History Files

Far East Kingdoms

South East Asia


Nam Viet Kingdom (Second Restoration) (Vietnam)
Ngo Dynasty (AD 939-965)

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 helped to feed the growing Viet sense of national consciousness. In AD 938, a former prefect of occupied Annam by the name of Ngo Quyen won a glorious victory against occupying Southern Han forces along the banks of the River Bach Dang.

The victory, during the 'Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms' period, 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.

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'. This was eventually put down by the successor Dinh dynasty.

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).)

939 - 945

Ngo Kuyen / Ngo Quyen

First Nam Viet king after 'Third Chinese Domination'.


Duong Tam-Kha, brother of Ngo Quyen's wife, 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'.

Map of Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms China around AD 951-960
Five dynastic states, each with some level of claim on the imperial title, formed across this period, opposed by various warlords and pretenders. Ten rival kingdoms also formed out of the chaos or played a part to some extent (click or tap on map to view full sized)

Duong Tam-Kha manages to rule for six years before he is dethroned in a counter-coup which is staged by Ngo Vuong Van, the younger of the two sons. He then introduces a shared kingship with his own brother before being 'retired' by his elder brother until the latter's death.

945 - 951

Duong Tam Kha / Duong Tam-Kha

Usurped throne upon king's death. Removed.

951 - 954

Suong Ngap / Ngo Vuong Ngap

Son of Ngo Quyen. Recovered throne. Died.

951 - 965

Suong Van / Ngo Vuong Van

Brother and co-ruler. Sole king from 954.

965 - 968

Struggling to retain the state's cohesion, Ngo Vuong Van leads his 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 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. A rival general, Đinh Bộ Lĩnh, does that himself by 968 to found the Dinh 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

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