DAVID LAN PHAM, F.A.B.I.

 

THREE ORPHANS: THREE KINGS  

 

          The Vietnam history was characterized by a long-time colonial past, civil wars and intermittent jacqueries. National heroes and the dynasties founders had their military exploits after expelling foreign invaders from their country.

Some of them were from tribal leadersí family or from family of noblesse.

Ngo Quyen was the founder of the Ngo dynasty. His father was a tribal leader in Son Tay. Ngo Quyen was Duong Dien Ngheís subordinate. He was governor of Ai Chau (Thanh Hoa). Ngo Quyen founded the Ngo dynasty after defeating the Nan Han in 938.

Nguyen Anh, founder of the Nguyen dynasty, was descendant of Lord Tien (Nguyen Hoang).
Some of the dynasties founders were from ordinary people.

Le Loi, founder of the Earlier Le, was a rich farmer in Thanh Hoa. He succeeded to expel the Ming from Dai Viet.

Mac Dang Dung, founder of the Mac, had been a fisherman, who received the title of Do Luc Si after passing a military contest.

After the Twelve- Seignior War our country had three orphans founding three different dynasties: Dinh, Earlier Le and Ly. The three Kings and dynasties founders in the 10th and 11th centuries were Dinh Bo Linh, Le Hoan and Ly Cong Uan.

 

****

Dinh Bo Linh (924- 979) was a native of Ninh Binh. His father, Dinh Cong Tru, was governor of Hoan Chau (Nghe An & Ha Tinh) under the Ngo dynasty. He died when Linh was too young. Dinh Bo Linh underwent his miserable childhood. Quarrelling with his uncle, Linh and his eldest son left Ninh Binh for Bo Hai Khau, Thai Binh, where they served Seignior Tran Lam (Tran Minh Cong). Tran Lam died. Replacing him Dinh Bo Linh became Seignior. He moved his troops to his native province, Ninh Binh. Dinh Bo Linh and his son Dinh Lien were successful in defeating the other Seigniors to unify the country. Our then country consisted of the delta of the Red River and the deltas of the Ma, Ca and Chu Rivers. Champa was in the South of the 18th parallel. It was religiously and linguistically influenced by Hindu culture. After the 13th century a large number of Cham converted to Islam.

Under Ngo Quyenís reign our country had no countryís name. Dinh Bo Linh proclaimed himself Emperor Dinh Tien Hoang and named our country Dai Co Viet. Prince Nam Viet Vuong Dinh Lien should be Dinh Tien Hoangís successor.

Emperor Dinh Tien Hoang had five queens. Of them Duong Van Nga was the most beautiful and famous queen. She was of Duong Dien Nghe and Duong Tam Khaís lineage. Duong Dien Nghe was Ngo Quyenís superior and father in law. Duong Tam Kha was Duong Dien Ngheís son. King Ngo Quyen died in 944. Duong Tam Kha became regent. Taking advantage of this opportunity Duong Tam Kha usurped the throne from the Ngo and proclaimed himself king Binh Duong (945- 950). It was the beginning of political disorder in the capital Co Loa and of the seigniorial war in the Red River delta.
Dinh Tien Hoang and Dinh Lien were two talented military commanders in feudal time. They defeated 11 Seigniors to unify the country, and to re-establish national security, and order by using severe punishments and by spreading Buddhist philosophy. Dinh Tien Hoang and Dinh Lien were over self- confident for counting on their military victory, their prestige in the army and in the grassroots. They spent time drinking rice alcohol. Alcoholic addiction stole Dinh Tien Hoangís lucidity when replacing Dinh Lien by prince Hang Lang as his future successor. Prince Hang Lang was too young while Dinh Lien was a prestigious general during the Twelve- Seignior War. Furious Dinh Lien killed his younger half- brother.

Dinh Tien Hoang, a hero in the battle fields, began to know failure in his royal family and at the Court. What was the origin of the myopic abolition of Dinh Lienís right of succession which led to bloodshed in the royal family? Needless to say there was a political conspiracy from a young and powerful generalissimo at the Court. The conspiracy of seizing the throne was carried out by the beautiful and influential queen, who was tired of the drunk emperor, and by the young generalissimo through the following steps:

1. demotion of Dinh Lien replaced by prince Hang Lang, who was politically and militarily inexperienced, and popularly unknown. Prince Hang Lang was son of Dinh Tien Hoang and queen Dan Gia. The latter had two children with the Ngo. The daughter was Dinh Lienís wife, and the son was princess Phat Kimís husband. Dinh Lien and Phat Kim were children of Dinh Bo Linh and his first wife, who died before Dinh Bo Linh ascended to the throne.

2. bloodshed in the Dinh royal family after the killing of prince Hang Lang by Dinh Lien.

3. Assassination of Emperor Dinh Tien Hoang and prince Dinh Lien by Do Thich while they were blind drunk. This assassination occurred in the same year Dinh Lien killed prince Hang Lang (979).

The fall of the Dinh dynasty was seen after emperor Dinh Tien Hoang and prince Dinh Lienís death. The Dinh dynasty existed in history for 12 years (968- 980). Dinh Tien Hoang ascended to the throne when he was 44 years old. He died at the age of 55.
Rice alcohol and the queenís beauty constituted the cause of the fall of the Dinh dynasty. Emperor Dinh Tien Hoang and prince Dinh Lien were killed while they were blind drunk. Queen Duong van Nga was young and beautiful. She was born into the famous Duong family. Itís no doubt she was very influential beside Dinh Tien Hoang, an orphan and herdsman in his childhood. Queen Duong Van Ngaís adultery with generalissimo Le Hoan led to the total fall of the Dinh dynasty.

 

****

Le Hoanís biography was unclear. Where was he born? Ha Nam? Ninh Binh? Thanh Hoa? What was his fatherís name? According to the oral tale his father died as soon as he was born. Soon after his fatherís death, his mother died. Le Hoan was adopted by a rich landlord Le in Thanh Hoa.

Le Hoan was Dinh Lienís subordinate. He was 17 years younger than Dinh Bo Linh. He was a good general trusted by Dinh Bo Linh and Dinh Lien. He was generalissimo under the Dinh dynasty. Dinh Bo Linh became Emperor in 968 when he was 44 years of age. At that time Le Hoan was 27 years old. We donít know whether queen Duong Van Nga and generalissimo Le He Hoan had any role in Dinh Lienís disgrace and Dinh Tien Hoang and Dinh Lienís assassination in 979? After the assassination, Do Thich, the assassin, hid himself on a house roof near the Royal Palace without neither eating nor drinking. It rained. Do Thich raised his hands to get rain water. Arrested by the royal guard he was killed. Nobody knew who directed the killing of Emperor Dinh Tien Hoang and prince Dinh Lien.

In 979 the Dinh royal family lost three important persons: prince Hang Lang, Emperor Dinh Tien Hoang, and prince Dinh Lien.

Aware of political chaos in Hoa Lu the Chinese troops concentrated at the border threatening to invade Dai Co Viet. General Pham Cu Luong was nominated by Le Hoan to command the Viet troops to stop the Chinese invaders. Before going to the battlefield Pham Cu Luong would like generalissimo Le Hoan to replace the six- year old king, Dinh Tue, pretexting that the infant king couldnít recognize the generals and soldiersí military merits. All the soldiers applauded Pham Cu Luongís opinion. Queen Duong Van Nga wore the royal robe on generalissimo Le Hoan. Le Hoan became King of Dai Co Viet after this coup. It was King Le Dai Hanh (980- 1005). He was the founder of the Earlier Le dynasty. Some courtiers, who were loyal to the Dinh were killed in the coup. Duong Van Nga became the Two- Dynasty Queen. (Dinh & Earlier Le).

Le Dai Hanh was king at the age of 39 in 980. He died in 1005 when he was 64 years old.

The Confucian scholars denounced Queen Duong Van Nga critically. But they didnít criticize Le Dai Hanh, who had resounding victories over the Song and Champa.
The Earlier Le dynasty lasted 29 years (980- 1009) with three kings:
- Le Dai Hanh (980- 1005)
- Le Trung Ton (1005- 03 days in throne)
- Le Long Dinh known as Le Ngoa Trieu (Lying King) (1005- 1009)
King Le Dai Hanh had 05 queens. The most powerful and beloved queen was Duong Van Nga, who exchanged her soní s throne for her queen title in the new dynasty. King Le Dai Hanh and queen Duong Van Nga had a princess: Le Thi Phat Ngan. Later princess Le Thi Phat Ngan was married to Ly Cong Uan, founder of the Ly dynasty.

 

****

Ly Cong Uan (974- 1028) was born in Bac Ninh. His father was unknown. It was said in the oral tale that he was son of a human God. His mother had Pham as her family name. Since his childhood Ly Cong Uan has been raised and educated by a Buddhist monk, Ly Khanh Van.

Ly Cong Uan was an intelligent child, who had kingly speech. One day he was punished by Ly Khanh Van he recited two verses to explain why he was punished by the monk:

At bed time I darenít extend my legs
For fear that the whole country would be at risk of falling
.

Ly Cong Uan was 05 years old when Dinh Tien Hoang died in an assassination. During his stay in the Buddhist temple Ly Cong Uan learned Chinese characters and Buddhist philosophy. In his youth he learned martial arts. He went to Hoa Lu to serve king Le Dai Hanh. In 1005 King Le Dai Hanh died. There was a throne conflict between prince Le Long Tich and his younger brother Le Trung Ton. A loser Le Long Tich fled to Thach Ha, Ha Tinh, where he was killed by the dwellers. Le Long Viet came to the throne. It was king Le Trung Ton. Staying in the throne in 03 days king Le Trung Ton was killed by his younger brother, Le Long Dinh. All the couriers were fearful. Only Ly Cong Uan embraced king Le Trung Tonís dead body, bursting into sobs. King Le Long Dinh, instead of hating Ly Cong Uanís loyalty to king Le Trung Ton, appreciated his good behavior by letting him command the royal army.

Le Long Dinh was a debauched, brutal and cruel king. Having excessive sex with beautiful ladies he had serious backache. He couldnít sit. He lied down at the Court during the meeting with the courtiers. That is why he was called LE NGOA TRIEU (Lying King Le). King Le Long Dinhís daily pleasure was to see blood, pain and suffering from others. He died in 1009 when he was 24 years old.

The Earlier Le dynasty lasted 29 years (980- 1009(. The grassroots detested king Le Long Dinh. A bloodless coup occurred in Hoa Lu during Le Long Dinhís funeral. Buddhist monk Van Hanh and general Dao Cam Moc supported generalissimo Ly Cong Uan to steal the throne from the Earlier Le. Buddhist monk Van Hanh spread prophecy predicting the replacement of the Le by the Ly. Generalissimo Ly Cong Uan had strong popular support: army (Dao Cam Moc), Buddhist Church (Van Hanh). The transfer of kingship from the Earlier Le to the Ly was smooth and bloodless.

Ly Cong Uan was enthroned. It was king Ly Thai To, founder of the Ly dynasty. King Ly Thai To dinít choose either Co Loa or Hoa Lu as capital. He chose Dai La on the Red River. It was said when moving from Hoa Lu to Dai La king Ly Thai To saw the dragon soaring over the citadel. He renamed Dai La Thang Long (Soaring Dragon). In the Far East the sacred animals such as the Dragon, Unicorn, Turtle, Phoenix and geomancy were used to consolidate legitimacy of the countryís leaders. These things were very familiar in Chinese and Vietnamese stories relating to certain historic persons.

King Ly Thai To had 09 queens. The first queen was Le Thi Phat Ngan, daughter of king Le Dai Hanh and queen Dung Van Nga. The Ly dynasty lasted 245 years (1010- 1225) with nine leaders. Of them eight were male; one was female. The eight kings of the Ly were: Ly Thai To (1010- 1028), Ly Thai Ton (1028- 1054), Ly Thanh Ton (1054- 1072), Ly Nhan Ton (1072- 1127), Ly Than Ton (1128- 1138), Ly Anh Ton (1138- 1175), Ly Cao Ton (1176- 1210), Ly Hue Ton (1211- 1225), and Queen Ly Chieu Hoang (1225).

The Ly dynasty had great contributions to Dai Viet with:
- the prosperity of Buddhism
- the move of capital from Hoa Lu, Ninh Binh, to Thang Long (actual Ha Noi)
- change of countryís name from Dai Co Viet to Dai Viet (Great Viet) (1054).
- victory on the Song and Champa; occupation of Dia Ly, Ma Linh, Bo Chinh (Quang Binh, Quang Tri) (1069); repression of the minority peoplesí revolts in the mountainous regions.
- organization of the triennial contests in order to choose talented persons for public services. Confucianism found good environment to grow. Buddhism was at risk of being eclipsed by Confucianism. The Temple of Literature was built under the reign of Ly Thanh Ton (1054- 1072) to worship Confucius and 72 Chinese philosophers. The educational development was tied to the growth of Confucianism and Chinese characters knowing that in the 11th century Dai Viet had no public schools. Education wasn't compulsory.
- Famous persons such as Le Phung Hieu, Ly Thuong Kiet, Ton Dan, Ly Dao Thanh, To Hien Thanh, Y Lan Thai Phi, Le Van Thinh etc.

 

****

The founders of the Dinh, Earlier Le and Ly dynasties were orphans. Except for Dinh Bo Linhís father, those of Le Hoan and Ly Cong Uan were unclear enough. Among three orphans only Ly Cong Uan was educated by Ly Khanh Van in the Buddhist temple.

Dinh Bo Linh, Le Hoan, Ly Cong Uan were military men.

Dinh Bo Linh was fond of drinking rice alcohol. Losing clairvoyance he revoked Dinh Lienís right of succession. This myopic decision had its tragic consequence: bloody family conflict.

Le Hoan committed adultery with queen Duong Van Nga.

Morally speaking Ly Cong Uan was superior to Dinh Bo Linh and Le Hoan. He wasnít addicted to rice alcohol and to female beauty. His knowledge of Chinese characters and Buddhist philosophy was much better than that of Dinh Bo Linh and Le Hoan. Ly Cong Uan was backed by the Buddhist Church i.e by the grassroots. At that time Buddhism was considered the national religion. Buddhist monks were scholars, philosophers, physicians. Buddhist temples were cultural, medical and social centers. These factors explained why the Dinh dynasty lasted 12 years; the Earlier Le: 29 years but the Ly dynasty lasted 215 years.

There are some analogies and retributions in the Dinh, Earlier Le and Ly dynasties:

1. bloody family conflict: Dinh Lien killed his younger half- brother, Hang Lang (979). In 1005 king Le Dai Hanh died. The conflict of power erupted between prince Le Long Tich and his younger brother Le Long Viet. A loser, Le Long Tich fled to Thach Ha, Ha Tinh, where he was killed by the dwellers. Le Long Viet became king. It was king Le Trung Ton, who, in his turn, was killed by his younger brother, prince Le Long Dinh, after 03 days on the throne. King Ly Thai To died in 1028. As the king wasnít buried yet, three princes and their troops entered the capital to overthrow crown prince Ly Phat Ma, son of Ly Cong Uan and Le Thi Phat Ngan. Le Phung Hieu used his Herculean strength to kill one of three rebellious princes. The two princes and their rebellious troops ran for life. Prince Ly Phat Ma was enthroned. It was king Ly Thai Ton (1028- 1054).

2. founding the dynasty by means of coup díetat: Emperor Dinh Tien Hoang and prince Dinh Lien trusted Le Hoan. This young generalissimo committed adultery with queen Duong Van Nga. Would he be responsible for the assassination of Dinh Tien Hoang and Dinh Lien? He took the throne from the Dinh with queen Duong Van Nga and general Pham Cu Luongí s active assistance. It isnít true to call the event the bloodless coup. Some pro- Dinh courtiers such as Dinh Dien, Nguyen Bac were killed by Le Hoanís henchmen. In order to gain Ly Cong Uanís loyalty king Le Dai Hanh married his daughter to this generalissimo, who was strongly backed by the Buddhist Church headed by Van Hanh. Four years after king Le Dai Hanhís death Ly Cong Uan erased the Earlier Le dynasty. The Buddhist monk Van Hanh and general Dao Cam Moc played an important role in the bloodless coup díetat aiming at replacing the Earlier Le by the Ly.

3. The causes of the fall of three dynasties were slightly analogous. The Dinh dynasty collapsed after Dinh Tien Hoang and Dinh Lienís death. Prince Dinh Tue was enthroned when he was six years old. King Le Long Dinh died at the age of 24. At this age, if he had children, the oldest would be five or six years old. The Ly dynasty had considerable contributions to Dai Viet in respect of national economy, defense, politics, education, laws, religion, diplomacy. The cause of the fall of the Ly dynasty was that king Ly Hue Ton had no sons. He chose one of his two daughters as his successor. It was queen Ly Chieu Hoang ascending to the throne at the age of 07 (1225). The collapse of the Ly occurred a few months after her enthronement. From then on Vietnamese princesses didnít have right to succession. The rules of royal succession were based on: a. Sex: male b. eldest son (birthright) c. kingí s eldest grand son. It was unhappy for the royal family to be childless or to have only daughters. It happened to the Nguyen dynasty after the King Tu Ducís death in 1883.

4. Queen Duong Van Nga was important and influential in three dynasties but her name wasnít mentioned in history. She was the Two- Dynasty Queen (Dinh & Earlier Le) and king Ly Thai To ís mother in law . She had an active role in the 980ís coup díetat. It was she, who made profit on the 1009ís coup after King Le Long Dinhís death. The future king was his son in law: Ly Cong Uan.

 


Trang Phạm Đžnh L‚n

art2all.net