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Far East Kingdoms

South East Asia


Nam Viet Kingdom (Second Restoration) (Vietnam)
AD 939 - 1533

The modern-day nation state of Vietnam emerged out of prehistory's Early Vietnam. Various early (and partially legendary) kingdoms followed, leading to the earliest Nam Viet state which was created 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 a sequence of occupations and independence which began with the 'First Chinese Domination of Vietnam', between 111 BC and AD 40. Domination was generally peaceful, only really fading when the 'Sixteen Kingdoms of the Five Barbarians' civil war period between AD 317-439 was extended into the 'Northern & Southern Dynasties' civil war period of AD 439-589. A Viet revolt broke out which established the Early Li dynasty of a renewed Nam Viet kingdom in AD 544.

Thanks to a Sui intrusion from the north, the 'Third Chinese Domination of Vietnam' saw Nam Viet divided 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. A series of revolts in the eighth century 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, replacing it with the beginning of a long period of national independence and sovereignty in Nam Viet, starting with the Ngo dynasty.

The Chinese-created province of Annam was incorporated into this new regime, but the 'Anarchy of the Twelve Warlords' ensured that the dynasty never had full control. It was left to the second, the Dinh, to suppress the warlords.

Successive Viet dynasties continuously constructed and reinforced the country's independence and sovereignty, while building the state into a strong, powerful, and unified nation. Territorial integrity was preserved and a national culture was developed. A rich heritage survived from this period, both tangible and intangible, ranging from the north to the south. Its heritage was formed from the work and creative abilities of Vietnamese ethnic communities, as well as by outstanding cultural figures who represented this new nation's heart and mind.

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, and then the more modern version.

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).)


King list Ngo Dynasty (AD 939 - 965)

Ngo Quyen and his immediate successors were unable to subdue a dozen local military chiefs and never managed to secure recognition from China.

King list Dinh Dynasty (AD 968 - 981)

Dinh Bo Linh defeated all twelve of the rival warlords across the country, unifying the country in 967, after which he made himself king.

King list Early Le Dynasty (AD 981 - 1009)

The new dynasty gave the Chinese a bloody nose in the north before turning south to defeat the raiding Cham people and kill their king.

King list Later Le / Li / Ly Dynasty (AD 1010 - 1225)

The Li replaced warlords with a Chinese-style civil service bureaucracy at their new capital of Hanoi, and thereby granted their country a far greater degree of stability.

King list Early Tran Dynasty (AD 1225 - 1400)

The Tran emperors were the first to practice the art of abdicating the throne and then operating until their deaths as 'retired' emperors, still in control.

King list Ho (Dai Ngu) Dynasty (AD 1400 - 1407)

The Ho immediately renamed the country to Dai Ngu and embarked on a series of strikes against the Cham, only one of which was successful.

King list Later Tran Dynasty (AD 1407 - 1428)

The country's Chinese occupiers undertook a systematic removal of all state archives, but they soon faced a well-organised rebellion.

King list Later Le Dynasty (AD 1428 - 1527)

The dynasty was careful to establish good diplomatic relations with the Ming and accept vassal status, while rebuilding the country following occupation.

King list Mac Dynasty (AD 1527 - 1533)

Mac dynasty fortunes were mixed, with it finding itself from 1533 governing the north of the country while the restored Later Le held the south.

King list Revival Le Dynasty (AD 1533 - 1789)

A restored Dai Viet saw its Revival Le emperors quickly reduced to the status of figureheads and puppets in the hands of competing lords of the south and north.

King list Trịnh Lords (AD 1545 - 1787)

The emperors of the Revival Le dynasty ruled in name only, with true power being held in a divided country by the highly powerful Trịnh lords in the north.

King list Nguyễn Lords (AD 1613 - 1802)

Outnumbered by the northern state mechanism, the Nguyễn held firm behind their defensive walls until, in the end, they were overthrown by the Tay Son.

King list Tay Son Dynasty (AD 1778 - 1802)

The Tay Son destroyed Nguyễn military capability, after the defenders had already suffered losses in Khmer lands, leading to the creation of a Tay Son emperor.

King list Nguyễn Dynasty (AD 1802 - 1945)

Nguyễn Phuc Anh, ruler of southern regions of Dai Viet, displaced the Tay Son to rule himself as Gia Long, quickly renaming the country to Nam Viet.

Images and text copyright © all contributors mentioned on this page. An original king list page for the History Files.