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The Battle of Bạch Đằng (Vietnamese: Trận Bạch Đằng, Chữ nôm: 陣白藤) was one of the greatest victories in Vietnamese military history. It was a battle between Đại Việt, commanded by Supreme Commander Trần Hưng Đạo, and the invading army of the Yuan dynasty, commanded by general Omar Khan. The Battle of Bạch Đằng was the last confrontation between Đại Việt and the Yuan dynasty.[2] The battle took place at the Bach Dang River, near Ha Long Bay in present-day northern Vietnam. The battle was a tactical masterpiece of the same stature as the other battle at Bach Dang River.

Battle of Bạch Đằng (1288)
Part of the Mongol-Vietnamese War
Battle of Bach Dang (1288).jpg
The Battle of Bạch Đằng
Bạch Đằng, present northern Vietnam
Result Decisive Đại Việt victory
Trần dynasty Flag of the Mongol Empire 2.svg Yuan dynasty
Commanders and leaders
Trần Hưng Đạo
Trần Khánh Dư
Flag of the Mongol Empire 2.svg Omar Khan  (POW)
50,000+ 80,000 regular troops
30,000 tribal auxiliaries from Yunnan and Hainan
a 1,000-man vanguard
500 ships[1]
Casualties and losses
About 4,000-6,000 dead

Almost all ships destroyed or captured

80,000+ dead or captured



In 1287 the Yuan commander Toghan, a son of Kublai Khan, invaded Vietnam for the third time. Under his command were 80,000 regular troops, 21,000 tribal auxiliaries from Yunnan and Hainan, a 1,000-man vanguard under the general Abachi, and 500 ships under the Muslim Omar (Vietnamese: Ô Mã Nhi) and Chinese Fanji (according to some sources, the Mongol force was composed of 300,000–500,000 men). After the defeat of the first two invasions, Kublai sent veterans such as Arigh Khaiya, Nasir al-Din and his grandson Esen-Temür. The invading force employed a different strategy as well; a huge base was to be established just inland from Hải Phòng, and a large-scale naval assault was mounted as well as the standard land assault. The Vietnamese forces, led by Trần Hưng Đạo, employed a Fabian strategy. They withdrew from inhabited areas, leaving the Mongols with nothing to conquer, and focused on harassing the invading army. A fleet prepared to bring provisions to Toghan's army by maritime route was ambushed and burned by the admiral Trần Khánh Dư. Lacking supplies, Toghan retreated through the Bạch Đằng River, intending to return to China. Trần Hưng Đạo, aware of the Yuan retreat, prepared an attack.

The planEdit

The Bạch Đằng River ran through Yen Hung district (in Quảng Ninh province) and Thuy Nguyen (in Hai Phong) before reaching the sea. This was where the earlier well-known battle of Ngô Quyền against the Southern Han (Nanhan) had taken place in 938.[3] Beginning from March, Trần Hưng Đạo began preparing the battlefield. He used the same tactic that Ngô Quyền had against the Chinese in 938. He studied the tidal lore, and ordered beds of stakes to be planted under the water and arranged ambushes in a unified plan of campaign.

Trần Hưng Đạo ordered his soldiers to nail the iron-headed poles under the waters of the Chanh, Kênh and Rút rivers. All three rivers are the northern distributaries of the Bach Dang River. Ghềnh Cốc is a reef located across the Bach Dang to the bottom of Chanh river and to the top of Kênh river. Ghềnh Cốc was used as a place for the ambush, in collaboration with the underwater iron-headed poles. They were to block the enemy ships when the tide withdrew. Đại Việt's small flotilla secretly stationed themselves behind Ghềnh Cốc, Ðồng Cốc, Phong Cốc and on the Khoái, Thái, Gia Ðước, and Ðiền Công rivers. The army deployed in Hung Yen, along the left bank of the river Bach Dang and Tràng Kênh, at the right bank of Bach Dang River and Mount Ðá Vôi.

The battleEdit

As was foreseen, the invading Yuan forces in Thăng Long suffered an acute shortage of food. Without any news about the supply fleet, Prince Toghan found himself surrounded and had to order his army to retreat to Vạn Kiếp. This was when Đại Việt's army began the general offensive by recapturing a number of locations occupied by the Mongol invaders. Groups of partisans were given orders to harass the enemy in Vạn Kiếp, putting them at a loss. The Mongol prince had to split his army into two and retreat.

In early April the supply fleet led by Omar, and escorted by infantry, fled home along the Bạch Đằng river. As bridges and roads were destroyed and attacks were launched by Đại Việt's troops, the Mongols reached Bạch Đằng. Đại Việt's small flotilla provoked and harassed the Yuan formation to wait for the tide to recede. The Mongols cautiously engaged their opponent, fearing an ambush while missing their chance to escape the arranged trap. Soon they found their movement restricted by iron-tipped stakes protruding out of the low tide while the escape routes had been blocked by Đại Việt's large warships. Đại Việt's troops took to boarding and hand-to-hand actions with the aid of fast fire ships and missile weapons, fiercely launched the attack and broke the combat formation of the enemy. Inflicted with a sudden and strong attack, the Mongols tried to withdraw to the sea in panic. Frightened, the Mongolian troops jumped down to get to the banks where they were dealt a heavy blow by a large army led by the Trần king and Trần Hưng Đạo.

The supply fleet of the Yuan dynasty was totally destroyed, and Omar was captured and executed by the Vietnamese.

At the same time, Đại Việt's army made continuous attacks and destroyed Toghan's army on its route of withdrawal through Lạng Sơn. Toghan risked his life making a shortcut through forests to flee home.

17th-century model of a Vietnamese "mông đồng" fighting boat, a type which probably had constituted much of the Vietnamese naval fleet 400 years earlier


Upon receiving news of the Mongol defeat, Kublai angrily banished Toghan to Yangzhou for life. The Mongols and the Vietnamese agreed to exchange their war prisoners. While the emperor Nhân Tông was willing to pay tribute to the Yuan, relations again foundered on the question of attendance at the Yuan court and hostile relations continued.

The Trần Dynasty eventually decided to accept the supremacy of the Yuan dynasty in order to avoid further conflicts. Because he refused to come in person, Kublai detained his envoy, Dao-tu Ki, in 1293. Kublai's successor Temür Khan (r.1294-1307), finally released all detained envoys, settling instead for a tributary relationship, which continued until the end of the Yuan dynasty.

Cultural significanceEdit

Upon the victory of Vietnamese, a series of celebrations broke out over the news. The serious defeat of the Mongolian Empire in its conquest of Vietnam left significant impacts as well. The Mongols' failure brought surrounding minor Asian states more confidence about their own wars against the Mongols.

The Mongols' defeat also crushed the Mongols' ambitions to conquer all of Southeast Asia. It was known as one of Vietnam's greatest victories in its military history.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Atwood, Christopher Pratt (2004), Encyclopedia of Mongolia and the Mongol empire, New York: Facts On File, p. 579, ISBN 0-8160-4671-9
  2. ^ Patricia M. Pelley Postcolonial Vietnam: New Histories of the National Past - Page 185 - 2002 "Presiding over the commemorative ceremony, Tran Huy Lieu began: "Not only did the battle of Bạch Đằng conclude the ... army against the Mongol invaders, it also brought all the Mongol invasions that took place between 1257 and 1288 to an ..."
  3. ^ James A. Anderson; John K. Whitmore (7 November 2014). China's Encounters on the South and Southwest: Reforging the Fiery Frontier Over Two Millennia. BRILL. pp. 129–. ISBN 978-90-04-28248-3.

Further readingEdit

  • Karnow, Stanley (1983), Vietnam: A History, New York: Penguin Books, ISBN 0-14-007324-8

External linksEdit