History Files

Far East Kingdoms

South East Asia


Nam Viet Kingdom (Third Restoration) (Vietnam)
Later Le Dynasty of Dai Viet (AD 1428-1527)

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'.

A series of revolts in the eighth century occupied province of Annam helped to feed the growing Viet sense of national consciousness. In AD 938, Ngo Quyen won a glorious victory against occupying Southern Han forces along the banks of the River Bach Dang. The victory put an end to a thousand years of near-continuous Chinese domination. That was replaced with the restored Nam Viet kingdom and a long period of national independence and sovereignty which started with the Ngo dynasty.

The Dinh and then the Early Le stabilised the country. The Later Li assumed power peacefully, while the Early Tran oversaw the continuation of a strong revival in local culture and traditions. They were the first to practice the art of abdicating the throne and operating until their deaths as 'retired' emperors. They began to decline from the mid-fourteenth century. A brief usurpation by the Ho dynasty saw the country suffering rebellions and then an invasion by the Ming.

The enslaved state suffered the loss of the great proportion of its documentary archives, while also having compulsory Ming dress and hair styles imposed upon it. This period of occupation was brief, being overthrown by a growing popular rebellion which was initiated by the Later Tran emperors (emperors in name only, having never been officially enthroned). The Ming were finally ejected by the founder of the Later Le dynasty.

The architect of that renewed independence, Lê Thái Tổ, was careful to establish good diplomatic relations with the Ming and accept vassal status in much the same pragmatic way as the kingdom of Goryeo in what is now Korea. The capital at Thăng Long was renamed Đổng Kinh, and the country was rebuilt after two decades of war and occupation.

Traditional House, Vietnam

(Information by Peter Kessler, 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), from A History of the Vietnamese, Keith W Taylor (Cambridge University Press, 2013), 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).)

1428 - 1433

Lê Thái Tổ / Lê Lợi

Throne name first. Founder, succeeding Later Tran rebels.


Having rebuilt much of the country, Lê Thái Tổ is campaigning in the hills alongside the coastal strip when his health suddenly declines (a feature of this dynasty which may be due to an inherited condition). He leaves his throne for his son under the guidance of a regent. Internal politics flare up after his death, with many of his old colleagues being dismissed or disposed of in turn, and with even the domineering regent being executed.

Ming dynasty troops
The Ming domination of Dai Viet - Annam to them - was brief, quickly succumbing to growing rebellions and a well-resourced armed movement which soon threw out their troops

1433 - 1442

Lê Thái Tổng

Son. Acceded aged 10. Fell sick and died suddenly.

1440 - 1441

Lê Thái Tổng deals with two local rebellions and their leading chieftains by commanding his troops in person in each campaign. Both chiefs are defeated, with the first being beheaded and the second submitting fully.

Unfortunately that second chieftain, Nghiễm, renews his rebellion in 1441, winning military support from Lan Xang. Lê Thái Tổng leads his army again and both are defeated, earning him the air of a hero amongst his loyal subjects.

1442 - 1459

Lê Nhân-Tổng

Son. Acceded aged 1. Killed during a coup (aged 18).

1446 - 1447

Following two heavy Champa raids (in 1444 and 1445), the forces of Dai Viet now campaign into the kingdom. Its capital and king are both captured and held for a year before the Viet forces are apparently forced out of the country. Two decades of peace now follows between the two kingdoms.

1459 - 1460

Lê Nghi Dân

Brother. Usurped throne. Killed in coup 9 months later.

1460 - 1497

Lê Thánh-Tổng

Brother. Secured throne.


Dai Viet annexes the Champa capital of Vijayal (later Binh Dinh) and territory to the north of Mui Deiu (which itself is a little to the south of Qui Nhon). This forms the main core of Champa. The southernmost remainder of Champa becomes a vassal of Dai Viet.

The Champa temple of Thap Duong Long
While the impressive temple structures of Thàp Duong Long were most likely constructed as a Champa symbol of pride, designed with the Cham architectural style in mind, elements of the Khmer culture were also incorporated in the structures

1479 - 1484

Lê Thánh-Tổng feels it is time to curb the power of Lan Xang. He marches a large force into its territory, capturing the capital and killing its king, Chakkaphat. It takes until 1482 before Lan Xang's remaining army can join forces with the army of Lan Na to its west and inflict a decisive defeat upon the Viet army. The Viet withdraw in full by 1484.

1497 - 1504

Lê Hiến Tổng

Son. Died.


Lê Hiến Tổng is a capable and steady ruler, one who continues his father's policies and legal policies but without launching campaigns across his borders. His death begins a period of instability and crisis in the kingdom.


Lê Túc Tổng

Son. Aged 17. Ruled briefly (17 Jul-30 Dec only). Died.

1504 - 1509

Lê Uy Mục

Brother. Ruthless and arrogant. Removed in rebellion.

1509 - 1516

Lê Tương Dực

First cousin. Restored the state but became corrupt.


The reign of Lê Tương Dực, while starting out on a strongly positive note, has descended into one of corruption and greed. Several rebellions have been launched against him but it is only now, when elements of the imperial guard assemble, that he is removed from power by being murdered. Internal court feuding is largely led by the Mac and Nguyễn families.

Two sides of a Later Le coin in Dai Viet
The coins of the Vietnamese kings imitated Chinese coins, although official issues were often heavier than the Chinese coins and with somewhat cruder calligraphy, with this example being issued during the reign of Lê Hiến Tổng

1516 - 1526

Lê Chiêu Tổng

Nephew. Acceded aged 10. Murdered.

1524 - 1526

The young Lê Chiêu Tổng is forced to flee the capital during a rebellion against governance under him and his regency council. General Mạc Đăng Dung restores order and replaces the emperor on his throne, but the general takes the opportunity to secure power for himself, leaving the young emperor a figurehead. Two years later the emperor is murdered by Mac supporters.

1526 - 1527

Lê Cung Hoàng

Brother. Puppet. Replaced by Mac dynasty.


General Mac Dang Dương usurps the throne, removing Lê Cung Hoàng whose possible (unconfirmed) son will later head the restored kingdom of Dai Viet. Until then, the general founds and leads his own Mac dynasty.

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