NGO QUYEN (938-944)

In a protracted war which ended with the celebrated battle of Bach Dang. General Ngo Quyen vanquished the Chinese invaders and founded the first National Dynasty. Ngo Quyen transfered the capital to Co Loa, the capital of Au Lac Kingdom, thus affirming the continuity of the traditions of the Lac Viet people. Ngo Quyen spent 6 years of his reign fighting the continual revolts of the feudal lords. At his death in 967, the kingdom fell into chaos and became known as the land of "Thap Nhi Su Quan", the 12 feudal principlities constantly fighting each other.

The First Battle at Bach-dang River (938)
Liu Kung, the Southern Han ruler, jumped at the chance to intervene in Viet Nam again after the death of Dinh Nghe. He had been foiled by Duong Dinh Nghe in 931, but now that Dinh Nghe was dead, he thought the time was ripe for another try. He placed his own son, Liu Hung-ts'ao, in command of the expedition, naming him "Peaceful Sea Military Governor" and "King of Giao." He hastily assembled an army at Sea Gate, where he personally took charge of the reserve force. He ordered Hung-ts'ao to embark the army and sail to Giao.

According to Vietnamese tradition, at birth Ngo Quyen was bathed in a strange luminosity and three black moles were discovered on his back. These were taken as signs of his future greatness, and, in anticipation of this, he was named Quyen, meaning "authority and power." He is said to have grown into an unusually fine-looking and stalwart young man with eyes like lightning and a measured step like that of a tiger. He was noted for his wisdom, bravery, and physical strengths.

Quyen became a general of Duong Dinh Nghe. In 931, when Dinh Nghe defeated Southern Han, Quyen was thirty-three years old. Dinh Nghe gave him one of his daughters in marriage and placed him in charge of Ai Province. Ai was Dinh Nghe's birthplace and base of power. His giving command of this region to Quyen is an indication of Quyen's quality as a subordinate. When Dinh Nghe was killed by Kieu Cong Tien in the spring of 937, Quyen mobilized an army and marched north to avenge the death of his patron. Once this was accomplished, he unavoidably became the leader of the Vietnamese battle against the Chinese.

Coc (wooden poles) used at Bach Dang Battle

By the time Liu Hung-ts'ao arrived in Vietnamese waters with the Southern Han expedition, Ngo Quyen had already put Kieu Cong Tien to death and was prepared to meet the Chinese assault. Hung-ts'ao's plan was to ascend the Bach-dang River and to place his army in the heart of Giao before disembarking; the Bach-dang was the major riverine route into the Hong River plain from the north.

Quyen anticipated this plan and brought his army to the mouth of the river. He had his men plant a barrier of large poles in the bed of the river. The tops of the poles reached just below the water level at high tide and were sharpened and tipped with iron. When Hung-ts'ao appeared off the mouth of the river, Quyen sent out small, shallow-draft boats at high tide to provoke a fight and then retreat upriver, drawing the Chinese fleet after in pursuit. As the tide fell, the heavy Chinese warboats were all caught on the poles and lay helplessly trapped in the middle of the river. Quyen attacked vigorously. More than half the Chinese were drowned, including Hung-ts'ao. When news of the battle reached Sea Gate with the survivors, Liu Kung wept openly. He collected what remained of his army and returned to Canton. Southern Han never attacked the Vietnamese again.



References: Lich su Viet Nam & The Birth of Viet Nam


Den Tho Ngo Quyen, North Viet Nam