Le Loi Establishes Later Le Dynasty Summary

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Le Loi’s victory over Chinese occupiers demonstrated both the superiority of guerrilla and psychological warfare and the Vietnamese people’s determination to resist foreign rule.

Summary of Event

Taking advantage of Ho Qui Ly’s usurpation of the Tran throne in 1400, which caused popular resentment among the Vietnamese people, Yonglo Yonglo sent his armies southward to conquer Vietnam. After removing the last king of the Ho Dynasty Ho Dynasty (1400-1407) from power and destroying all the pocket resistance by Tran Dynasty Tran Dynasty (1225-1400) loyalists, he set up Chinese rule over Vietnam in 1414. Though Vietnam in the past had been made a Chinese province, this occupation was particularly cruel. Chinese rulers pursued a systematic policy meant to destroy Vietnam’s identity: Its people were forced to adopt Chinese customs and to scour the jungle and the sea for treasures. Books and all valuable items were confiscated and taken to China, along with the colony’s skilled artisans and top-notch professionals. [kw]Le Loi Establishes Later Le Dynasty (1428) [kw]Le Dynasty, Le Loi Establishes Later (1428) Later Le Dynasty Le Loi Vietnam China;1428: Le Loi Establishes Later Le Dynasty[3150] Southeast Asia;1428: Le Loi Establishes Later Le Dynasty[3150] Government and politics;1428: Le Loi Establishes Later Le Dynasty[3150] Wars, uprisings, and civil unrest;1428: Le Loi Establishes Later Le Dynasty[3150] Le Loi Nguyen Trai Yonglo

A landlord and farmer, Le Loi used his wealth and popularity to organize an armed resistance to the Chinese occupation, officially declared in 1417. Though he was able to rally many Vietnamese to his cause, his early military campaigns were not always successful. In one desperate battle, Le Loi’s life was saved by one of his generals, who disguised himself as his commander in chief. The Chinese captured the general, whom they mistook for Le Loi, and unknowingly let their enemy escape.

By as early as 1425, using alternately guerrilla and large-scale operations, Le Loi had scored victory after victory over the Chinese. To bring the war to a quick end, he successfully employed psychological warfare, a sophisticated strategy developed by his close adviser and principal strategist Nguyen Trai Nguyen Trai . For example, to create in the minds of the people and the troops a superstitious belief in Le Loi as Heaven’s choice to lead the resistance, Nguyen Trai had the saying “Le Loi Shall Be King” engraved on rocks and old trees. The powerful occupying force was reduced to a few, isolated garrisons and lost the will to fight when Le Loi’s troops ambushed and destroyed periodic reinforcements. The most decisive battle took place in 1427 at Chi Lang Pass Chi Lang Pass, Battle of (1427) near the Chinese border, where elite units of the newest reinforcement suffered heavy losses, and their commander Liou Cheng was killed. Vietnam was totally liberated, and Le Loi proclaimed himself emperor in 1428.

The first thing Le Loi did after the country became independent was seek reconciliation with China. It had become a rule that for Vietnam to live in peace, its king must have China’s recognition. Le Loi scored another diplomatic victory, except he was required to submit tri-annually two effigies in pure gold—probably a compensation for the killing of China’s two generals during the war—as part of a vassal’s tribute to his Chinese sovereign. China;Vietnam and

After a long period of Chinese rule and protracted war, Vietnam was literally asunder. Le Loi began to launch reforms as soon as he assumed power. Most of his reforms were important and necessary, but they were by and large extreme and severe.

Reforms were from the top down to the grassroots level.To train qualified administrators, Le Loi founded Quoc tu Giam Quoc tu Giam (institute for the education of the children of the nation), which enrolled high officials’s children as well as gifted students from the populace. Education;Vietnam An annual special exam was required for all government officials of lower ranks, forcing them to keep their administrative skills updated. At the local level, schools were open to all students, regardless of their family status and origin. Even Buddhist and Daoist monks were required to pass a qualifying exam to be licensed to practice their faith.

To protect social order and morality, which had eroded because of the wars, severe penalties ranging from caning to severing fingers and toes were meted out for minor violations such as creating a public disturbance, gambling, petty theft, and vagrancy.

Military reforms were implemented with the agricultural nature of the country in mind. Because Vietnam was in peacetime, Le Loi reduced his 250,000-man-strong army to 100,000 troops. Only one-third of the number remained as the standing army, the rest returned to their villages to do agricultural work.

Le Loi’s most important reforms were in matters of land redistribution and private property. Because public land was occupied by profiteers during the war, veterans had no means of living when they returned to their villages. To remedy the situation, Le Loi confiscated the illegally owned land and redistributed it to those who had participated in the resistance, including retired high officials, able-bodied war veterans, orphans, widows, the invalids, and the elderly.


According to Sunzi in Sunzi Bingfa (c. 5th-3d century b.c.e.; The Art of War, 1910), to be successful in a conquest, a king must see to it that he meets these three requirements: First, he must have Heaven’s consent; second, he must engage the enemy at a propitious location; and third, he must have the local people’s support. Le Loi’s conduct of the resistance to Chinese rule shows that he exceeded these three demands.

By “Heaven’s consent,” Sunzi meant the right time for action. According to the Daoist concept of timeliness, a response not thought through to a premeditated provocation brings harm only to the self as one does not know what the enemy will do next. Daoism therefore calls for vigilance and careful planning in order to guarantee sure success for the eventual retaliation. Le Loi brilliantly applied Sunzi’s teaching in all phases of his struggle against the Chinese. First, in the early stages of war, he used guerrilla tactics to harass rather than confront the enemy. Large-scale attacks were launched only when his force was strong enough and when the enemy was exhausted. Second, Le Loi engaged the enemy where he wanted by having a small contingent harass them and flee, thus luring them into ambushes that destroyed them. Finally, Le Loi’s greatest asset was his people’s unconditional support for his cause. The period of Chinese rule was too long and too brutal for the Vietnamese to bear. They now turned to Le Loi as their savior who they believed could take them out of what they perceived as slavery.

Another human factor contributed not only to Le Loi’s smashing military victory but also to the king’s prestige and Vietnam’s dignity vis-à-vis China after the war. In all phases of the resistance, it was Nguyen Trai who developed proper strategies to win the war. One of his favorite tactics to avoid unnecessary bloodshed was to persuade the embattled enemy to surrender. Nguyen Trai’s arguments were so convincing that numerous commanders of the Chinese army turned over their bastions to Le Loi’s troops. Nguyen Trai’s literary genius was shown in his masterpiece Binh ngo dai cao (1428; proclamation on the pacification of the Wu), in which he justified the victorious uprising against the Chinese by Le Loi as well as the legitimacy of his kingship and the dignity of being the free citizens of Vietnam. On the diplomatic front, Nguyen Trai also helped Le Loi win an important victory when the Chinese emperor, convinced by Nguyen Trai’s rhetorical skills, agreed to appoint Le Loi king of Vietnam.

Le Loi’s social reforms were far more radical and progressive than those carried out by kings of previous and later dynasties. Vietnam’s modern private property system, for example, was derived from Le Loi’s so-called quan dien (public land) system described above. The Later Le Dynasty (1428-1789) marked the first long period of national independence from imperial China.

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Buttinger, Joseph. The Smaller Dragon. New York: Frederick A. Praeger, 1958. Provides an account of Vietnam’s struggle for independence from foreign rule since the tenth century. Argues that dynastic strength stemmed from political, agricultural, military, and educational reforms.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Huynh, Sanh Thong, ed. and trans. An Anthology of Vietnamese Poems From the Eleventh to Twentieth Centuries. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1966. Includes selected poems by Nguyen Trai that describe his concept of living after his retirement from Le Loi’s imperial court.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Kenny, Henry J. Shadow of the Dragon: Vietnam’s Continuing Struggle with China and the Implications for U.S. Foreign Policy. Washington, D.C.: Brassey’, 2002. Argues that American policy to Vietnam should be considered in light of the country’s past and modern-day disputes with its giant neighbor.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Whitfield, Danny J. Historical and Cultural Dictionary of Vietnam. Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow Press, 1976. Contains references to Vietnam’s history and culture. The Le Loi section discusses the king’s victory campaigns against the Ming army and his major reforms after the war.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Woods, Shelton L. Vietnam: A Global Studies Handbook. Santa Barbara, Calif.: ABC-CLIO, 2002. Provides an overview of Vietnam’s history, geography, culture, and customs.

Categories: History Content