Trinh Nguyen civil war and Tây Sơn revolt


At barely 14 years old, new emperor Le Chieu Tong (ruled 1516-1522) enthroned. As usual when a young Emperor came to the throne, there was a support of one powerful and growing faction. It was led by Mạc Đăng Dung. His growing power was resented by the leaders of two noble families in Vietnam: the Nguyễn and Trịnh noble clans. After several years of increasing tension, the Nguyễn and the Trịnh left the capital Hanoi (then called Đông Đô) and fled south to build their own territories. This period deeply impacted on Vietnamese history, culture and devastation. a hundred of attacks carried out by Trinh & Nguyen Lord. The war had torn the country into piece and gave a good chance for westerners engaged religion, commerce and military into Vietnam. The Nguyen dynasty gradually became stronger from better adaption into new era, more opened and received help from westerners. On the other side, Vietnam had a great chance to integrate into the world, specially, a new born of Vietnamese language was significant change and had great influences until today. It’s very interesting to study how this period was going and ending with major impacts.


How did Le dynasty fall?

Year 1533, the Le lost the throne, the Le dynasty ruled our country for 100 years till King Le Chieu Tong’s reign. Then Mac Dang Dung stole the throne.

The Mac dynasty was installed to Mac Mau Hop then Trinh Tung killed him at Thang Long. In 1592, Trinh Tung proclaimed himself as Lord Trinh who dwelt in the North to empowered himself.

Trinh-Nguyen conflict:

Trinh – Nguyen conflict started the conflict whereas, from 1558 Mr. Nguyen Hoang moved to Thanh Hoa to make his homeland. He fought with Chiem Thanh, took some of their land and proclaimed himself as Lord Nguyen of the South. Lord Nguyen allowed poor people to develop new lands in the South. That was the time when the Viet country was divided into two parts with Gianh River as the dividing line.

Westerner entered Vietnam:

Not long after this period, western people engaged in commerce with Vietnamese around middle of 16th century, Portugish and Holland people went over Viet Nam to do business. After that, English, French also came over to trade with our country. The missionaries also started to preach Catholicism to Vietnamese.

There was a good reason for westerner got depth involvement and plan to attack and occupy Vietnam that was religion suppression. Since Catholicism did not worship ancestors and parents, which was different from the Vietnamese traditional culture, the kings believed that Catholicism was a heresy and then forbid Catholic preaching. When French started to attack Viet Nam, the religious suppression was very intense with many cases of torturing and killing prating people.

Tay Son revolution:

Year 1771, there were 3 brothers Nguyen Nhac, Nguyen Lu and Nguyen Hue from Tay Son, who raised troops to seize Qui Nhon city. Later three brothers aligned with Lord Trinh to lead troops to attack and kill Lord Nguyen on the south. Lord Nguyen’s grandson was Nguyen Anh raised troops to counter-attack Tay Son army. Nguyen Anh’s army was defeated. Nguyen Anh had to retreat to Phu Quoc.

Nguyen Anh seeking for help from French and Thai Lan:

Nguyen Anh entrusted prince Canh to Bishop Alexander Rhodes to go to France and ask for help. Since French helped Lord Nguyen with troops and warships, Nguyen Anh had to give Hoi An port and Con Lon island to French. Lord Nguyen also asked for help from Xiem La (Thailand). King Xiem La sent 20 thousand soldiers and 300 warships over to help, but actually for their later interest.

Nguyen Hue defeated Xiem La army:

Nguyen Hue advanced into Gia Dinh, lured Xiem navy to My Tho then defeated them right at Rach Gam-Xoai Mut. Xiem army was destroyed, only few thousand soldiers survived to run back their country.

Year 1786, Trinh family lost their Lord’s authority:

The authority of Trinh family, installed to Trinh Khai, was unstable due to their own competition for power. Nguyen Hue used “Supporting Le, eliminating Trinh” as the reason to lead troops to attack Thang Long capitol. Lord Trinh committed suicide.

Nguyen Hue defeated Quing (Thanh) dynasty:

King Le Chieu Thong was panic-striken then ran to ask help from the Chinese. Emperor Can Long of Thanh dynasty ordered Ton Si Nghi, Hua The Hanh and Sam Nghi Dong led 200 thousand soldiers over to conquer Thang Long.

King Quang Trung Nguyen Hue took the throne then led his great troop to the North. The King let soldiers to celebrate early Tet then opened a lightning attack to the enemies in the Eve night. The third day of Tet, Chinese army in Ha Hoi fort was intensely attacked then surrendered.

The Ngoc Hoi battle: On the fifth day of Tet, Viet army attacked Ngoc Hoi fort; guns were fired continuously from the fort out. King Quang Trung ordered strong soldiers to carry wooden boards to advance first then infantries followed. The soldiers advanced into the fort and killed enemy with big knives. Enemy’s blood ran as a river. Hua The Hanh died in the battle. Sam Nghi Dong hung himself to death.

At night, Ton Si Nghi was heavily asleep when he received bad news. He hurrily ran away from the city, even forgot to wear his armor and put saddle on his horse. Seeing their general ran away, Thanh soldiers vied with each other to withdraw through Nhi Ha Bridge. The bridge broke, Thanh soldiers fell into the river and drowned. Their dead bodies were floating as stubble.

King Quang Trung was not only brave and clever, but also generous and understanding in ruling the country and using talented people. On one hand, he sent messengers to Thanh to confer a title and to keep peace between two countries. On the other hand, he trained his army to be ready to attack China later. What a pity that he died at the age of 40 before he could carry out his dream.


This period was the most conflicted and turbulence in Vietnam old history. It’s was a door to open Vietnam to the world and Vietnam got dramatic changes in this era. Appearance of westerners with more powerful and modern technologies brought Vietnam changed it forms of political and social. It’s was also heroic era of the talented man Nguyen Hue who was not only a master of warfare, administration but  law, diplomatic. Unfortunately, Nguyen Hue died at 40 years old that he gave up a lot of plans to make the country becoming powerful and prosperous in competent with the big country in the North – China.

To be continued.

Hong Duc


About Insiderjourneyguidehelpdesk

Local guide manager-Vietnam
This entry was posted in Vietnam history. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s