Early Lý dynasty

The Early Lý dynasty (Vietnamese: nhà Tiền Lý; Hán Nôm: ), also called the Former Lý dynasty or Anterior Lý dynasty, was a dynasty which ruled Vietnam from AD 544 to 602. Its founder Lý Bí assumed the title of "Southern Emperor" (Lý Nam Đế). The realm of the Early Lý was known as Vạn Xuân (Hán Nôm: ; "Myriad Spring") and their capital was at Long Biên within modern Hanoi.

Empire of Vạn Xuân
Vạn Xuân Quốc (萬春國)
Map of Vạn Xuân kingdom
Map of Vạn Xuân kingdom
StatusSovereign state
CapitalLong Biên
Common languagesProto-Vietnamese
Buddhism, Taoism
• 544–548
Lý Nam Đế (First)
• 548–571
Triệu Việt Vương (Middle)
• 571–602
Hậu Lý Nam Đế (Last)
Historical eraMedieval Asia
• Lý Bí revolt against Liang dynasty
• Lý Bí proclaimed himself Emperor
• Triệu Quang Phục claimed himself the new emperor
• Lý Phật Tử defeated Triệu Việt Vương and regained the throne
CurrencyCash coins
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Second Era of Northern Domination
Third Era of Northern Domination
Today part ofVietnam

Lý Bí and the Kingdom of Vạn XuânEdit

Lý Bí (503–548) was born in Thái Bình,(Sơn Tây). In 543, he and his brother Lý Thiên Bảo revolted against the Chinese Liang dynasty to gain independence. Many reasons are given for the motive of his revolt, among them the fact that he was a member of a wealthy family and, having failed an imperial examination, decided to revolt.

The sixth century was an important stage in the Vietnamese political evolution toward independence. During this period, the Vietnamese aristocracy, while retaining Chinese political and cultural forms, grew increasingly independent of China. At the same time, indigenous leaders arose who claimed power based on Vietnamese traditions of kingship. A series of failed revolts in the late sixth and early seventh centuries fueled the Vietnamese national consciousness. Lý Bí, the dynasty's founder, was himself descended from a Chinese family that had fled to the Red River Delta during a period of dynastic turbulence in the first century A.D.[1][2][3][4][5][6][7][8][9][10] Lý Bí declared himself emperor of Nam Việt in the tradition of Triệu Đà and organized an imperial court at Long Biên.[11]

Buddhist inscription written in 601 CE in Tran Quoc pagoda

In 544, Lý Bí defeated the Liang dynasty, proclaimed himself emperor and named the country Vạn Xuân. At this time, he built the Trấn Quốc Pagoda in Hanoi.[citation needed]

Resistance against the LiangEdit

In 545, Emperor Wu of Liang sent troops to recapture the region. In 546, Gia Ninh fortress fell, Lý Bí and his army fled and waged guerrilla warfare against the Liang.

While the Lý family retreated to the mountains and attempted to rule in the style of their Chinese overlords, a rebel leader who based his rule on an indigenous form of kingship arose in the Red River Delta. Triệu Quang Phục made his headquarters on an island in a vast swamp.[12] From this refuge, he could strike without warning, seizing supplies from the Liang army and then slipping back into the labyrinthine channels of the swamp. According to a much later Vietnamese revolutionary, General Võ Nguyên Giáp, Vietnamese concepts of protracted warfare were born in the surprise offensives, night attacks, and hit-and-run tactics employed by Triệu Quang Phục.

After the assassination of Lý Nam Đế in 547, his elder brother, Lý Thiên Bảo, became the de facto ruler of Vạn Xuân. Lý Thiên Bảo died of an illness in 555 and left no heirs, this prompted the military and officials elected Triệu Quang Phục as leader and de facto ruler. However, his election to lead the war against the Liang was not undisputed as other prominent family members of Lý Nam Đế began to challenge Triệu Quang Phục leadership. The remaining Lý family members and Triệu Quang Phục alliance began to fall apart as both sides claim legitimacy. While Triệu Quang Phục claimed rightful succession garnered through court officials, military, and the general populace. On the other hand, Lý family members claimed rightful leadership must be upheld through traditional hereditary as they were still considered to be the ruling family in name.[citation needed]

As strong as the Chinese were, they could not make any headway against the type of warfare devised by the generalissimo Triệu Việt Vương. This indecisive period lasted until 557 when finally a respite came for Vạn Xuân. The Liang dynasty was under the civil war during the Hou Jing rebellion and the famous Chinese general Chen Batian's (Trần Bá Tiên) skills and troops were needed in his homeland to quell a revolt. The Vietnamese forces, however, had no time to rejoice at the news of this temporary respite.[citation needed]

Civil warEdit

Shortly after Lý Thiên Bảo died, a Lý family member, Lý Phật Tử (Lý Thiên Bảo's cousin) made claim to the imperial throne and challenged Triệu Quang Phục. Both sides vied against one another and civil war broke out for the throne with no decisive victory. Wary about engaging in internal fighting that would only frustrate the people, Triệu Việt Vương negotiated a truce and peace. From Long Biên northward would be under Lý Phật Tử's rule and the land south of Long Biên would belong to Triệu Việt Vương.

In 571, Lý Phật Tử broke the truce and attacked Triệu Quang Phục's domain. Since Triệu Quang Phục's domain was not prepared or imagined Lý Phật Tử would attack, therefore they were easily defeated. His capital was sacked and burned by Lý Phật Tử's forces, however he managed to escape. During his retreat, Triệu Quang Phục committed suicide. Triệu Quang Phục's remaining forces and territories surrendered and were incorporated into Lý Phật Tử's domains.[13]

Sui invasionEdit

The newly Sui Empire defeated the Chen dynasty in 589, unifying China in the process. Emperor Wen of Sui sent envoy to Vạn Xuân, demanded Lý Phật Tử to submit as a vassal state, but Lý had refused. In 602, Lý Phật Tử brided money to governor of Qi Zhuo Lệnh Hồ Hy,[14] Emperor Wen of Sui felt angry and executed Lệnh Hồ Hy for corruption. He ordered general Liu Fang invade Vạn Xuân with 100,000 troops. The emperor of Vạn Xuân (Lý Phật Tử) surrendered to the Sui, marking the beginning of renewed Chinese domination in Vietnam.[citation needed]

Anterior Lý dynasty monarchsEdit


  1. ^ Taylor (1983), p. 135
  2. ^ Walker (2012), p. 134 East Asia: A New History, p. 134, at Google Books
  3. ^ Catino (2010), p. 142 The Aggressors: Ho Chi Minh, North Vietnam, and the Communist Bloc, p. 142, at Google Books
  4. ^ Kohn (2006), p. 308 Dictionary of Wars, p. 320, at Google Books
  5. ^ Coedès (1966), p. 45 The Making of South East Asia, p. 45, at Google Books
  6. ^ Coedès (1966), p. 46 The Making of South East Asia, p. 46, at Google Books
  7. ^ Lockhart (2010), p. 221 The A to Z of Vietnam, p. 221, at Google Books
  8. ^ Lockhart (2010), p. 221 The A to Z of Vietnam, p. 221, at Google Books
  9. ^ West (2009), p. 870 Encyclopedia of the Peoples of Asia and Oceania, p. 870, at Google Books
  10. ^ Taylor (1991), p. 155 The Birth of Vietnam, p. 155, at Google Books
  11. ^ Tucker, p. 8
  12. ^ Tucker, p. 9
  13. ^ Anh Thư Hà, Hò̂ng Đức Trà̂n A brief chronology of Vietnam's history - Page 23 2000 "On April 13, 548, Triệu Quang Phục ascended the throne as Triệu Việt Vưong (another name: Dạ Trạch Vương). ... Triệu Việt Vương, Lý Phật Tử proclaimed himself King Lý Nam Đế II, with capital in Phong Châu (Bạch Hạc, Phú Thọ province) ..."
  14. ^ Việt Điện U linh tập, page 349
  15. ^ Spencer Tucker Encyclopedia of the Vietnam War: a political, social, and military History Volume 1 Oxford University Press. Page 393 – 1998 " Founder of the early Lý dynasty, Ly Bôn was born into a wealthy family in Long Hưng District, Thái Bình Province. Bon was an official for the Chinese colonial administration ruling Vietnam. A talented individual, he left government service to prepare for an uprising that forced the Chinese governor out of Vietnam. Bon took Thăng Long (Hà Nội) and built a new independent state named Vạn Xuân (Ten Thousand Years of Spring)."


  • Taylor, Keith Weller. (1983). The Birth of Vietnam (illustrated, reprint ed.). University of California Press. ISBN 0520074173. Retrieved 7 August 2013.
  • Tucker, Spencer C. Vietnam. University Press of Kentucky, Feb 25, 1999 – 256 pages
Preceded by Dynasty of Vietnam
Succeeded by