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The Tran Dynasty

Under the Tran dynasty, the Mongolian troops attacked the Vietnamese three

times, in 1257, 1284-85, and 1287-88 when Gen. Tra^`n-Hu+ng--Da.o (alias

Tran Quoc Tuan) finally "tore them to shreds" on`ng River.

The following four postings containing the descriptions of these memorable

encounters are excerpted from a book titled "A Short History of Viet-Nam"

by Nguye^~n-Va(n-Tha'i and Nguye^~n-Va(n-Mu+`ng, published in 1958. (The

name An-Nam was changed to -Da.i-Vie^.t per an earlier correction.) As always,

all typos are mine, and added details or corrections are welcome and truly



The Mongols under Genghis Khan and Konbilai had, by the middle of the

thirteenth century, conquered China from the To^'ng, and the dynasty they

founded ruled over China under the name of Nguye^n [Nguye^n, not Nguye^~n].

In 1257, Emperor Ngo^.t-Lu+o+ng Ho+.p-Tha'i (Wouleangotai) sent an envoy to

King Tra^`n-Tha'i-To^ng to instruct him to submit to China.

Not only did King Tra^`n-Tha'i-To^ng refuse, but he imprisoned the Mongol

envoy. He then sent General Tra^`n-Quo^'c-Tua^'n to protect the northern


Ngo^.t-Lu+o+ng Ho+.p-Tha'i pushed his troops, then stationed in Va^n-Nam

Province (now Yunnan, China), in the direction of the -Da.i-Vie^.t Kingdom,

passing by the way of the Thao River (now Red River), Hu+ng-Ho'a Province,

expecting to besiege Tha(ng-Long (now Hanoi).

Outnumbered, Tra^`n-Quo^'c-Tua^'n's troops retreated to what is now So+n-

Ta^y Province. King Tra^`n-Tha'i-To^ng himself went to the battlefield, but

finally had to retreat toward the Red River. Continuing their victory march,

the Mongols pushed the Tra^`n forces back to -Do^ng Bo^. -Da^`u, east of the

Red River, forcing Tra^`n-Tha'i-To^ng to leave the capital and set up his

headquarters at Thie^n-Ma.c River in Hu+ng-Ye^n Province. The Mongols entered

Tha(ng-Long to rescue their envoys, one of whom had died. Ngo^.t-Lu+o+ng

Ho+.p-Tha'i, in retaliation, then gave the signal for a general slaughter.

King Tra^`n-Tha'i-To^ng is said to have been very discouraged by this defeat

and to have been reassured by the well remembered words of Tra^`n-Thu?--Do^.

(his advisor):

"As long as my head has not fallen, I ask Your Majesty not to worry."

Some time later Tra^`n-Tha'i-To^ng launched an attack at -Do^ng Bo^. -Da^`u

and defeated the Mongols who were by then wearied by their long stay in a

foreign climate. They retreated to Qui-Ho`a from where, once more beaten by

the combined regular and guerilla forces, they retreated to Va^n-Nam. They

were so tired they did not even plunder on the return trip, thus earning the

appellation of "Buddhist Warriors" (the word Buddhist is often used, humor-

ously, to indicate a soft, gentle character).

Wisely enough, Tra^`n-Tha'i-To^ng agreed to pay a triennial tribute to the

Nguye^n dynasty.

They attempted to annoy the Tra^`n King on every possible occasion, sending

envoys to him from time to time to make bothersome requests. The first Tra^`n

King had procrastinated; though he had agreed to pay triennial tribute, he

never went to China to pay tribute to the Nguye^n. Now with Tra^`n-Tha'i-

To^ng's abdication in favor of Tra^`n-Tha'nh-To^ng, the Mongol Emperor sent

an envoy to give his official recognition, asking in return a triennial tri-

bute from -Da.i-Vie^.t. As tribute, -Da.i-Vie^.t was to supply scholars,

doctors, geomancists, astrologers, and skilled workers on the one hand, and

gifts of rhinoceros horns, elephant tusks, tortoise shell, jewels, and other

precious things on the other.

Attempting to acquire a good knowledge of -Da.i-Vie^.t's resources, the

Nguye^n also assigned an official, called the Chu+o+?ng-A^'n, for supervision

on the provincial level. Apparently submitting himself to the Nguye^n, Tra^`n

Tha'nh-To^ng actually prepared to defend himself against attack by them. He

raised new recruits from among the youths of the lo^., and divided the armed

forces into qua^n and -do^ (one qua^n included thirty -do^; one -do^ had

eighty men). They were subjected to intensive and rigorous training.

In 1266, Tra^`n-Tha'nh-To^ng sent envoys to China to repay a previous visit

of a Nguye^n envoy, and he asked at this time for the abolition of the recog-

nition agreement clauses providing for the supply of scholars, skilled work-

ers...The Nguye^n agreed to his proposition, but only in exchange for six new


1. The King must pay a personal visit to the Chinese Court.

2. He must send his children or brothers as hostages.

3. He must call for a census of the population.

4. The -Da.i-Vie^.t people must be subject to Chinese military service.

5. The -Da.i-Vie^.t people must pay taxes to China.

6. The Chinese supervisors were to be maintained.

The -Da.i-Vie^.t king did not give a categorical reply, but played for time.

In 1271, Nguye^n Emperor Ho^'t-Ta^'t-Lie^.t sent for Tra^`n-Tha'nh-To^ng to

fulfill the first of the six requirements; but the Tra^`n King refused to

come, saying he was too ill to travel.

The following year, a Nguye^n mission came to -Da.i-Vie^.t with the specific

mission of finding the bronze pillar which had been erected by Ma~-Vie^.n in

the first century. Tha'nh-To^ng told them it would be impossible to find the

pillar since it had been erected so long before, and they returned without

seeing it.

In 1275, a -Da.i-Vie^.t envoy went to China and bluntly told the Nguye^n

authorities that the -Da.i-Vie^.t Kingdom was not a primitive one, that

Chinese supervision was no longer needed, and that consequently the office of

Chu+o+?ng-A^'n should be abolished. But the Nguye^n Emperor did not agree and

stuck to his six clauses to which Tra^`n-Tha'nh-To^ng would not agree. War

no longer seemed avoidable by the time Tra^`n-Tha'nh-To^ng abdicated in favor

of heir apparent Kha^m in 1278 and went to Thie^n Tru+o+`ng when he continued

to participate in the management of national affairs as Tha'

Hoa`ng (Which is an honorary title, often taken by kings when they abdicated

in favor of the heir apparent. Sometimes they did not exercise power in this

position, but they could, and sometimes did, continue to exercise much power)


Learning Tra^`n-Tha'i-To^ng had died and that Tha'nh-To^ng had abdicated,

the Nguye^n Emperor sent his Minister of Rites Sa`i-Thung on a mission to


Though previous missions had gone through Va^n-Nam, Thung set out from

Giang-Lang (now Ho^`-Ba('c Province in China) through Ung-Cha^u (now

Qua?ng-Ta^y Province in China).

Sa`i-Thung stayed only a short time in -Da.i-Vie^.t. But with him extortion

and corruption were the order of the day, and when he left for home, he left

an angry people. Tra^`n-Nha^n-To^ng did not accompany him, saying that it

was impossible for him to go because he was sure he could not bear the

foreign climate.

In 1282, the Nguye^n Emperor sent word that if the King could not come in

person, he must send jewels, scholars, fortune tellers, and skilled workers

in his stead.

A group made up of Tra^`n-Di-A'i (an uncle of the King), Le^-Tua^'n, and

Le^-Mu.c were chosen for the mission. The Nguye^n Emperor was not satisfied

with this substitution and replied with a decree for the establishment of

offices called Tuye^n-Phu?-Ti, to be held by Chinese and charged with the

supervision of the districts and provinces of -Da.i-Vie^.t. No sooner had

the new officials come to -Da.i-Vie^.t than Tra^`n-Nha^n-To^ng chased them

back to China, thus drawing to himself the Nguye^n's thunderbolts.

The Nguye^n Emperor blew up with anger: he appointed Tra^`n-Di-A'i as An

Nam Quo^'c-Vu+o+ng (King of An-Nam), appointed Le^-Mu.c as Academian and

Le^-Tua^'n as^.nh (Commander), and sent the three officials

back to -Da.i-Vie^.t a second time, with a 1,000-man escort headed by

Minister of Rites Sa`i-Thung.

Warned of their nearing the Nam-Quan Gate, Tra^`n-Nha^n-To^ng sent a contin-

gent of troops to meet them. In the battle which followed, Sa`i-Thung re-

ceived an arrow in the eye and fled back to China, and Tra^`n-Di-A'i and

his group were taken prisoners and demoted to the rank of private.


Now the Nguye^n Emperor set about on a serious conquest of -Da.i-Vie^.t.

His pretext was to borrow the -Da.i-Vie^.t territory for the passage of an

expeditionary corps to be dispatched against Chie^m-Tha`nh. His son, Gen.

Thoa't-Hoan, was to lead this "expeditionary corps" of 500,000 men and was

to be assisted by the other great generals Toa--Do^ and O^-Ma~-Nhi.

The news of their coming reached the King Tra^`n-Nha^n-To^ng from

So+n. He called a conference at the meeting of the -Duo^'ng and Tha'i-Bi`nh

Rivers in Ba('c-Ninh Province. The advice he received was not unanimous;

some of his officials were in favor of resistance, others wanted to play for

time. But Tra^`n-Quo^'v-Tua^'n, who was to become the great Tra^`n-Hu+ng-

-Da.o, and Tra^`n-Kha'nh-Du+ were categorical: resistance, they said, was


In the tenth month of the Year of the Goat (1283) Tra^`n-Quo^'c-Tua^'n was

appointed Commander-in-Chief of an army of about 200,000 men. He proclaimed

an order of the day exhorting his men to fight and deployed his troops to

the most strategically important locations. Tra^`n-Bi` was station-

ed at Bi`nh-Than; Tra^`n-Kha'nh-Du+ was to defend the Va^n--Do^`n area (now

Qua?ng-Ye^n Province); and Tra^`n-Quo^'c-Tua^'n, leading the bulk of the

army, went to Va.n-Kie^'p (now Kie^'p-Ba.c Village in Ha?i-Du+o+ng Province)

from where he was to be ready to rescue any imperiled troops.

Some time passed between the Nguye^n Emperor's rejection of the Tra^`n offer

to renew negotiations and the beginning of the actual fighting.

When Tra^`n-Nha^n-To^ng learned that Thoa't-Hoan had received orders to push

his troops across the frontiers from Ho^`-Qua?ng Province, he called another

conference at Die^n-Ho^`ng Palace, attended by the aged notables of the

nation. The decision to resist was unanimous. Strengthened by this popular

support, Tra^`n-Nha^n-To^ng decided to resist to the last man.

The Nguye^n divided into two forces; the one, 10,000 men led by Gen. Toa-

-Do^, took to the sea and headed for Chie^m-Tha`nh; the other, the bulk of

the Expeditionary Corps led by Thoa't-Hoan, headed for Nam-Quan Gate. There

they stopped and Thoa't-Hoan sent a message to Tra^`n-Nha^n-To^ng telling of

his intention to borrow the -Da.i-Vie^.t territory for the passage of his

troops against Chie^m-Tha`nh.

"From our country to that of the Chie^m-Tha`nh," Tra^`n-Nha^n-To^ng replied,

"there is no convenient communication, whether by land or by sea."

In a fit of anger, Thoa't-Hoan launched his troops to occupy the

area. He sent another message by A-Ly saying:

"You should have no fear, because our only intent is to borrow your

territory for our troops fighting against the Chie^m-Tha`nh. So you

had better open the gate for my troops, and whenever they arrive,

supply them with food. You will be lavishly rewarded after the Chie^m-

Tha`nh have been destroyed. But if you resist my troops, I will not

pardon you but will ravage your country, and there will be no time for


Hu+ng--Da.o-Vu+o+ng (his royal title since he was king Tha'nh-To^ng's bro-

ther) Tra^`n-Quo^'c-Tua^'n, alias Tra^`n-Hu+ng--Da.o, sent A-Ly back, and

deployed his troops. Committing the defense of Kha?-Li and Lo^.c-Cha^u Gates

in Province to his men, he attempted to defend Ki`-Ca'p Mountain.

His fleet was deployed in the Ba?i-Ta^n area (Lu.c-Nam river) to defend the

sea front.


Battle of Ki`-Ca^'p Mountain and the Gates:


Thoa't-Hoan launched attacks simultaneously against Ki`-Ca^'p Mountain and

Kha?-Li and Lo^.c-Cha^u Gates. The outcome was indecisive at Ki`-Ca^'p, but

after the fall of Kha?-Li and Lo^.c-Cha^u, the -Da.i-Vie^.t troops were

forced to retreat to Chi-La(ng Gate (a strategic location of great import-

ance), also in So+n Province. From there Tra^`n-Hu+ng--Da.o was forced

to retreat further south, first to Ba'i-Ta^n, and then to Va.n-Kie^'p where

other defeated troops joined him.

The situation seemed very critical. Tra^`n-Nha^n-To^ng took a small boat to

Ha?i-Du+o+ng and convoked Tra^`n-Hu+ng--Da.o. There the King made known his

intention of surrendering to the invaders, for he could not bear the sight

of his suffering people.

"If Your Majesty wishes to surrender, please first cut off my head,"

was Tra^`n-Hu+ng--Da.o's brave reply which brought confidence back to the


Tra^`n-Hu+ng--Da.o then attempted a rebuilding of the morale of the troops.

He had some time before compiled a book on tactics and strategy which he now

used for their training. He sent out a proclamation which has become famous

not only for its content, but to an equal degree for its style and the great

-ness of the ideas expressed. Incited by the proclamation, the -Da.i-Vie^.t

troops plunged into intensive training, with the words Sa't--Da't, meaning

"Kill the Mongols", tattooed on their arms.

The First Battle of Va.n-Kie^'p


After taking the gates, Thoa't-Hoan followed his victories there, winning

another battle at Va.n-Kie^'p. This battle was disastrous for the -Da.i-

Vie^.t forces. All their boats were sunk, and prisoners found with Sa't-Da't

tattooed on their arms were invariably killed.

Thoa't-Hoan released his troops to plunder the areas of Vo~-Ninh, Gia-La^m

and -Do^`ng-Nam, then pushed toward -Do^ng Bo^. -Da^`u, camping on the north

bank of the Red River, while Tra^`n-Hu+ng--Da.o camped on the south bank,

building up fortifications. These, however, were destroyed by Thoa't-Hoan's

men who used floating bridges to cross the river, camping right at the foot

of Tha(ng-Long's Citadel. This turned out to be a tactical error, however,

for by the time Thoa't-Hoan finally besieged and took the Citadel, Tra^`n-

Hu+ng--Da.o had already taken the Tha'`ng and the King to a

safe place.

Thoa't-Hoan then launched his troops in pursuit of the escapees.

Movements of the Chinese Fleet


Meanwhile, Gen. Toa--Do^, who had landed on Chie^m-Tha`nh territory, proved

unable to occupy it, the most strategically important areas remaining in the

hands of Chie^m-Tha`nh. Toa--Do^ was then instructed to go north toward

Nghe^.-An by road and to join with Thoa't-Hoan's forces in a combined attack

on -Da.i-Vie^.t. Thoa't-Hoan sent Gen. O^-Ma~-Nhi with a fleet to reinforce

Toa--Do^ for his trip to the north.

As for the northern front, Nguye^n battleships were deployed to guard vari-

ous landing spots along the Red River from Tha(ng-Long to its -Da.i-Hoa`ng

tributary in what is now Ha`-Nam Province.

Leaving the capital on arrival of Thoa't-Hoan, King Tra^`n-Nha^n-To^ng and

Tra^`n-Hu+ng--Da.o headed for Thie^n-Tru+o+`ng where they learned of Toa-

-Do^'s coming up from the South. Tra^`n-Hu+ng--Da.o assigned Tra^`n-Quang-

Kha?i to the defense of Nghe^.-An to check the advance of Toa--Do^, while

trusting Tra^`n-Bi` with the defense of Thie^n-Tru+o+`ng, and him-

self escorted the royal suite to Ha?i-Du+o+ng, to Qua?ng-Ye^n, and finally

to Thanh-Ho'a.

Tra^`n-Quang-Kha?i, defending Nghe^.-An, was unable to check the combined

land and sea attack by Toa--Do^ and O^-Ma~-Nhi, and retreated further north.

Toa--Do^ took Nghe^.-An after the surrender of its Governor Tra^`n-Kie^.n,

who was later killed in an ambush by -Da.i-Vie^.t forces while on his way

to safety in China. His body was carried away by one of his men Le^-Ta('c

and buried at O^n-Kha^u Hill, Province. Le^-Ta('c then fled to

China, where he wrote his An-Nam Chi?-Lu+o+.c (Notes on An-Nam), copies of

which are said to be available in China and Japan.

Defending Thie^n-Tru+o+`ng, Tra^`n-Bi` launched an attack against

the Nguye^n when they reached -Da`-Ma.c in Hu+ng-Ye^n Province, but he was

cornered and taken prisoner. Knowing the value of Tra^`n-Bi` as a

warrior, Thoa't-Hoan tried to win him over to the Chinese side, but

is said to have shouted in his face:

"I would rather be a headless devil of the Southern Kingdom, than

a King of the northern territory."

He was beheaded.

It was at this stage of affairs that the royal group left Ha?i-Du+o+ng for

Qua?ng-Ye^n. As the boat which they took headed out for Tam-Chi~, an officer

was charged with diverting the enemy's attention by taking the Royal Boat

which was used for state occasions toward the mouth of the Ngo.c-So+n River,

also in Qua?ng-Ye^n Province. The Nguye^n officers Ly' and Khoan-

Trie^.t, being informed of this scheme by spies, pursued the fleeting group

as far as Tam-Chi~. But the royal group left the boat and walked to Thu?y-

Chu Village where they boarded another boat and headed in the direction of

Nam-Trie^`u River (now`ng River, Ha?i-Du+o+ng Province). They

crossed the -Da.i-Ba`ng at its mouth and made for Thanh-Ho'a Province.

The Nguye^n were apparently masters of the situation at this juncture.


Pushing his troops toward the north, Toa--Do^ defeated Tra^`n-Quang-Kha?i's

forces defending Nghe^.-An. But Tra^`n-Quang-Kha?i's men withdrew toward the

mountains and settled in strategic passes from which Toa--Do^ was unable

to expel them. Unwilling to continue such a long drawn-out siege, Toa--Do^

combined his forces with those of O^-Ma~-Nhi and took to the sea in the

direction of the north.

On receiving news of this move, Tra^`n-Hu+ng--Da.o decided that "In coming

up north, Toa--Do^'s army must have become tired by the difficult passage

across O^-Ly' (now Thua^.n-Ho'a), Hoan (now Nghe^.-An), and A'i (now Thanh-

Ho'a) and will be even more tired after a sea journey. If we attack them

now, we may score a success."

Battle of Ha`m-Tu+? Wharf


Tra^`n-Nha^n-To^ng agreed with Tra^`n-Hu+ng--Da.o's suggestion and sent

50,000 men to meet Toa--Do^ on the Ha?i-Du+o+ng front. Tra^`n-Nha^.t-Dua^.t

led this force, assisted by Tra^`n-Quo^'c-Toa?n and Nguye^~n-Khoa't. In

mid-1288, Tra^`n-Nha^.t-Dua^.t arrived at Ha`m-Tu+? Wharf, Hu+ng-Ye^n Pro-

vince, and clashed with Toa--Do^'s fleet. Previously the Tra^`n has secured

the services of some To^'ng officers who had asked for political asylum from

the Nguye^n when these defeated the To^'ng. These To^'ng officers now wore

To^'ng uniforms, which helped in routing Toa--Do^'s men who believed that

the To^'ng had come back to power in China. Toa--Do^ was forced to retreat

to Thie^n-tru+o+`ng.

Battle of Chu+o+ng-Du+o+ng Wharf


The Ha`m-Tu+? Battle gave the signal for a series of victories by -Da.i-

Vie^.t which led to the recapture of Tha(ng-Long and finally to the Mongol

Nguye^n being fought back to China.

Tra^`n-Quang-Kha?i now left the mountain passes in Nghe^.-An and volunteered

to fight Thoa't-Hoan who was encamped in Tha(ng-Long, with his fleet anchor-

ed at Chu+o+ng-Du+o+ng Wharf.

Together with Tra^`n-Quo^'c-Toa?n and Pha.m-Ngu~-La~o, Kha?i led a fleet and

engaged in battle with the enemy at Chu+o+ng-Du+o+ng Wharf. The morale of

the -Da.i-Vie^.t troops was so highand they fought so well that the Nguye^n

were defeated and fled. Kha?i's troops reached Tha(ng-Long and encamped near

it. Thoa't-Hoan threw his troops against Kha?i from inside the capital; but,

attacked from the rear, his troops disbanded and crossed the Red River to

defend the Ba('c-Ninh front.

Word of the second great victory in one month reached the King in Thanh-Ho'a

He took the Tha'`ng, set out for Tra`ng-An, Ninh-Bi`nh Pro-

vince, and stationed himself there.

Ta^y-Ke^'t Battle


Meanwhile, Toa--Do^ was not aware that Thoa't-Hoan had been defeated or that

he was now stationed in Ba('c-Ninh and Ba('c-Giang. He made for Thie^n-Ma.c

River with the intent of launching, with Thoa't-Hoan, a combined attack. A

few days later, learning of the actual situation, Toa--Do^ withdrew to Ta^y-

Ke^'t and sent out reconnaissance parties to find Thoa't-Hoan's encampments.

Tra^`n-Hu+ng--Da.o then decided on the following tactics: on the one hand,

he charged Tra^`n-Nha^.t-Dua^.t and Tra^`n-Quang-Kha?i with the mission of

impeding communications between Toa--Do^ and Thoa't-Hoan; on the other hand,

he decided to personally conduct the attack against Toa--Do^, and then

against Thoa't-Hoan.

Arriving at Ta^y-Ke^'t, Tra^`n-Hu+ng--Da.o deployed his troops for the

attack and laid plans for capturing Toa--Do^ alive. The attack, which took

place in 1285, was furiously launched and was irresistible. Toa--Do^ was

killed by an arrow and O^-Ma~-Nhi fled to Thanh-Ho'a with the -Da.i-Vie^.t

troops at his heels. He hid in a small boat, took to the sea, and finally

escaped to China. Tra^`n-Nha^n-To^ng on seeing the severed head of Toa--Do^,

is said to remark, "May the death of this man serves as an example of loyal-

ty for the public servants." And, covering Toa--Do^'s head with his own

dress, he ordered that a proper funeral be given him.

The Ta^y-Ke^'t battle was a severe blow to the strength of the enemy: Toa-

-Do^ killed 30,000 men taken prisoners, and innumerable warships and weapons


Nguye^n Defeat at Ba('c-Giang


Thoa't-Hoan was Tra^`n-Hu+ng--Da.o's next target. The morale of the Nguye^n

troops was by this time quite shaken by their long stay in an inhospitable

country, the troops thinned out by epidemic diseases. Morale sunk further

with the death of Toa--Do^ and the escape and fleeing of O^-Ma~-Nhi. In

these circumstances, Thoa't-Hoan contemplated withdrawing his troops.

But Tra^`n-Hu+ng--Da.o did not allow this. He cut all retreat routes by

sending Nguye^~n-Khoa'i and Pha.m-Ngu~-La~o at the head of 30,000 men to

waylay Thoa't-Hoan on either side of the Va.n-Kie^'p River's reedy banks;

his own sons Nghie^n and U'y led another 30,000 men deployed in Qua?ng-Ye^n,

defending the retreat route to Tu+-Minh. Then Tra^`n-Hu+ng--Da.o himself

conducted the direct attack against Thoa't-Hoan in Ba('c-Giang.

In the battle which followed, the Nguye^n were totally defeated. An arrow

killed Nguye^n Gen. Ly'-Ha(`ng in the first clash at Va.n-Kie^'p; and Thoa't

Hoan, Pha`n-Tie^'p, A-Ba't-Xi'ch, and Ly'-Qua'n desperately opened a bloody

way toward Tu+-Minh. It was reported that Thoa't-Hoan hid in a big tube

which was attached to a vehicle drawn at full speed by his soldiers. As they

neared Tu+`-Minh, the Nguye^n received another beating from Tra^`n-Hu+ng-

-Da.o's sons Nghie^?n and U'y. Thoa't-Hoan, A-Ba't-Xi'ch, and Pha`n-Tie^'p

finally escaped and found their way home.

Strutting into -Da.i-Vie^.t in December of 1284, the powerful and ill-famed

Mongols sneaked back with shame in June of 1285. Explanation for such a

great defeat of so powerful a horde by so little a country is found in the

characteristics prevailing in the country at that time: many able generals;

patriotism and unity among the people; and, perhaps, an inhospitable climate.


The Chinese troops routed back to China drew the anger of the Nguye^n

Emperor. He would have beheaded their leaders but for the fact that the

court officials strongly advised against such action.

He then postponed an expedition previously scheduled for Japan and prepared

another against -Da.i-Vie^.t. Powerful means were put to use: three hundred

new ships were built, soldiers were recruited in the three Provinces of

Giang-Hoa`i, Ho^`-Qua?ng, and Giang-Ta^y. The army was scheduled to leave in

August 1285, via the Provinces of Kha^m and Lie^m. But, strengthened with

new reinforcements which brought it up to 300,000 men, the army did not get

on the way until 1287, after a few months' rest on its native soil.

The Nguye^n's powerful new army, 300,000 men and five hundred warships,

began to move to the south in 1287. At the head of it was once again Thoa't-

Hoan, the defeated general now filled with the spirit of revenge. He was

assisted by O^-Ba't-Xi'ch, O^-Lo^.-Xi'ch, O^-Ma~-Nhi, and Pha`n-Tie^'p. In

January of that year, Thoa't-Hoan moved into the Chinese Province of Tu+-

Minh through Kha^m and Lie^m Provinces. He committed Tru+o+ng-Ngo.c, com-

mander of 2,000 troops, to the guard and transportation of food and ammuni-

tion supplies. Tri.nh-Ba(`ng-Phi and A'o-Lo^.-Xi'ch proceeded by land with

20,000 men and O^-Ma~-Nhi and Pha`n-Tie^'p took their troops by sea.


Word of the Nguye^n army's imminent arrival reached the capital and Tra^`n-

Hu+ng--Da.o sent Tra^`n-Nha^.t-Dua^.t and Nguye^~n-Khoa'i with 30,000 men

to defend the front, while Tra^`n-Quo^'c-Toa?n and Le^-Phu'-Tra^n

headed another 30,000 troops to defend the southern front in Nghe^.-An. The

bulk of the army was stationed at Phu'-So+n Mountain, four contingents of

the remaining troops being deployed to defend the three posts of Sa, Tu+`

and Tru'c to the south of the U-Minh area, and the final unit sent to con-

trol access to the mouth of the -Da.i-Tha^`n River.

The Battle of Va^n--Do^`n


Tra^`n-Hu+ng--Da.o retreated early to Tha(ng-Long from whence he ordered

that the King be moved on ahead to Thanh-Ho'a Province. King Tra^`n-Nha^n-

To^ng was pursued by O^-Ma~-Nhi; but, failing to capture him, O^-Ma~-Nhi

in his anger burned the royal tombs of the Tran family in Tha'i-Bi`nh Pro-


Thoa't-Hoan found it impossible to capture Tha(ng-Long which was defended

by Tra^`n-Hu+ng--Da.o and therefore withdrew his troops to Va.n-Kie^'p,

Chi-Linh and Pha?-Lai.

Tri.nh-Ba(`ng-Phi was able to take Va.n-Kie^'p where the -Da.i-Vie^.t troops

had withdrawn after the first disastrous encounters. But the long stay at

Va.n-Kie^'p exhausted the food supplies of the Nguye^n. Thoa't-Hoan then

sent O^-Ma~-Nhi to the mouth of the -Da.i-Bo^`ng River to meet the Chinese

fleet which was transporting food supplies from China under the command of

Tru+o+ng-Va(n-Ho^?. O^-Ma~-Nhi managed to contact Ho^? after inflicting

heavy defeat on Tra^`n-Kha'nh-Du+ who was guarding the Va^n--Do^`n island

outpost. But it was this victory which proved his defeat.

Taking great pride in his victory at Va^n--Do^`n, sure of himself, O^-Ma~-

Nhi led the way back while Tru+o+ng-Va(n-Ho^? followed at some distance to

the rear. On the return trip O^-Ma~-Nhi passed Va^n--Do^`n post without

incident, but Ho^?, coming up the Lu.c-Thu?y-Du+o+ng Lagoon, was attacked

by Tra^~n-Kha'nh-Du+. He fled in a small boat, leaving his fleet and suppl-

ies to the plundering of Du+'s men. The booty was enormous and prisoners

were captured in great number, only to be released later by Tra^`n-Hu+ng-

-Da.o who hoped, by so doing, to use them as bearers of bad tidings to their

own men.

After having waited vainly for supplies, O^-Ma~-Nhi sallied out from the

Va^n--Do^`n outpost, attacked An-Hu`ng's encampments (Qua?ng-Ye^n Province),

and withdrew to Va.n-Kie^'p.

The Battle of`ng


Tru+o+ng-Va(n-Ho^?'s defeat was only the preview of a bigger defeat to come.

Thoa't-Hoan sent messengers to China to appeal for reinforcements and suppl-

ies, and Tra^`n-Hu+ng--Da.o stationed troops in the area to cut

off all communications between China and -Da.i-Vie^.t.

The position of the -Da.i-Vie^.t troops continued to grow stronger; and,

realizing the precarious position of his army, Thoa't-Hoan decided to with-

draw all of his troops. O^-Ma~-Nhi and Pha`n-Tie^'p were to take the way of

the`ng River, whereas Tri.nh-Ba(`ng-Phi and Tru+o+ng-Qua^n were

to protect the rear of the land forces.

Now history repeated itself. As early as 938 Ngo^-Quye^`n has triumphed over

the Chinese on this same river and, more significant, with the same tech-

nique which was now used. Iron-pointed pikes were again hidden under the

water's surface at high tide to pierce the enemy's boats when the water

ebbed away, leaving them trapped.

Tra^`n-Hu+ng--Da.o himself led the attack. On receiving the report that O^-

Ma~-Nhi and his troops were drawing near the river, Tra^`n-Hu+ng--Da.o

pointed to Ho'a-Giang River, on the frontier between Kie^'n-An and Tha'i-

Bi`nh Provinces, and shouted to his men,

"If we do not destroy the Nguye^n in this battle, we will not return

to this river."

He sent Nguye^~n-Khoa'i to bait the Nguye^n into the river battle and dis-

patched Pha.m-Ngu~-La~o and Nguye^~n-Che^'-Nghia~ to to ambush

the retreating Chinese troops, so sure was he that the Nguye^n would be

defeated and would withdraw through the area.

The events took place exactly as Tra^`n-Hu+ng--Da.o had predicted. The

enemy's boats were pierced by the iron-pointed pikes and the Nguye^n lost

the battle at sea and on land.

Hearing of the destruction of his fleet, Thoa't-Hoan and his generals Tri.nh

Ba(`ng-Phi, A-Ba't-Xi'ch, A'o-Lo^-Xi'ch, Tru+o+ng-Qua^n and Tru+o+ng-Ngo.c

retreated to No^.i-Ba(`ng where they fell into the ambush prepared by Pha.m

Ngu~-La~o. Tru+o+ng-Qua^n, who was bringing up the rear, was beheaded by


What reamined of the Nguye^n army grew thinner and thinner as it progressed

toward China: A-Ba't-Xi'ch and Tru+o+ng-Ngo.c were killed in another ambush;

Tri.nh-Ba(`ng-Phi fled to U-Minh; A'o-Lo^.-Xi'ch and Thoa't-Hoan sneaked

back to Ye^n-King (now Peking or Bejing); and O^-Ma~-Nhi, Pha`n-Tie^'p,

Ti'ch-Le^., and Co+-Ngo.c were taken prisoners.

This Second Battle of`ng, which took place in 1288, smashed

China's reputation to the ground. And to celebrate the victory, Tra^`n-Nha^n

To^ng ordered three days of festivities which were called Tha'i-bi`nh Die^n-


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