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Far East Kingdoms

South East Asia


Nam Viet Kingdom (Third Restoration) (Vietnam)
Mac Dynasty of Dai Viet (AD 1527-1533) & Northern Dynasty (AD 1533-1677)

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.

Through the Dinh and Early Le the country began to assume a more stable appearance. The Later Li and Early Tran oversaw the continuation of a strong revival in local culture and traditions. Their eventual decline from the mid-fourteenth century saw a brief usurpation by the Ho dynasty, many rebellions, and then an invasion by the Ming.

This period of occupation was brief, being contested by the rebellious Later Tran emperors. The Ming were finally ejected by the founder of the Later Le dynasty, although the architect of that renewed independence, Lê Thái Tổ, was careful to establish good diplomatic relations with the Ming. The capital at Thăng Long was renamed Đổng Kinh, and the country was rebuilt after two decades of occupation. Later dynastic rulers, however, allowed court intrigues to take precedence, creating the backdrop for power plays and a usurpation.

In 1527 General Mac Dang Dương took control after removing the puppet Emperor Lê Cung Hoàng. That emperor's possible (unconfirmed) son would later head the restored kingdom of Dai Viet but, until then, the general was able to found and 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 held the south. For that reason the Mac after 1533 is also known as the 'Northern Dynasty'. In 1540 the Ming forced a climbdown, but the victorious Revival Le, however, were not willing to accept a de facto division of their country with the Mac continuing to rule their small territory. The civil war came to an end in 1592, but the Mac lingered on in semi-obscurity until 1677.

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 A History of the Vietnamese, Keith W Taylor (Cambridge University Press, 2013), 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).)

1527 - 1529

Mac Dang Dương

Usurper replacement for the Later Le. Abdicated.

1529 - 1537

Mac Dang Doanh

Ruled only in the north from 1533. Died.


With the anti-Mac rebellion in full force the kingdom of Nam Viet fractures. The south quickly falls to the Nguyễn lords 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 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.

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 of the Later Le


Mac Dang Doanh is not the warlord his 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 Le rule. In the summer, Mac Dang Doanh dies, forcing his father to resume his position as emperor.

1537 - 1541

Mac Dang Dương

Restored as emperor. Surrendered and soon died.


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 continuing to rule their small territory. The civil war continues but events become highly obscure as the Mac continue to launch attacks which are invariably brushed aside.

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

1541 - 1546

Mac Phúc Hải / Mạc Hiến Tông


1546 - 1547

Mac Chính Trung

Son? Claimant, but seemingly not recognised.

1546 - 1547

Mac Chính Trung announces himself as the new Mac dynasty emperor, but the rest of the clan think otherwise. A struggle for power takes place between him and his brothers and he is forced to flee the country, taking refuge with the Ming.

1546 - 1561

Mac Phúc Nguyên / Mạc Tuyên Tông


1562 - 1592

Mac Mậu Hợp

Son. Defeated, captured, and bloodily executed.


Mac Toàn

Son. Held onto Cao Bằng under Revival Le controls.


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.

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

1592 - 1593

Mac Kính Chỉ

Nephew? Lord of Cao Bằng. Captured and executed.

1593 - 1625

Mac Kính Cung

Nephew? Captured and executed.

1623 - 1638

Mac Kính Khoan

Son? Died, seemingly in peace.

1638 - 1677

Mac Kính Vũ

Last Mac dynasty lord. Died in exile.

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 lands are lost to an almost-fully reunited Dai Viet kingdom.

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