Triệu Việt Vương

Triệu Việt Vương
Vietnamese name
Vietnamese Triệu Việt Vương

Triệu Việt Vương (?–[1]571), born Triệu Quang Phục, was a Vietnamese independence leader in the 6th century and the commanding general of Vạn Xuân (Việt), he best known for leading a resistance against the Liang Empire (Chinese) that tried to annex Vạn Xuân and a pioneer in waging guerrilla war tactics.[2]

Early life

Birth name
Vietnamese alphabet Triệu Quang Phục

Little is recorded about Triệu Việt Vương's (born Triệu Quang Phục) early life other than the fact that he is the son of Triệu Tục, a senior military leader under Lý Nam Đế.[3] His birth date was not recorded,[4] but the Việt Nam Su Luoc tells his birth year as 549;[1] however, this coincides with the fact that Triệu was appointed by Lý Nam Đế to lead an army in 548, a year before his supposed birth.

Rise to power

During the 530s, the then-Chinese province of Giao Chỉ (covering much of ancient Vietnam) was governed by Hsiao Tzu, a nephew of the Liang emperor. Hsiao Tzu's rule marked by corruption and cruelty.[5] Lý Bí (known posthumously as Lý Nam Đế), a Chinese descent military overseer of the Duc province, sought to remove Hsiao Tzu and secede Giao Chỉ from the Liang Empire. In late 540, Lý Bí recruited and rallied the support of local Việt imperial officials and military to support his cause for independence, among these supporters was Triệu Tục (Triệu Việt Vương's father), a military commander from a nearby province who was discontent with Hsiao Tzu's governing. Lý Bí's forces sacked the provincial capital Long Bien (Hanoi) within months in the spring of 541, and Hsiao Tzu managed to escape to Kuang Province, the Liang imperial capital.[5] The Liang Dynasty unsuccessfully sent another governor to Giao Chỉ afterwards. In 544, Lý Bí announced Giao Chỉ's secession from the Liang empire and proclaimed himself "The Emperor of Vạn Xuân" (10,000 Springs).[6]

After hearing news of the rebellion, Emperor Wu, the Liang Emperor, sent an army southward in attempt to crush the rebellion led by Lý Bí.[6] Lý Bí made use of tactical withdrawals against the Liang forces, and were defeated by Lý's army according to historical Chinese sources in the early stages. In 548, Lý Bí was killed by treacherous Laotian tribesmen while on retreat from the Hong River Plain.[7] Facing an inevitable defeat and dwindling military supplies, Triệu Tuc realized he could not endure the long campaign and therefore he appointed his trusted son Triệu Quang Phục in charge of the resistance military forces after Lý Bí's death. By this time, Triệu Quang Phục was in his ather's footsteps as a notable resistance leader in the Hong River Plain.

War for Viet independence

Recognizing the superior strength of the Liang army, Triệu Quang Phục often retreated to more favorable terrains, mainly in the swamps and marshlands areas and stationed his armed forces in the forests for tactical advantages, where he was able to employ guerrilla warfare and wage a war of attrition against the Liang army.[8] Triệu Quang Phục was the first general to understand and make extensive use of tactical guerrilla and attrition warfare methods as a means of decimating and slowly demoralizing the enemy . Triệu would rest his army during the day and attack the Liang army at night, seizing goods and killed many Chinese soldiers. Afterwards, he quickly retreated back to his stronghold before the Chinese could reassemble their army to counter-attack.[3]

After the assassination of Lý Nam Đế in 548, his elder brother, Lý Thiên Bảo, became the de facto ruler of Vạn Xuân. Lý Thiên Bảo died of an illness in 555 and left no heirs, this prompted the military and officials elected Triệu Quang Phục as leader and de facto ruler. However, his election to lead the war against the Liang was not undisputed as other prominent family members of Lý Nam Đế began to challenge Triệu Quang Phục leadership. The remaining Lý family members and Triệu Quang Phục alliance began to fall apart as both sides claim legitimacy. While Triệu Quang Phục claimed rightful succession garnered through court officials, military, and the general populous. On the other hand, Lý family members claimed rightful leadership must be upheld through traditional hereditary as they were still considered to be the ruling family in name.

As strong as the Chinese were, they could not make any headway against the type of warfare devised by the generalissimo Triệu Việt Vương. This indecisive period lasted until 557 when finally a respite came for the Vạn Xuân (northern Vietnamese) country. China at this time was under the civil war during the Southern and Northern Dynasties and the famous Chinese general Chen Pa H'sien's (Trần Bá Tiên) skills and troops were needed in his homeland to quell a revolt. The Vietnamese forces, however, had no time to rejoice at the news of this temporary respite.

Shortly after Lý Thiên Bảo died, a Lý family member, Lý Phật Tự (Lý Thiên Bảo's cousin) made claim to the emperial throne and challenged Triệu Quang Phục. Both sides vied against one another and civil war broke out for the throne with no decisive victory. Wary about engaging in internal fighting that would only frustrate the people, Triệu Việt Vương negotiated a truce and peace. From Long Biên northward would be under Lý Phật Tự's rule and the land south of Long Biên would belong to Triệu Việt Vương.

In 571, Lý Phật Tự broke the truce and attacked Triệu Quang Phục's domain. Since Triệu Quang Phục's domain was not prepared or imagined Lý Phật Tự would attack, therefore they were easily defeated. His capital was sacked and burned by Lý Phật Tự's forces, however he managed to escape. During his retreat, Triệu Quang Phục second guessed that his clemency for Lý Phật Tự was a mistake where he didn't not read Phật Tự's ambition and treachery, he then committed suicide. Triệu Quang Phục's remaining forces and territory surrendered and was incorporated into Lý Phật Tự's domains.[9]


  1. 1 2 Tran 62
  2. Kim Biên Vũ Triệu Việt Vương 2008 "Triệu Quang Phục, one of the best generals of king Lý Nam Đế, becomes king Triệu Việt Vương after king Lý passes away.
  3. 1 2 Taylor 151
  4. 1 2 Taylor 136
  5. 1 2 Woods 28
  6. Taylor 143
  7. Woods 29
  8. Anh Thư Hà, Hò̂ng Đức Trà̂n A brief chronology of Vietnam's history - Page 23 2000 "On April 13, 548, Triệu Quang Phục ascended the throne as Triệu Việt Vưong (another name: Dạ Trạch Vương). ... Triệu Việt Vương, Lý Phật Tự proclaimed himself King Lý Nam Đế II, with capital in Phong Châu (Bạch Hạc, Phú Thọ province) ..."


Preceded by
Lý Thiên Bảo
Ruler of Vietnam
Succeeded by
Hậu Lý Nam Đế
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