Lê Chiêu Thống

Lê Chiêu Thống
Emperor of Vietnam

Chinese officials receiving the deposed emperor Lê Chiêu Thống
Reign 1786–1789
Predecessor Lê Hiển Tông
Successor Quang Trung of the Tây Sơn dynasty
Born 1765
Died 1793 (aged 2728)
Beijing, China
Burial Bàn Thạch village, Thanh Hóa, Vietnam
Full name
Lê Duy Khiêm
Lê Duy Kỳ
House Lê dynasty

Lê Chiêu Thống (1765–1793), born Lê Duy Khiêm and later Lê Duy Kỳ, was the last emperor of the Vietnamese Lê dynasty.

Early life

Lê Duy Khiêm was the eldest son of Lê Duy Vĩ who was the first crown prince of emperor Lê Hiển Tông.[1] After Khiêm's father was killed by the ninth Trịnh lord Trịnh Sâm in 1771, he was jailed.[1] In 1783, lord Trịnh Khải deposed crown prince Lê Duy Cận and made Lê Duy Khiêm crown prince of the Lê dynasty.[1]

Succession and reign

Lê Chiêu Thống
Vietnamese name
Vietnamese Lê Chiêu Thống

In 1786, the Tây Sơn general Nguyễn Huệ led his force to northern Vietnam and destroyed the house of the Trịnh lords.[2] The next year, 1787, the Lê king Lê Hiển Tông died of natural causes, and Nguyễn Huệ installed Lê Duy Khiêm on the throne as emperor Lê Chiêu Thống and then he withdrew almost all his troops to Phú Xuân.[1][2] Trịnh Lords members took advantage of Nguyễn Huệ's absence. Two Trinh heirs, Trịnh Bồng and Trịnh Lệ, appeared and made their claims to the lord throne. emperor Lê Chiêu Thống appointed Trinh Bong as the next Trịnh lord which triggered Trịnh Lệ to revolt.[3] After suppressing Trịnh Lệ forces, Trịnh Bồng became the most powerful man in north Vietnam but his leadership was bad.[3] The entirety of north Vietnam sank into chaos, thus forcing King Lê Chiêu Thống to ask for assistance from Nguyễn Hữu Chỉnh, Tây Sơn governor of Nghệ An.[3] Nguyen Huu Chinh led an army marched north, easily defeated Trinh army, forced Trinh Bong to flee and captured Thăng Long.[3] After pacifying the region, Nguyen Huu Chinh abused power for his own interests, thus impinging Nguyễn Huệ's political status.[2][4][5]

Birth name
Vietnamese alphabet Lê Duy Khiêm

After learning about actions of Nguyễn Hữu Chỉnh, Nguyễn Huệ sent north a general named Vũ Văn Nhậm with an army to attack Thăng Long (now Hanoi).[2] Vu Van Nham swiftly defeated and killed Nguyen Huu Chinh and occupied Thăng Long, but then he took the power himself. Nguyễn Huệ sent two other generals to suppress Vu Van Nham and recaptured Thăng Long.[2] Meanwhile, Lê Chiêu Thống fled to the furthest north of Vietnam and refused Nguyễn Huệ's invitations to return.[2] He gathered a small army of Lê dynasty loyalists and sent his family to China to seek aid from the Qianlong Emperor of the Qing Empire.[2][6] The Qianlong Emperor agreed and sent a massive army to north Vietnam. Under the banner of the Lê king, the large Qing army easily drove Tây Sơn out of north Vietnam and took over Thăng Long.[3] After the Qing occupation of northern Vietnam, the Qing viceroy Sun Shiyi[a] reinstalled Lê Chiêu Thống as a puppet ruler.[6] Although Lê Chiêu Thống did not have much ruling power, he began taking a bloody revenge on Tây Sơn supporters and forced people to supply him food in spite of war and famine.[3]

The actions of Lê Chiêu Thống and the Qing invasion gave Nguyễn Huệ a good chance to officially take the throne and gain popularity among northern Vietnamese people. On 22 December 1788, Nguyễn Huệ proclaimed himself emperor Quang Trung and formally declared that the Lê dynasty had ended. He then led an army march north.[6] Although the Tây Sơn army was smaller, they defeated the unprepared Qing troops in a series of battles during the 1789 Lunar New Year celebration and forced the rest of Qing army to flee in confusion.[7][8] Lê Chiêu Thống fled to China which marked the end of the Lê dynasty.[7]

Coins issued under the reign of Lê Chiêu Thống

Exile and death

After the war, Nguyễn Huệ sent a request of recognition to China and it was accepted with conditions.[9] The Qing Empire recognized Nguyễn Huệ as a new ruler of Vietnam and gave him the traditional title "An Nam Quốc Vương" (King of Pacified South).[9] From this point on, Lê Chiêu Thống did not manage to receive aid from the Qing Empire of China any more.[10] He spent the rest of his life in China, and died in 1793.[10]

In 1802, when envoys of the Nguyễn dynasty visited China, Lê dynasty loyalists requested that the Jiaqing Emperor let them bring Lê Chiêu Thống's remains back to Vietnam and the emperor agreed.[10] The Jiaqing Emperor also freed all the followers of Lê Chiêu Thống who were imprisoned in China.[10]

Lê Chiêu Thống's remains are buried in Bàn Thạch village, Thanh Hóa, Vietnam.[10] He was posthumously given the title Mẫn Đế (愍帝).


 a)^ Chinese: 孫士毅. Vietnamese: Tôn Sĩ Nghị.


  1. 1 2 3 4 Dang Viet Thuy & Dang Thanh Trung, p. 248.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Tucker, pp. 17-18.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Chapuis, p. 151.
  4. Trần Trọng Kim, pp. 356-357.
  5. Dutton, p. 104.
  6. 1 2 3 Dutton, pp. 106-107.
  7. 1 2 Ooi, p. 780.
  8. Dutton, p. 107.
  9. 1 2 Dutton, p. 108.
  10. 1 2 3 4 5 Trần Trọng Kim, pp. 372-373.


Preceded by
Lê Hiển Tông
Emperor of Đại Việt
Succeeded by
Quang Trung of the Tây Sơn dynasty
Lê dynasty abolished
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