Trần Minh Tông

Trần Minh Tông (4 September 1300 – 10 March 1357), real name Trần Mạnh (陳奣), was the fifth emperor of the Trần dynasty who ruled Đại Việt from 1314 to 1329. After ceding the throne to his son Trần Hiến Tông, Minh Tông held the title of Retired Emperor (Vietnamese: Thái thượng hoàng) for 29 years. As the last emperor in the prosperous period of Trần dynasty, Minh Tông was known for his successful reign of Đại Việt with the assistance of many talented mandarins. Minh Tông was also the longest-reigning retired emperor in history of Vietnam when he acted as a regent and co-ruled with Hiến Tông and Dụ Tông. His death marked a significant turning point in the history of the Trần Dynasty, as the country began to decline and soon fell into troubled times.

Trần Minh Tông
Emperor of Đại Việt
Emperor of Trần dynasty
Reign3 April 1314 – 15 March 1329 (14 years, 346 days)
PredecessorTrần Anh Tông
SuccessorTrần Hiến Tông
Retired Emperor of Trần dynasty
Reign15 March 1329 – 10 March 1357
PredecessorTrần Anh Tông
SuccessorTrần Nghệ Tông
Born4 September 1300
Thăng Long, Đại Việt
Died10 March 1357 (aged 56)
Đại Việt
Mục Tomb
SpouseQueen Lê Thánh
IssueCrown Prince Trần Vượng

Prince Cung Tĩnh Trần Nguyên Trác
Prince Cung Định Trần Phủ
Prince Cung Mẫn Trần Nguyên Hú
Prince Cung Giản Trần Nguyên Thạch
Prince Cung Túc Trần Nguyên Dục
Prince Cung Tín Trần Thiên Trạch
Trần Hạo

Prince Cung Tuyên Trần Kính and two daughters
Trần Mạnh (陳奣)
Era dates
Đại Khánh (大慶, 1314–1323)
Khai Thái (開泰, 1324–1329)
Regnal name
Thể Thiên Sùng Hóa Khâm Minh Duệ Hiếu hoàng đế (體天崇化欽明睿孝皇帝)
Posthumous name
Chương-nghiêu văn-triết hoàng-đế
Temple name
Minh Tông (明宗)
HouseTrần dynasty
FatherTrần Anh Tông
MotherImperial Consort Huy Tư


Minh Tông was born in 1300 as Trần Mạnh, the only surviving son of emperor Trần Anh Tông and imperial consort Huy Tư, who was the daughter of general Trần Bình Trọng.[1] According to Đại Việt sử ký toàn thư, the precise birthday of Prince Trần Mạnh was 21 August in the lunar calendar, only one day after the death of Trần Hưng Đạo who was the most important minister in the early Trần dynasty and the main commander of second and third wars of resistance by Đại Việt against Mongol Empire, which made him one of the most famous heroes of Vietnam. The other sons of Anh Tông all died at a young age so the Emperor had his relative and important figure of the Trần clan, Trần Nhật Duật, raise Trần Mạnh in the hope that he would survive and began a key figure in the family. Indeed, Prince Trần Mạnh was well looked after due to the wholehearted devotion of Trần Nhật Duật.[2]

In 1312, during the campaign against Champa personally commanded by Anh Tông, the 12-year-old prince Trần Mạnh was temporarily entrusted to the throne with assistance from Trần Nhật Duật and Trần Quốc Tú.[3] Two years after, Anh Tông officially ceded his throne to Trần Mạnh, who ruled as Emperor Trần Minh Tông, but continued to hold the title Retired Emperor (Thái thượng hoàng).[4]

As emperorEdit

Inscription bearing poem of Trần Minh Tông.

According to history scholars, Minh Tông was a ruler of good intent but had no long-term vision of nation building. Despite that shortcoming, the Emperor still successfully governed Đại Việt with the assistance of many capable mandarins like Phạm Ngũ Lão, Đoàn Nhữ Hài, Mạc Đĩnh Chi and Chu Văn An.[5] His biggest mistake, as often cited in historical records, was the death of Trần Quốc Chẩn, the Emperor's father-in-law and a prominent general.[1][5]

In contrast to his father, Minh Tông had many sons. The first, prince Trần Vượng, was born not by Queen Lê Thánh but the Emperor's second consort Anh Tư. That led to a struggle between two parties in royal court, one that supported prince Trần Vượng for the position of Minh Tông's successor, while the other suggested that the position of crown prince must be reserved for the Queen's son. As a consequence, leader of the former, Trần Khắc Chung, who was the mandarin responsible for the escape of Princess Huyền Trân from Champa, launched a defamation campaign against Trần Quốc Chẩn who was not only the Queen's father but also a prominent general with many victories in battle. Believing the information provided by Trần Khắc Chung, Minh Tông ordered the imprisonment of his father-in-law, Trần Quốc Chẩn, who was deprived of food and ultimately died in 1328.[5][6][7]

Continuing the foreign policy created by Anh Tông, Minh Tông kept friendly relations with Yuan dynasty while reinforcing the southern border to deal with the increasing hostility from the kingdom of Champa. In 1318, the Đại Việt army led by Trần Quốc Chẩn and Phạm Ngũ Lão won a campaign in Champa in which many Champa soldiers were killed. King Che Nang had to flee to Java, but a Trần marquis named Lý Tất Kiến also died in action.[6][8] However, in 1326, Che Anan relieved Champa of its vassalage to Annam.[9]: 90 

In 1329, Minh Tông decided to pass the throne to prince Trần Vượng, now emperor Hiến Tông, and took the position of Retired Emperor (Thái thượng hoàng).[5][10] During his reign, Minh Tông had two era names, which were Đại Khánh ( , great jubilee, 1314–1323) and Khai Thái ( , prosperous bloom, 1324–1329).

As retired emperorEdit

The new emperor Hiến Tông was only a ten-year-old boy, so Minh Tông still kept real power behind the scenes in the royal court. In the period of Hiến Tông's reign, Đại Việt's army was defeated several times in skirmishes with Laos and Champa[5] because of the lack of capable generals after the deaths of many capable officials like Phạm Ngũ Lão in 1320, Trần Quốc Chẩn in 1328 and Trần Nhật Duật in 1330.[11] In the operation against Laos in 1335, Minh Tông personally commanded the military but the Đại Việt army continued to lose, while an important mandarin, Đoàn Nhữ Hài, was drowned in battle.[12] Otherwise, there were increasing numbers of incompetent or corrupt officials in the royal court[5] of Minh Tông and Hiến Tông and they became a significant factor in the growing instability of the later phase of the Trần dynasty.

Hiến Tông died in 1341 leaving no heir. Minh Tông therefore passed the throne to his tenth son, Trần Hạo, now Dụ Tông. For the next sixteen years, the Retired Emperor continued to wield real power over Trần Dynasty while the Emperor reigned only nominally.[13] Minh Tông died in 1357, and he was posthumously named as Chương nghiêu văn triết hoàng đế (章堯文哲皇帝).[1] The death of Minh Tông also marked the end of a prosperous and stable era of Đại Việt under the Trần Dynasty, and the country began to decline as the royal court and Trần clan soon fell into chaos.[14]



  1. ^ a b c Ngô 1993, p. 227
  2. ^ Ngô 1993, p. 215
  3. ^ Ngô 1993, p. 224
  4. ^ Ngô 1993, p. 225
  5. ^ a b c d e f Chapuis 1995, p. 88
  6. ^ a b Trần 1971, p. 67
  7. ^ Ngô 1993, pp. 236–237
  8. ^ Ngô 1993, p. 229
  9. ^ Maspero, G., 2002, The Champa Kingdom, Bangkok: White Lotus Co., Ltd., ISBN 9747534991
  10. ^ Ngô 1993, p. 237
  11. ^ Trần 1971, pp. 67–68
  12. ^ Ngô 1993, p. 244
  13. ^ Chapuis 1995, p. 89
  14. ^ Trần 1971, p. 69
Trần Minh Tông
Born: 1300 Died: 1357
Regnal titles
Preceded by Emperor of Trần dynasty
Succeeded by
Preceded by Retired Emperor of Trần dynasty
Succeeded by