Ngô Quyền and the Struggle for Independence
10th Century (897-944)General Ngô Quyền was the man to successfully end the Chinese occupation of Vietnam once and for all. This monumental victory took place at the River of Bạch Đằng in 938A.D., where thousands of Chinese soldiers lost their lives while many others fled.
With the destruction of the Tang Dynasty in China and numerous uprisings among the Vietnamese population, the region of southern China known as Annam (Vietnam) was beginning to break away from the stranglehold of the Chinese Empire. After being dominated by the northern invaders for more than 1000 years, the people of Vietnam were ready for one final struggle against the Southern Han.
The Life of Ngô Quyền
Before he accepted the leadership role in the fight for independence, Ngô Quyền was still a government official of the Red River Valley. He served under Dương Đình Nghệ, a Vietnamese administrator who would prove to be one of the most important people in Quyền’s life. As Ngô Quyền’s mentor, Dương Đình Nghệ saw the potential of his talented protege. In the year 931A.D., he promoted Ngô Quyền to the rank of General, gave him the power to preside over Ái Châu province, and his daughter’s hand in marriage.
As he rose through the ranks of the military with the support his wife and the blessing of his great mentor, the future was bright for General Quyền. Sadly, in 938A.D., his mentor and father-in-law was murdered by a rival rebel leader by the name of Kiều Công Tiễn. Though he was hurt by this tragedy, Ngô Quyền was still prepared to take the leadership position and avenge the man who guided him.
His first order of business as the successor to Dương Đình Nghệ was to capture his teacher’s killer. In the same year of succeeding Dương’s post, General Ngô Quyền defeated the forces of Kiều Công Tiễn, ending with the execution of the man himself. With his mission successful, Ngô Quyền was now ready to face the Southern Han, who were now preparing to launch an attack on the people of Vietnam and crush the rebellion.
The Battle at Bạch Đằng Bay
Before Ngô Quyền’s rise, his mentor Dương Đình Nghệ had been controlling Vietnam semi-autonomously, though technically still under the control of the Southern Han. The news of Nghệ’s death came as an opportunity for the Chinese to recapture the southern region. Ngô Quyền had already anticipated their invasion, so he decided to plant a trap for the Han army.
The Chinese planned to launch their attack from the River of Bạch Đằng, a vulnerable location where the most damage can be made. Having foreseen this strategy beforehand, General Ngô Quyền had his soldiers install a myriad of large, sharp poles into the river, concealed by the waves and currents.
On the day of the battle, the Chinese engaged the Vietnamese forces, unaware of the traps that lay ahead. Under General Quyền’s orders, the Vietnamese forces feigned defeat, luring the unsuspecting enemy into the ingeniously hidden ambush. The overconfident forces of the Southern Han pursued the retreating ships, still oblivious to Ngô Quyền’s plan. At the perfect moment, the wooden traps emerged from beneath the waves, capturing the warships of the Southern Han.
The time was right for General Ngô Quyền to deliver the finishing blow. On his command, General Ngô Quyền’s forces unloaded everything they had on the Chinese ships, obliterating the forces of the Southern Han. Thousands of Chinese soldiers met their end at Bach Bạch Đằng, including the commander, Liu Hung-tsao.
This momentous victory over the Chinese came to be known as the Battle of Bạch Đằng of 938. After 1000 years of Chinese occupation, an independent Vietnam was finally born again. As the man who made history, Ngô Quyền proclaimed himself the new king of Nam-Việt, carrying on the ancient traditions of the people of Lạc Việt. From then on, the people of Vietnam would always defend their nation. Future Chinese dynasties would try to invade, but never again will the invaders succeed.