Land system and economic development
After achieving victory, Le Loi ordered
the confiscation of all lands belonging to Ming functionaries, traitors
and Tran princes and dignitaries who had died or left. State land was
utilized in part by the administration itself and partly distributed to
dignitaries and mandarins. In contrast to the Tran estate owners, the
benefiting mandarins could only collect land rent, but not do as they
pleased with the peasants themselves, who were subject to the direct
authority of the state. Administrative centralization was thus promoted
and the status of the peasants improved.
Loi in 1429 and then Le Thanh Tong in 1477, regulated and improved the
distribution of communal rice fields based on the following principles:
- All were entitled to distribution according to respective title and rank;
- Distribution was to take place every six years;
- Rent was paid to the state and was generally lower than that demanded by the landlords.
distribution of communal lands had been a practice since far back in
time, but it was the first time that the monarchical state had
intervened so directly in communal affairs. Given that the area covered
by such lands was significant, the regulations resulted in increased
kings Le paid great attention to the development of agricultural
production. Lands left fallow during war time were quickly brought into
cultivation, while the state set up state farms on uncultivated land so
as to, in the words of King Le Thanh Tong, "concentrate our strength in
agriculture and increase our potential". Individuals were also
encouraged to cultivate virgin lands. New areas were thus cleared, both
in the highlands and reclaimed coastal regions. Dykes were kept in good
repair and in emergencies, students and soldiers were mobilized in order
to repair them. Soldiers and palace staff were sent in turn to the
fields to work. Harvests and cattle were given particular attention.
This policy greatly encouraged agricultural production, and no serious famines occurred during the 15th century.
were still a subsidiary activity. However, they were widely practiced,
and many villages came to specialize in certain occupations such as silk
weaving, wine making, pottery or porcelain making, lime burning, etc.
Leather processing was introduced from China.
In towns, particularly in the capital Thang Long, craftsmen lived in
certain quarters and were grouped in guilds with strict rules. Silver,
tin, iron, lead, gold and copper mines were opened.
workshops were run by a special royal department and produced items
needed at court, not to be sold on the market. They also minted coins.
The personnel comprised craftsmen forced into service and slaves. This
did not favour the progress in handicrafts.
development of trade was encouraged by the spread of regional markets.
Le Loi abolished the paper currency issued by Ho Quy Ly, ordered the use
of copper coins and had units of measurement (length, weight, volume,
and area) and the sizes of certain goods (fabrics and paper)
standardized. Foreign trade was strictly controlled by the state;
transactions could be conducted only with government authorization and
in specified places. Many foreign trading vessels were banned from
entering port. This restriction on foreign trade remained one of the
main characteristics of feudal monarchy.
Administrative, military and judicial organization
the disappearance of large estates, administrative centralization
reached its peak. The court was reorganized with six ministries; the
posts of prime minister and general were abolished, these functions
being taken over by the king himself. Provincial and regional
administration was handled by the mandarin bureaucracy. Functionaries
were appointed to head villages in numbers which varied according to
population. The establishment of new villages and the election of
notables became subject to detailed regulations. In 1467, Le Thanh Tong
ordered maps of all villages and one of the whole country, the first
ever to be drawn up. The country was divided into regions (dao), provinces, districts, and villages.
army, 250,000 strong towards the end of the war of liberation, was
reduced to 100,000 and divided into five sections which took turns doing
military service and agricultural work. The peasant-soldier system
inaugurated under the Ly was thus maintained. Besides conscripts there
were also reservists.
The mandarin bureaucracy enjoyed special privileges - land, houses and special attire - but were no longer entitled to own large estates with serfs and have their own armed forces as
in the time of the Tran. Members of the royal family enjoyed even more
privileges, but not to the extent of being allowed to participate in the nation's leadership or administer important provinces, as had occurred under the Tran.
legislative apparatus was streamlined to serve the centralized
administration and evolving society. In 1483, the Hong Duc Code was
promulgated, grouping the rules and regulations already in forte in a
systematic way; this was the most complete code to be drawn up in
and remained in force until the end of the 18th century. Completed
under subsequent reigns, it comprised 721 articles and was divided into
Hong Duc Code sought in particular to safeguard ownership of land by
the state and landlords, and ensure the authority of the father, first
wife, and eldest son. It also determined the rites of marriage and
mourning. The "ten capital crimes" were severely punished, especially
rebellion and neglect of filial duties. Feudal and Confucian in
inspiration, the Hong Duc Code was, however, progressive in several
respects. The rights of the woman were protected; she could have her own
property and share equally with men in inheritance. Where there was no
male offspring, daughters could inherit the whole family fortune. A wife
could repudiate her husband if he had abandoned her for a certain time.
All these points were to be suppressed in its most reactionary form.
The Hong Duc Code was specific to the Vietnamese society of the time and
showed no Chinese influence.
With the first kings Le, Le Thanh Tong in particular, the feudal monarchy in Vietnam
reached its peak; for some more time, the monarchical regime and
mandarin bureaucracy were to play a positive role in the history of Vietnam.
Ethnic minority policy
Vietnam comprises many ethnic groups; minority groups live in mountainous regions, while the majority group, the Kinh (Viet), are plain-dwellers.
the insurrection against the Ming, ethnic minorities living in the
highlands allied themselves with the Kinh to fight the occupiers. After
liberation, the feudalists in the delta resumed their policy of
exploitation and oppression vis-a-vis the minorities. The Le monarchy
ruled over the highlands through tribal chieftains upon whom the
monarchy bestowed mandarin titles. These chieftains collected taxes.
Control over mountainous regions was tighter than under the Tran. The
Kinh mandarins ruling over the uplands also sought to exploit the ethnic
policy provoked frequent revolts among the mountain dwelling
minorities, which was for centuries one of the weak points of the feudal
monarchy. The Thai of the northwest rose in revolt in Lai Chau in 1432,
in Son La in 1439 and in Thuan Chau in 1440; the Tay of Lang Son, Cao
Bang and Tuyen Quang also did so on many occasions. In the western part
of Nghe An, the head of the Cam family succeeded in holding out from 1428 to 1437.
these revolts were firmly suppressed by the Le troops. The secession
advocated by the rebel chiefs also ran counter to historical trends of
the deltas and highlands being complementary economically. But
antagonism among ethnic groups was to disappear only with the advent of
Cultural development in the 15th-17th centuries
the plastic arts and architecture made little progress compared with
the Ly-Tran period, literature flourished. Buddhism was relegated to
second place. Confucianism becoming the official ideology inspiring
mandarin competitions and national literature.
Confucianism and the scholar Confucian works, as interpreted by Chu Hi (of the Sung period in China),
made up a body of doctrine which had to be digested by candidates
entering mandarin competitions. In 1484, the names of laureates at the
central competitions were inscribed on stone stele erected at the Temple of Literature in Hanoi.
The doctrine was carefully studied by the kings. Le Thanh Tong was an
outstanding scholar and wrote moral texts intended for the people.