ĐINH BỘ LĨNH (924–979) (r. 968–979), originally named Đinh Hoàn (丁 桓 1), was the first Vietnamese emperor following the liberation of the country from the rule of the Chinese Southern Han Dynasty, as well as the founder of the short-lived Đinh Dynasty and a significant figure in the establishment of Vietnamese independence and political unity in the 10th century. He unified Vietnam by defeating twelve rebellious warlords and became the first emperor of Vietnam. Upon his ascension, he renamed the country Đại Cồ Việt. ĐINH BỘ LĨNH was also known as Đinh Tiên Hoàng (丁 先 皇; literally “Đinh, the past emperor“).
Life and career
ĐINH BỘ LĨNH was born in 924 in Hoa Lư (south of the Red River Delta, in what is today Ninh Bình Province). Growing up in a local village during the disintegration of the Chinese Tang Dynasty that had dominated Vietnam for centuries, ĐINH BỘ LĨNH became a local military leader at a very young age. From this turbulent era, the first independent Vietnamese polity emerged when the warlord Ngô Quyền defeated the Southern Han’s forces in the First Battle of the Bạch Đằng River in 938. However, the Ngô Dynasty was weak and unable to effectively unify Vietnam. Faced with the domestic anarchy produced by the competition of twelve feudal warlords for control of the country, as well as the external threat represented by Southern Han, which regarded itself as the heir to the ancient kingdom of Nan Yue that had encompassed not only southern China but also the Bac Bo region of northern Vietnam, ĐINH BỘ LĨNH sought a strategy to politically unify the Vietnamese. Upon the death of the last Ngô king in 965, he seized power and founded a new kingdom the capital of which was in his home district of Hoa Lư. To establish his legitimacy in relation to the previous dynasty, he married a woman of the Ngô family.2
In the first years of his reign, ĐINH BỘ LĨNH was especially careful to avoid antagonizing Southern Han. In 968, however, he took the provocative step of adopting the title of Emperor (Hoàng Đế) and thereby declaring his independence from Chinese overlordship. He founded the Đinh Dynasty and called his kingdom Đại Cồ Việt. His outlook changed, however, when the powerful Song Dynasty annexed Southern Han in 971. In 972, ĐINH BỘ LĨNH ingratiated himself with the Song by sending a tribute mission to demonstrate his fealty to the Chinese Emperor. Emperor Taizu of Song subsequently recognized the Viet ruler as Giao Chỉ Quận Vương (King of Giao Chi), a title which expressed a theoretical relationship of vassalage in submission to the empire. Well aware of Song’s military might, and eager to safeguard the independence of his country, ĐINH BỘ LĨNH obtained a non-aggression agreement in exchange for tributes payable to the Chinese court every three years.
In addition to managing relations with China, ĐINH BỘ LĨNH energetically reformed the administration and the armed forces of Vietnam in order to strengthen the foundations of the new state. He established a royal court and a hierarchy of civil and military servants. ĐINH BỘ LĨNH also instituted a rigorous justice system in which treason was punishable by being cooked in a vat of boiling oil or by being fed to a caged tiger, so as to provide a deterrent to all who threatened the new order in the kingdom.
Assassination of Đinh Bộ Lĩnh
However, Đinh Bộ Lĩnh’s reign did not last long. In 979, a palace official, inspired by a dream, killed both Đinh Bộ Lĩnh and his eldest son Đinh Liễn while they were sleeping in the palace courtyard. The killer was quickly apprehended and executed by general Nguyễn Bặc. BỘ LĨNH was succeeded by his six-year-old surviving son Dinh Phe De.
The Song dynasty wanted to take advantage of the turbulent situation in Đại Cồ Việt in order to reestablish Chinese control over the country, and sent an army to invade Vietnam. In this crisis, LÊ HOÀN, the commander-in-chief of Đinh Bộ Lĩnh’s army, stepped into the power vacuum, dethroned the child emperor, eliminated his opponents at court, and entered into illicit relations with the Empress Dowager Dương Vân Nga. LÊ HOÀN defeated the Song invasion, proclaimed himself Emperor, and founded the Early Lê Dynasty. He continued to call the country “Đại Cồ Việt.”
- TRẦN TRỌNG KIM says in Việt Nam sử lược: “Có sách chép rằng Đinh Tiên-hoàng tên là Hoàn 桓, chứ không phải là Bộ Lĩnh. Bộ Lĩnh là một tước quan của Trần Lãm phong cho Đinh Hoàn. Nhưng xét trong ” Khâm-định Việt-sử ” và các sách khác thì thấy chép Đinh bộ Lĩnh chứ không thấy Đinh Hoàn. Vậy nay cứ theo sách Khâm-định mà chép.” (According to some books, Đinh Bộ Lĩnh’s original name is 桓.) )
- HỮU NGỌC. Wandering through Vietnamese culture 2004 – Page 393: “Nguyễn Bặc… and statesmen who helped Đinh Bộ Lĩnh put an end to the period of anarchy of the Twelve Warlords before the Đinh Dynasty.”
- The article about Đinh Bộ Lĩnh on Vietsciences.free.fr
◊ Sources: wikipedia.com.
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