of king of Dã-Năng in opposition to Triu Quang Phc, now claims to be emperor of Nam Viet by declaring himself the 'Emperor of the South'.

A short civil war breaks out between him and Triu Quang Phc until the latter ends this in fear of completely fracturing Nam Viet's continuing fight for independence. He agrees to rule eastern Nam Viet while Lý Phật Tử holds western Nam Viet.

Triu Quang Phc of Nam Viet
Triu Quang Phc was the son of a chief by the name of Triậu Tú who had sworn to follow Lý Bí, and his son continued the fight in both their names (from a modern image, uncredited)

557 - 570

Ly Phat Tu / Lý Phật Tử

King of Dã-Năng. 'Emperor of the South'.

570

With the Southern Chen continuing the fight of the Southern Liang, the reign of Triu Quang Phc is brought to an end when they conquer eastern Nam Viet. Lý Phật Tử engages them in a drive to push them back out, and with some success. By 572 he can claim to govern the entire Nam Viet kingdom, although he does recognise Sui suzerainty when they conquer the Chen in 589.

570 - 602

Ly Phat Tu / Lý Phật Tử

Undisputed king of Nam Viet.

602

The opening up of southern China to the Sui has renewed contact with the kings of Nam Viet following the termination of the 'Second Chinese Domination of Vietnam'. Emperor Wen has demanded that Lý Phật Tử accepts vassal status but is refused.

Now he launches an invasion of the Nam Viet state, conquering it and sending Lý Phật Tử to the Sui capital to be executed. Nam Viet is integrated under Chinese rule as part of the 'Third Chinese Domination of Vietnam'.

Third Chinese Domination of Vietnam
AD 602 - 939

Today's Vietnam emerged out of the prehistory of Early Vietnam and a largely mythical northern kingdom called Van Lang. In the third century BC, this was conquered by Annam which was then conquered by Nam Viet, set up 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.

The southern Cham states and Funan remained outside of Chinese control, but northern Vietnam endured the 'First Chinese Domination of Vietnam' between 111 BC and AD 40. Then the rebellion by the Trưng sisters of northern Vietnam set up an unnamed 'Autonomous State' for three years, before that was destroyed and replaced by the 'Second Chinese Domination of Vietnam'.

That domination was generally peaceful, despite a dedicated process of Sinicisation taking place, and also despite several revolts which were mainly led by the Cham people of central Vietnam. Even so, Chinese rule remained secure so long as China itself was secure. That security was damaged by the 'Sixteen Kingdoms of the Five Barbarians' civil war period between AD 317-439, and then further by the 'Northern & Southern Dynasties' civil war period of AD 439-589. A fresh revolt broke out against the Southern Liang, which established the Early Li dynasty of a renewed Nam Viet kingdom in AD 544.

The opening up of southern China to the Sui from AD 581 allowed renewed contact with the kings of Nam Viet. In the early 600s, Emperor Wen demanded that Nam Viet accept vassal status but he was refused. He launched an invasion of the Nam Viet state, conquering it integrating it under Chinese rule as part of the 'Third Chinese Domination of Vietnam'. The Sui divided Nam Viet into the provinces of Giao (Chinese Chiao), Phong (Chinese Fêng), Lc (Chinese Lu), and Hoan (Chinese Huan).

The Viet aristocracy retained Chinese political and cultural forms but grew increasingly independent of Chinese controls during this period and afterwards. The Chinese-created protectorate of Annam achieved full autonomy at times during the eighth century, when Tang authority was fluctuating. When it was brought back under control a series of revolts helped to feed the growing Viet sense of national consciousness.

Chinese rule remained secure so long as China itself was effectively controlled by its own emperors. When the late Tang dynasty went into decline in the early tenth century, a further series of uprisings broke out in Vietnam which led in 938-939 to the restoration of Vietnamese independence and a restored Nam Viet.

Traditional House, Vietnam

(Information by Peter Kessler and John De Cleene, with additional information from Vietnam: A New History, Christopher Goscha, from A Biographical Dictionary of Later Han to the Three Kingdoms (23-220 AD), Rafe de Crespigny (Handbook of Oriental Studies, Section 4 China, Vol 19, Brill, 2006), 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 From the Eastern Han through the Western Jin (AD 25-317), David R Knechtges (part of The Cambridge History of Chinese Literature, Vol 1, Stephen Owen (Ed), Cambridge University Press, 2010), from The Cambridge History of China: Volume I: the Ch'in and Han Empires, 221 BC-AD 220, Denis Twitchett & Michael Loewe (Cambridge University Press, 1986), and from External Links: Encyclopaedia Britannica, and Vietnam (Countrystudies), and Vietnam from the 1st to the 10th centuries AD (Vietnam National Museum of History).)

 
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