The First National King of Viet Nam: Ngo Quyen, Father of Vietnamese Independence
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           Before the reign of King Ngo Quyen, for a thousand years Viet Nam had been a conquered region of China, at a time when that empire was divided into rival kingdoms. This was the origin of the name "An Nam" that was later restored by the invading French. He is remembered mostly for his great victory over China at the battle of the Bach Dang river in 938 and for his masterful application of the martial arts into the Vietnamese army. Other than one short period of 20 years in the 15th Century, after the great victory of Ngo Quyen the Viets remained free of foreign control all the way until the surrender of the Nguyen Dynasty to the French in the 19th Century. This has earned King Ngo Quyen one of the most honored places in the history of all Vietnamese emperors from Hung Vuong to Bao Dai. His great victory at Bach Dang has inspired victories of the same tactics by the great leaders and kings Le Hoan and Tran Hung Dao.
          When the Great Tang Empire collapsed, China became divided by feuding lords which gave the Viets their best chance for claiming independence again. The increased aggression of the Chinese followed the career of Liu Kung of the southern kingdom in China. In 931 he had launched a terrible campaign into Viet Nam but was defeated by Dinh Nghe. Once this great warrior died, Liu Kung decided to try again. He gave his son Liu Hung-ts'ao the title of "King of Giao" and "Peaceful Sea Military Governor" and put him in command of a large invasion force to crush the Vietnamese.
          Ngo Quyen had been destined from birth for greatness and so was given the name "authority and power". He had eyes like lightning and the step of a tiger. He was wise in learning, handsome in appearance, was very strong and an expert in the martial arts. He soon became one of Duong Dinh Nghe's generals and was so much beloved that he was given one of his daughters in marriage and the command of his native province of Ai, the center of his power and the place of his family ancestors. When Dinh Nghe was killed by Kieu Cong Tien in 937 it was only natural that the Viets looked for leadership to his best general: Ngo Quyen. Immediately he gathered his forces to avenge the death of his master and defeat the Chinese to reclaim national independence.
          By the end of the year, Ngo Quyen defeated and killed Kieu Cong Tien and was well prepared to face the Han invasion under Liu Hung-ts'ao in 938. He could foresee that the Chinese would sail down the Bach Dang river to drop their invading troops right in the middle of Giao to do the most damage. To prevent this, Ngo Quyen mined the waters of Bach Dang with large poles hidden just beneath the water. He used boats with shallow drafts to lure the Chinese toward his barricade after the tide had risen. When the Chinese ships were smashed against the barricade, Ngo Quyen led his forces in the attack. Most of the Han, including Liu Hung-ts'ao were drowned, the rest were quickly killed by Quyen's forces. Liu Kung was waiting at the Sea Gate with the Chinese reserves. When he heard of the terrible defeat and death of his son he cried sorrowfully and retreated to Canton.
           From this time, Ngo Quyen reclaimed Vietnamese independence and was proclaimed as Ngo Vuong of An Nam in 939. His regime was based on freedom and simplicity. The national government consisted of only the king with one military and one civil minister to aid him. He moved the capital to Co Loa, the old capital of the Kingdom of Au Lac to show the continuation of the line of the sacred Viet kings of ancient times. However, Ngo Quyen did not have many years of peace in his reign as King of AnNam. There were many ambitious lords trying to take advantage of the situation to assert their own power. Ngo Vuong spent six years fighting victoriously against these elite rebellions to maintain the unity of the Viet kingdom. In 965 his younger son Nam Tan Vuong was killed and only a few years later in 967 the great Ngo Quyen died as well, a tragedy the country could not survive. Without his wise and powerful leadership, the country became overrun with ambitious feudal lords struggling for power. In this time people called the land "Thap Ni Su Quan" for the twelve warring regions that came after the death of the heroic King Ngo Quyen.
This page was written by an anonymous contributor, copyright 2005 Blue Dragon Society
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