Le So Dynasty (1428-1527)
Towards the end of the 14th century, a great crisis shook the
country. The Ming court, then reigning in
After achieving victory, Le Loi ordered the confiscation of all lands belonging to Ming functionaries, traitors and Tran princes and dignitaries who had died or left. State land was utilized in part by the administration itself and partly distributed to dignitaries and mandarins. In contrast to the Tran estate owners, the benefiting mandarins could only collect land rent, but not do as they pleased with the peasants themselves, who were subject to the direct authority of the state. Administrative centralization was thus promoted and the status of the peasants improved.
Le Loi in 1429 and then Le Thanh Tong in 1477, regulated and improved the distribution of communal rice fields based on the following principles:
- All were entitled to distribution according to respective title and rank;
- Distribution was to take place every six years;
- Rent was paid to the state and was generally lower than that demanded by the landlords.
The distribution of communal lands had been a practice since far back in time, but it was the first time that the monarchical state had intervened so directly in communal affairs. Given that the area covered by such lands was significant, the regulations resulted in increased production.
The kings Le paid great attention to the development of agricultural production. Lands left fallow during war time were quickly brought into cultivation, while the state set up state farms on uncultivated land so as to, in the words of King Le Thanh Tong, "concentrate our strength in agriculture and increase our potential". Individuals were also encouraged to cultivate virgin lands. New areas were thus cleared, both in the highlands and reclaimed coastal regions. Dykes were kept in good repair and in emergencies, students and soldiers were mobilized in order to repair them. Soldiers and palace staff were sent in turn to the fields to work. Harvests and cattle were given particular attention.
This policy greatly encouraged agricultural production, and no serious famines occurred during the 15th century.
still a subsidiary activity. However, they were widely
practiced, and many villages came to specialize in certain
occupations such as silk weaving, wine making, pottery or
porcelain making, lime burning, etc. Leather processing was
Royal workshops were run by a special royal department and produced items needed at court, not to be sold on the market. They also minted coins. The personnel comprised craftsmen forced into service and slaves. This did not favour the progress in handicrafts.
The development of trade was encouraged by the spread of regional markets. Le Loi abolished the paper currency issued by Ho Quy Ly, ordered the use of copper coins and had units of measurement (length, weight, volume, and area) and the sizes of certain goods (fabrics and paper) standardized. Foreign trade was strictly controlled by the state; transactions could be conducted only with government authorization and in specified places. Many foreign trading vessels were banned from entering port. This restriction on foreign trade remained one of the main characteristics of feudal monarchy.
Administrative, military and judicial organization
With the disappearance of large estates, administrative centralization reached its peak. The court was reorganized with six ministries; the posts of prime minister and general were abolished, these functions being taken over by the king himself. Provincial and regional administration was handled by the mandarin bureaucracy. Functionaries were appointed to head villages in numbers which varied according to population. The establishment of new villages and the election of notables became subject to detailed regulations. In 1467, Le Thanh Tong ordered maps of all villages and one of the whole country, the first ever to be drawn up. The country was divided into regions (dao), provinces, districts, and villages.
The army, 250,000 strong towards the end of the war of liberation, was reduced to 100,000 and divided into five sections which took turns doing military service and agricultural work. The peasant-soldier system inaugurated under the Ly was thus maintained. Besides conscripts there were also reservists.
The mandarin bureaucracy enjoyed special privileges - land, houses and special attire - but were no longer entitled to own large estates with serfs and have their own armed forces as in the time of the Tran. Members of the royal family enjoyed even more privileges, but not to the extent of being allowed to participate in the nation's leadership or administer important provinces, as had occurred under the Tran.
apparatus was streamlined to serve the centralized
administration and evolving society. In 1483, the Hong Duc
Code was promulgated, grouping the rules and regulations
already in forte in a systematic way; this was the most
complete code to be drawn up in traditional
The Hong Duc Code sought in particular to safeguard ownership of land by the state and landlords, and ensure the authority of the father, first wife, and eldest son. It also determined the rites of marriage and mourning. The "ten capital crimes" were severely punished, especially rebellion and neglect of filial duties. Feudal and Confucian in inspiration, the Hong Duc Code was, however, progressive in several respects. The rights of the woman were protected; she could have her own property and share equally with men in inheritance. Where there was no male offspring, daughters could inherit the whole family fortune. A wife could repudiate her husband if he had abandoned her for a certain time. All these points were to be suppressed in its most reactionary form. The Hong Duc Code was specific to the Vietnamese society of the time and showed no Chinese influence.
With the first
kings Le, Le Thanh Tong in particular, the feudal monarchy
Ethnic minority policy
During the insurrection against the Ming, ethnic minorities living in the highlands allied themselves with the Kinh to fight the occupiers. After liberation, the feudalists in the delta resumed their policy of exploitation and oppression vis-a-vis the minorities. The Le monarchy ruled over the highlands through tribal chieftains upon whom the monarchy bestowed mandarin titles. These chieftains collected taxes. Control over mountainous regions was tighter than under the Tran. The Kinh mandarins ruling over the uplands also sought to exploit the ethnic minorities.
provoked frequent revolts among the mountain dwelling
minorities, which was for centuries one of the weak points
of the feudal monarchy. The Thai of the northwest rose in
revolt in Lai Chau in 1432, in Son La in 1439 and in Thuan
Chau in 1440; the Tay of Lang Son, Cao Bang and Tuyen Quang
also did so on many occasions. In the western part of Nghe
An, the head of the
All these revolts were firmly suppressed by the Le troops. The secession advocated by the rebel chiefs also ran counter to historical trends of the deltas and highlands being complementary economically. But antagonism among ethnic groups was to disappear only with the advent of socialism.
Cultural development in the 15th-17th centuries
While the plastic arts and architecture made little progress compared with the Ly-Tran period, literature flourished. Buddhism was relegated to second place. Confucianism becoming the official ideology inspiring mandarin competitions and national literature.
Confucianism and the scholarConfucian works, as interpreted by Chu Hi (of the Sung period in