high-ranking officials were all Chinese; only subaltern posts were
given to "natives". A general census revealed that there were 3,129,500
inhabitants and 2,087,500 man (barbarians) from mountain-dwelling
tribes, i.e. a total of more than 5.2 million. But many doubtless evaded
the census. "Order" was maintained throughout the country by large
military garrisons, joined by a tight network of relays. All opposition
was harshly suppressed.
was a very heavy system of taxation, which included land tax on rice
fields and mulberry fields, and a poll-tax. The occupiers held a
monopoly over the salt trade. All able-bodied people, aged 16 to 60,
were subject to military service and multiple corvee: road-building,
mining, pearl-oyster fishing, hunting, etc. In 1419, family records were
made obligatory for control over the population.
Thousands of skilled craftsmen and intellectuals were taken to China, among them Nguyen An, who was to become the architect of the Imperial City in Beijing. The Ming also confiscated personal property, animals (elephants, buffaloes and horses) and other valuables.
people were forced to adopt the Chinese style of dress and Chinese ways
and customs. Ming troops sought to destroy all traces of the nation's
culture, they burned oconfiscated books that were specifically
Vietnamese. This was a true cultural disaster; almost all literary works
from before the 15th century were destroyed.
Lam Son Insurrection and the war of independence
Le Loi, a land-owner from Lam Son in Thanh Hoa Province was born in 1385. Before launching the insurrection against the Ming, he gathered about 1000 followers around him. On February 7, 1418
in Lam Son, he proclaimed himself king under the name Binh Dinh Vuong,
and began gathering under his banner anyone who oppose Ming domination.
Nguyen Trai, a famous scholar, became his closest adviser on strategy
and politics. Working together, the two men brought the insurrection to
victory after long years of struggle.
first Le Loi launched guerrilla operations in mountainous area of Thanh
Hoa. Although he inflicted losses to the Ming, he often found himself
in a critical, even desperate situation. However, his forces held out
thanks to the courage of the men, the resolve of the leaders, and the
dedication of the officers. Other popular uprisings in various provinces
helped loosen Ming pressure on Le Loi. In 1420, his troops were able to
camp on the banks of the Ma River and threaten the capital of Thanh Hoa Province.
A Ming counter-attack, however, drove them back to the mountains in
1423. But the Ming troops were also worn out, and their command agreed
to a truce proposed by Le Loi, who resolutely resisted all attempts to
buy him off with promises of riches and honours. In 1424, the Ming again
attacked, but the insurgents had time to strengthen their position.
the advice of Nguyen Chich, Le Loi took his troops to Nghe An and
turned it into a resistance base. The insurgents were enthusiastically
welcomed by the local people. Fortified enemy positions fell one after
another, and soon the whole province was in Le Loi's hands. Next came
Thanh Hoa, then provinces south of Nghe An. By the end of 1425, the
whole southern part of the country had been liberated, with the
exception of the Nghe An and Tay Do (Thanh Hoa) citadels. A vast rear
base had thus been created for the war of national liberation. In 1426,
Le Loi was in a position to launch a counter-offensive.
The Ming sent 50,000 reinforcements from China
under the command of Vuong Thong. Even before they arrived, Le Loi had
started his offensive to seize back the Red River Delta. In September
1426, he dispatched three armies northward; one was to interceept Ming
reinforcements coming from Yunnan,
the second comming through Lang Son, and the last was to march on the
capital. Everywhere the people rallied to his banner with enthusiasm,
while panic-stricken Ming troops withdrew into their citadels and tried
to hold out until the reinforcements arrived.
November, Vuong Thong's troops joined the Ming troops who had shut
themselves up behind the walls of the capital, bringing their strength
to 100,000. They thought they were now in a position to counter-attack,
but instead they suffered a crushing defeat at Tot Dong (west of the
capital) and again had to withdraw into the citadel. The Vietnamese
troops had gained control of the area. Le Loi left Thanh Hoa and
concentrated his forces round the capital. Vuong Thong proposed a truce.
In a letter to the Ming general, Nguyen Trai said that the Vietnamese
command would agree to a truce if Vuong Thong were to withdraw his
troops from the country, thus "sparing our people the ravages of war and
the Chinese troops the sufferings of battle".
for Vuong Thong the truce was just a strategy to gain time and obtain
more reinforcements. While maintaining the siege and eliminating
isolated outposts, the Vietnamese Command, on Nguyen Trai's
recommendation, conducted a campaign of political persuasion directed at
the Ming troops, driving home to them the inevitability of defeat, the
strength of the Vietnamese national movement and the vulnerability of
the Ming Empire. This seriously demoralized them.
October 1427, Ming reinforcements came in two columns: one was 100,000
strong and led by Lieu Thang through the Lang Son pass; the other,
50,000 strong, was led by Moc Thanh via the Red River
valley. The Vietnamese command decided to destroy the more important
army. Lieu Thang's troops, overconfident about their strength, were
ambushed and routed at the Chi Lang Defile. The commander was killed and
several generals captured together with 30,000 men. The other Ming
column was filled with panic on hearing of this disaster and fled in
disorder pursued by Le Loi's troops.
the destruction of these reinforcement, Vuong Thong who was besieged in
the capital, was forced to sue for peace. His request was granted by Le
Loi, who gave the Ming troops the necessary food supplies and means of
transport to get home. It was December 29, 1427.
war of independence led by Le Loi and Nguyen Trai had lasted ten years.
Starting with few resources, the movement had expanded, gradually
establishing powerful bases and forces, and eventually destroying huge
enemy armies. The command had combined guerrilla warfare with mobile
warfare and attacks on fortified position, political struggle with
military action, and had shown kindness toward the enemy and avoided
pointless massacres. Le Loi, from the land-owning class rather than the
landed aristocracy, and Nguyen Trai, a Confucian scholar with an
encyclopaedic knowledge, had succeeded in bringing about national unity
and inspiring patriotism. As well, they had shown resolve and wisdom at
critical and decisive moments. The war was both national and popular in
nature and conducted with appropriate strategy and tactics. Never again
would the Ming try to reconquer Dai Viet. The following period of peace
between China and Dai Viet was to last for over three centuries.