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Far East Kingdoms

South East Asia


Nam Viet Kingdom (Second Restoration) (Vietnam)
Later Le / Li / Ly Dynasty of Dai Co Viet (AD 1010-1225)

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.

That troubled dynasty was succeeded by the Dinh, which unified a still-fractured country, and then the Early Le which deflected Northern Sung attempts to invade, while laying the ground for advances south into Champa territory. The Later Li accession was little more than a courtly formality after the death of the last viable Early Le king.

The Later Li (Le or Ly dynasty) immediately moved the capital to a new site at Đại La (today's Hanoi). They also replaced warlords with a Chinese-style civil service bureaucracy, and thereby granted the country a far greater degree of stability. The southern provinces were organised into military strongholds as part of the ongoing push to end Cham raids and instead push Viet borders farther south.

The Li and Tran periods of Nam Viet's history saw a strong revival in local culture and traditions. Inspiration for this came apparently from Champa (especially after 1069), which had managed to retain its own thriving culture while the north had been under Chinese control. Now the kings of Nam Viet drew inspiration from Champa for their architecture, sculpture, music, and the creation of a very Vietnamese capital, even while the state retained outside influences.

After 1054 the Later Li called their country Dai Viet (meaning 'Great Viet'). The Chinese name of Annam ('The Pacified South') was used everywhere else, and certainly by the Chinese themselves who refused to see the Viet state as an equal. The country prospered, and the government encouraged cultural progress by vigorously promoting literature, art, and Mahayana Buddhism.

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), 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 Cultural elements of Cham Pa in Dai Viet capital and its vicinity, Nguyen Tien Dong (TiaSang.com).)

1010 - 1028

Lý Thái Tổ / Lý Công Uẩn

First Later Li king, succeeding the Early Le.


Lý Thái Tổ is recognised by the Northern Sung who are still consolidating their hold over Chinese territories and are in no position to militarily threaten the Viet people. However, they use typical titles and terms of the vassalage which they assign to what they see as a junior state.

The Li Tai To memorial statue in Hanoi
Located near the heart of today's Vietnamese capital of Hanoi, the Li Tai To memorial is a towering bronze statue of Emperor Lý Thái Tổ, founder of the Later Li dynasty

1028 - 1054

Lý Thái Tông

Son. Put down rebellions by brothers.


Thái Tông invades Champa by sea, killing the Cham king, Jaya Simhavarman II. A large amount of plunder is taken, along with five thousand prisoners and much else. The Cham captives settle in Nghệ An, in Cham-style villages where they generally serve as personal servants for the nobility or provide labour to religious establishments.

1054 - 1072

Lý Thánh Tông

Son. Claimed the title 'emperor'.


With strong Northern Sung encouragement, the people of Champa have been raiding heavily into southern Dai Viet. Now Lý Thánh Tông leads seaborne invasion, captures the king, Rudravarman III, defeats the Cham army, and burns Vijaya. Rudravarman buys his release by handing over three regions: Địa Lý, Ma Linh, and Bố Chính (Quảng Bình and Quảng Trị provinces in today's Vietnam).

1072 - 1127

Lý Nhân Tông

Son. Acceded aged 7.

1075 - 1076

The Northern Sung have introduced revolutionary and very fair-minded economic reforms. Nevertheless, these have incensed opponents who would rather retain the old tithe and tribute practices. Lý Nhân Tông and his regent mother see an opportunity to interfere militarily, sparking the Sino–Vietnamese War of 1075-1076.

Artwork by Emperor Huizong (1100-1126)
Emperor Huizong was the eighth of the Northern Song emperors and the most artistically accomplished of his imperial line

The Viet besiege Yongzhou but suffer high casualties due to resistance from inside the city walls. When they finally break through those walls they slaughter close to sixty thousand people.

The Sung response is delivered in 1076 in the form of an invasion of Dai Viet. Sung vassal states - Khmer and Champa - support them. Fortunes swing and both sides win a major battle, but casualties are tremendously high. Both sides are happy to sue for peace and the Sung withdraw, gradually.

Champa subsequently find itself under attack in several large raids as a result of its hostility. Several Viet successes follow, with the last being in 1104. The southern border is stabilised and raiding is again halted.

1127 - 1138

Lý Thần Tông

Nephew. Died after a two-year bout of illness, aged 23.

1138 - 1175

Lý Anh Tông

Son. Acceded aged 2. Last stable emperor.


Thần Lợi / 'Běnh Vương'

Pretender. Captured and beheaded.


A priest by the name of Thần Lợi claims he is a son of the late Emperor Lý Nhân Tông. He leads a revolt against Lý Anh Tông in the northern region (today's Thái Nguyên). His forces successfully dominate the frontier region, defeating the imperial army.

Vietnam's Thai Nguyen
The priest Thần Lợi lead a revolt in the northern region (today's Thái Nguyên, which is shown here), but he was executed just a few months later

With a victory under his belt, Thán Lợi proclaims himself King Běnh (Běnh Vương), and leads an attack on the capital at Thăng Long. Chancellor Đỗ Anh Vũ takes on the task of suppressing the rebellion. Five months later, Thán Lợi has been defeated. He is captured and beheaded.


The decision is taken to invade Champa in support of the Viet ally there, Vangsaraja. The Cham ruler, Jaya Harivarman I, is capable of defending his territory, however. The two leading generals of the Viet forces are killed in battle and the Viet forces are repulsed. Even so, it is Jaya Harivarman who heals the rift by sending a daughter to be the emperor's concubine.


Now weakened and reduced in power, the Southern Song emperor takes the decision to recognise Dai Viet as the kingdom of Annam, an old name which China has refused to drop, but the act means acknowledging Viet equality with the Chinese.

Statue celebrating the Hung kings of myth and legend
The original Annam was an early kingdom in third century BC Vietnam, which ended the legendary era of the Hun kings and the first of those, De Minh, who is still commemorated today

1176 - 1210

Lý Cao Tông

Son of Lý Anh Tông. Ruled a turbulent state.


Having been affected by several rebellions during the reign of Lý Cao Tông, the country is now ravaged by starvation. A rebel army descends on the capital and the emperor flees to safety. His younger son, Lý Thẩm, is installed on the throne.

The crown prince, Lý Huệ Tông, sets up his own rival imperial court outside of the city, as does his father, although the city itself is soon retaken and the upstart emperor disappears.


Lý Thẩm

Son, Acceded. Quickly removed. Unofficial emperor.

1211 - 1224

Lý Huệ Tông

Elder brother. Became mentally ill. Later suicided.

1214 - 1216

Lý Nguyên Vương

Uncle. Acceded. Dispatched. Not an official emperor.

1224 - 1225

Lý Chiêu Hoàng

Daughter of Lý Huệ Tông. Acceded aged 6.


The Trần family have been installed in numbers into the imperial court since the reign of Lý Huệ Tông. Now they manoeuvre the seven year-old queen regnant into marrying one of their own, the seven year-old Trần Thái Tông. Then she is forced to relinquish the throne to her new husband to begin the Early Tran dynasty.

Tran dynasty temple in Nam Dinh city
A Tran dynasty temple in today's Nam Dinh city, built to commemorate and honour the dynasty of the same name which repelled several Mongol attacks and saw a further flourishing of Viet culture

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