Lý Nam Đế

Lý Nam Đế (chữ Hán: 李南帝, 17 October 503 – 13 April 548) was a Vietnamese monarch and the founder of the Early Lý dynasty, ruling from 544 to 548.[1]

Lý Nam Đế
King of Vạn Xuân
Emperor Ly Nam De.jpg
Lý Nam Đế, Nguyễn dynasty lacquerware painting
King of Vạn Xuân
SuccessorTriệu Việt Vương
Born17 October 503
Phổ Yên, Thái Nguyên, Southern Liang
Died13 April 548
Tam Nông, Phú Thọ, Vạn Xuân
ConsortHứa Trinh Hòa
Lý Bôn (李賁) (also written as Lý Bí)
Era name and dates
Thiên Đức (天德): 544–548
Posthumous name
Nam Việt Hiếu Cao Hoàng Đế (南越孝高皇帝)
DynastyEarly Lý dynasty
FatherLý Cạnh
MotherLê Thị Oánh


Lý Bôn (李賁) was a local aristocrat whose distant ancestors were Chinese refugees who fled Wang Mang's seizure of power during the interregnum between the Western and Eastern Han dynasties five centuries earlier.[2][3] He was a regional magistrate of Giao Châu (交州, Chinese: Jiaozhou), an area of northern Vietnam roughly corresponding to the area of modern Hanoi.

During this time China was experiencing constant civil war. Lý became increasingly frustrated with the corruption in the government and hostility toward the local population. His friend Pham Tu, an ethnic Jie, subsequently helped him train a small army with 300 cavalry archers. Subsequently, Lý resigned his post and revolted in 541 against the Liang who ruled Vietnam at the time. He gathered the local nobility and tribes within the Red River Valley, gathered together an army and navy, and won a decisive battle in Hofu in summer 543, expelling the Liang from Vietnam. The following year in February 544, Lý Bí was declared emperor by the people with the intention of demonstrating equality in status to China's own emperors. He named the new kingdom "Vạn Xuân" (, literally "Eternal Spring"). His armies also repelled attacks from Champa in the south who had allied with the Liang at the time.[citation needed]

Further in his lifeEdit

Map of Vạn Xuân Kingdom

Lý Nam Đế established his capital at Long Biên (modern-day Hanoi), surrounded himself with effective leadership in military and administrative scholars. Lý Nam Đế was also strongly supported by famous military commanders such as Phạm Tu, Triệu Túc, Tinh Thiều, and Triệu Quang Phục, (son of Triệu Tuc, later known as Triệu Việt Vương). The latter emerged as a hero in Vietnamese history and eventually succeeded Lý Nam Đế as ruler in 548. Lý Nam Đế built many fortresses at strategic locations throughout Vạn Xuân to fend off potential threats from Han in the north and from the Champa Kingdom in the south. He also established the first national university for scholars, implemented land reforms, and promoted literacy amongst the population. He laid the foundation for many reforms modeled after the Chinese social structure.

However, the new state was not long at peace. In October of 544 the Liang Dynasty sent an army of 120,000 to reoccupy Vietnam, led by general Chen Baxian (Vietnamese: Trần Bá Tiên). By spring of 545, Chen had ravaged much of northern Vạn Xuân. His initial invasion was stalled by Lý imperial forces for months. However, in the winter of 545, Chen surprised the capital during the monsoon season. Lý Nam Đế's army were caught off guard and the imperial government was forced to abandon Long Biên and flee westward into the neighboring kingdom of Laos. The Lý army became exhausted and Lý himself grew increasingly ill due to months of being exposed in the wilderness. Lý Nam Đế realized that his illness would not enable him to rally the troops and accomplish a successful resistance against the imperial Chinese forces. In February 548, he relinquished imperial authority and transferred his power to his older brother Lý Thiên Bảo (co-ruler from 548 until his death in 555) and Triệu Quang Phục (r. 548–571), who was his best lieutenant and general.

By April 548, while suffering from serious disease for months, Lý Nam Đế died in Laos when local Laotian tribesmen assassinated him in hope of warding off the invading Liang army. His immediate successor was Triệu Quang Phục (thereafter known as Triệu Việt Vương which means Trieu Viet King). The new king continued the resistance and eventually drove the Chinese out from Vạn Xuân in 550. Although China had occupied and would continue to occupy Vietnam for approximately 1,000 years, Lý Nam Đế had successfully established a Vietnamese state that had given Northern Vietnam approximately 60 years of independence.

Anterior Lý DynastyEdit


  1. ^ Vietnam Country Map. Periplus Travel Maps. 2002–2003. ISBN 0-7946-0070-0.
  2. ^ Đại Việt sử ký toàn thư "Former Southern Emperor Lý" text: "帝姓李,諱賁,龍興太平人也。其先北人,西漢末苦於征伐避居土,七世遂爲南人。" translation: "The Emperor's surname is Lý, taboo name Bí/Bôn, he was a man from Long Hưng, Thái Bình . His ancestors were northerners. At the end of the Western Han era, they fled conquests and massacres [then] dwelt [in this] land. By the seventh generations they became southerners through-and-through."
  3. ^ Taylor (1983), p. 135


Lý Nam Đế
Early Lý Dynasty
Born: October 17, 503 Died: April 13, 548
Preceded by
Emperor of Nam Việt
Succeeded by