Ming occupation and Lam Son insurrection
As early as JuIy 1407, the Ming emperor had incorporated Dai Viet into the Chinese empire under the title of Giao Chi Province, set up a central administration, and divided the country into phu and chau, trying to reach down to village level by 1419.
The high-ranking officials were all Chinese; only subaltern posts were given to "natives". A general census revealed that there were 3,129,500 inhabitants and 2,087,500 man (barbarians) from mountain-dwelling tribes, i.e. a total of more than 5.2 million. But many doubtless evaded the census. "Order" was maintained throughout the country by large military garrisons, joined by a tight network of relays. All opposition was harshly suppressed.
There was a very heavy system of taxation, which included land tax on rice fields and mulberry fields, and a poll-tax. The occupiers held a monopoly over the salt trade. All able-bodied people, aged 16 to 60, were subject to military service and multiple corvee: road-building, mining, pearl-oyster fishing, hunting, etc. In 1419, family records were made obligatory for control over the population.
Thousands of skilled craftsmen and intellectuals were taken to
The people were forced to adopt the Chinese style of dress and Chinese ways and customs. Ming troops sought to destroy all traces of the nation's culture, they burned oconfiscated books that were specifically Vietnamese. This was a true cultural disaster; almost all literary works from before the 15th century were destroyed.
Lam Son Insurrection and the war of independence
Le Loi, a land-owner from Lam Son in
At first Le Loi launched guerrilla operations in mountainous area of
Thanh Hoa. Although he inflicted losses to the Ming, he often found
himself in a critical, even desperate situation. However, his forces
held out thanks to the courage of the men, the resolve of the
leaders, and the dedication of the officers. Other popular uprisings
in various provinces helped loosen Ming pressure on Le Loi. In 1420,
his troops were able to camp on the banks of the Ma River and
threaten the capital of
On the advice of Nguyen Chich, Le Loi took his troops to Nghe An and turned it into a resistance base. The insurgents were enthusiastically welcomed by the local people. Fortified enemy positions fell one after another, and soon the whole province was in Le Loi's hands. Next came Thanh Hoa, then provinces south of Nghe An. By the end of 1425, the whole southern part of the country had been liberated, with the exception of the Nghe An and Tay Do (Thanh Hoa) citadels. A vast rear base had thus been created for the war of national liberation. In 1426, Le Loi was in a position to launch a counter-offensive.
The Ming sent 50,000 reinforcements from
In November, Vuong Thong's troops joined the Ming troops who had shut themselves up behind the walls of the capital, bringing their strength to 100,000. They thought they were now in a position to counter-attack, but instead they suffered a crushing defeat at Tot Dong (west of the capital) and again had to withdraw into the citadel. The Vietnamese troops had gained control of the area. Le Loi left Thanh Hoa and concentrated his forces round the capital. Vuong Thong proposed a truce. In a letter to the Ming general, Nguyen Trai said that the Vietnamese command would agree to a truce if Vuong Thong were to withdraw his troops from the country, thus "sparing our people the ravages of war and the Chinese troops the sufferings of battle".
But for Vuong Thong the truce was just a strategy to gain time and obtain more reinforcements. While maintaining the siege and eliminating isolated outposts, the Vietnamese Command, on Nguyen Trai's recommendation, conducted a campaign of political persuasion directed at the Ming troops, driving home to them the inevitability of defeat, the strength of the Vietnamese national movement and the vulnerability of the Ming Empire. This seriously demoralized them.
In October 1427, Ming reinforcements came in two columns: one was
100,000 strong and led by Lieu Thang through the Lang Son pass; the
other, 50,000 strong, was led by Moc Thanh via the
After the destruction of these reinforcement, Vuong Thong who was
besieged in the capital, was forced to sue for peace. His request
was granted by Le Loi, who gave the Ming troops the necessary food
supplies and means of transport to get home. It was
The war of independence led by Le Loi and Nguyen Trai had lasted ten
years. Starting with few resources, the movement had expanded,
gradually establishing powerful bases and forces, and eventually
destroying huge enemy armies. The command had combined guerrilla
warfare with mobile warfare and attacks on fortified position,
political struggle with military action, and had shown kindness
toward the enemy and avoided pointless massacres. Le Loi, from the
land-owning class rather than the landed aristocracy, and Nguyen
Trai, a Confucian scholar with an encyclopaedic knowledge, had
succeeded in bringing about national unity and inspiring patriotism.
As well, they had shown resolve and wisdom at critical and decisive
moments. The war was both national and popular in nature and
conducted with appropriate strategy and tactics. Never again would
the Ming try to reconquer Dai Viet. The following period of peace