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Trần Hưng Đạo


Trần Hưng Đạo

Trần Hưng Đạo
Prince of Hưng Đạo, Supreme Commander of Đại Việt, General
Born 1228
Thái Bình, Đại Việt
Died 1300 (aged 71–72)
Hải Dương, Đại Việt
Spouse Nguyên Từ quốc mẫu
Issue Trinh
Trần Quốc Nghiễn
Trần Quốc Hiện
Trần Quốc Tảng
Full name
Trần Quốc Tuấn
Posthumous name
Quốc Công Tiết Chế Hưng Đạo Đại Vương
House Trần Dynasty
Father Prince Trần Liễu
Mother Thiện Đạo quốc mẫu
Religion Buddhism

Trần Hưng Đạo (1228–1300) was the Supreme Commander of Vietnam during the Trần Dynasty.[1][2]

Born Prince Trần Quốc Tuấn (陳國峻), he commanded the Đại Việt armies that repelled three major Mongol invasions in the 13th century.[3] His multiple victories over the mighty Mongol Yuan Dynasty under Kublai Khan are considered among the greatest military feats in world history. General Trần Hưng Đạo’s military brilliance and prowess are reflected in many warfare treatises that he authored. Trần Hưng Đạo is regarded as one of the most accomplished military tacticians in history.


  • Origins 1
  • The first Mongol invasion 2
  • The second Mongol invasion 3
  • The third Mongol invasion 4
    • The Battle of Bạch Đằng River 4.1
  • Great loyalty 5
  • Conferring a title permission 6
  • Personal 7
  • Death 8
  • Legacy 9
    • Shrines 9.1
  • See also 10
  • References 11
    • Bibliography 11.1
  • External links 12


Prince Trần Quốc Tuấn was born right after the Trần Dynasty replaced the Lý Dynasty in 1225 AD, when the last Lý monarch Lý Chiêu Hoàng abdicated the throne in favour of her husband, Trần Thái Tông. Many in the Lý royal family accused the Trần of usurpation, and in particular, the Imperial Regent Trần Thủ Độ, who masterminded the overthrow of the Lý Dynasty. Trần Quốc Tuấn was born to Prince Trần Liễu, the elder brother of the new child emperor, Trần Thái Tông. That same year, Trần Liễu being the Empress Lý Chiêu Hoàng’s brother-in-law at the time was forced to defer his own wife (Trần Hưng Đạo’s mother) to his younger brother Emperor Thái Tông under pressure from Imperial Regent Trần Thủ Độ in order to solidify Trần clan’s dynastic stability. The brothers Trần Liễu and Emperor Trần Thái Tông both harboured a grudges against their uncle Trần Thủ Độ for the forceful marital arrangement. Trần Quốc Tuấn, his father Trần Liễu, and Emperor Trần Thái Tông had a very close relationship. Liễu would find great tutors to teach his son, Trần Quốc Tuấn, with the hope of one day becoming a great leader of Đại Việt and regain his family honour. On his deathbed, Liễu told his son to avenge what he felt was personal shame forced upon him and his brother, Trần Thái Tông, by the Imperial Regent Tran Thu Do.

The first Mongol invasion

Trần Hưng Đạo
Vietnamese name
Vietnamese Trần Hưng Đạo
Hán-Nôm 陳興道

In 1226 AD, Trần Thủ Độ arranged for Tran Canh to become Emperor (Queen Ly Chieu Hoang abdicated in favour of her husband, Trần Cảnh). The Trần Dynasty took the place of the Ly Dynasty and Trần Cảnh became Emperor Trần Thái Tông. Soon after assuming the imperial throne, the Trần Dynasty single-mindedly and systematically eliminated other political factions in the country and thereby further consolidated their power.

During this time, the Mongols succeeded in conquering most of Central Asia and Eastern Europe; they marched south in order to invade Dali and Song. After the Mongols wiped out Dali in 1254 AD, they sent emissaries to Đại Việt (Vietnam) to demand free passage through the country for their armies who en route to attack the Song. The Trần Emperor, suspecting that the demand was a ruse for a Mongol invasion, refused. In 1258, the Mongols invaded Đại Việt, marking the first Mongol-Đại Việt war. In the course of history, the Mongolian invaded Đại Việt three times, all without success.

The second Mongol invasion

In 1285, Kublai Khan demanded passage through Đại Việt for his Yuan army in order to invade of the Kingdom of Champa (in modern central Viet Nam). When the Đại Việt Emperor Trần Nhân Tông refused, the Mongol army, led by Prince Toghan, attacked Đại Việt and captured the imperial capital Thăng Long (modern day Hanoi). The Việt nobility retreated to the south after burning down the city, depriving the Mongol army of spoils. Trần Hưng Đạo and other generals escorted the royal family, staying just ahead of the Mongol army in hot pursuit. When the Mongol army had exhausted their supplies and succumbed to tropical diseases, Trần Hưng Đạo exploited the Mongol's weaknesses and launched counter-offensive strikes. He managed to draw the Mongol armies into naval battles, leaving the Mongol unable to launch their overpowering cavalry effectively. The Viet naval force's excellent marine warfare skills were a tactical advantage for the Đại Việt's military campaign. The Mongol cavalry commander Sogetu of the southern front was killed in the battle. In their withdrawal from Đại Việt, the Mongols were also attacked by the Hmong and Yao minorities in the northern regions during their retreat back to Yuan China.

The third Mongol invasion

In 1287, Kublai Khan this time sent one of his favorite sons, Prince Toghan to lead another invasion campaign into Đại Việt with a determination to occupy and redeem the previous defeat. The Yuan Mongol and Chinese forces formed an even larger infantry, cavalry and naval fleet with the total strength estimated at 500,000 men according to the [need an original accounting of a source or book] original Viet history.

During the first stage of the invasion, the Mongols quickly defeated most of the Đại Việt troops that were stationed along the border. Prince Toghan's naval fleet devastated most of the naval force of General Trần Khánh Dư in Vân Đồn. Simultaneously, Prince Ariq-Qaya led his massive cavalry and captured Phú Lương and Đại Than garrisons, two strategic military posts bordering Đại Việt and China. The cavalry later rendezvous with Prince Toghan's navy in Vân Đồn. In response to the battle skirmish defeats at the hands of the Mongol forces, Emperor Trần Nhân Tông summoned General Trần Khánh Dư to be court-martialed for military failures, but the general managed to delayed reporting to the court and was able to regrouped his forces in Vân Đồn. The cavalry and fleet of Prince Toghan continued to advance into the imperial capital Thăng Long. Meanwhile, the trailing supply fleet of Prince Toghan, arriving at Vân Đồn a few days after General Trần Khánh Dư's had already occupied this strategic garrison, the Mongol supply fleet was ambushed and captured by General Trần Khánh Dư's forces. The Mongol main occupying army quickly realized their support and supply fleet has been cut off.

The capture of the Mongol supply fleet at Vân Đồn along with the concurring news that General Trần Hưng Đạo had recaptured Đại Than garrison in the north sent the fast advancing Mongol forces into chaos. The Đại Việt forces unleashed guerrilla warfare on the weakened Mongol forces causing heavy casualties and destructions to the Yuan forces. However, the Mongols continued advancing into Thăng Long due to their massive cavalry strength, but by this time, the emperor decided to vacate Thăng Long to flee and he ordered the capital to be burned down so the Mongols wouldn't collect any spoils of war. The subsequent battle skirmishes between the Mongols and Đại Việt had mixed results: the Mongols won and captured Yên Hưng and Long Hưng provinces, but lost in the naval battles at Đại Bàng. Eventually, Prince Toghan decided to withdraw his naval fleet and consolidated his command on land battles where he felt the Mongol's superior cavalry would defeat the Đại Việt infantry and cavalry forces. Toghan led the cavalry through Nội Bàng while his naval fleet commander, Omar, directly launched the naval force along the Bạch Đằng River simultaneously.

The Battle of Bạch Đằng River

The Mongol naval fleet were unaware of the river's terrain. Days before this expedition, General Trần Hưng Đạo's Đại Việt predicted the Mongol's naval route and quickly deployed heavy unconventional traps of steel-tipped wooden stakes unseen during high tides along the Bạch Đằng River bed. When Omar ordered the Mongol fleet to retreat from the river, the Viet deployed smaller and more maneuverable vessels into agitating and luring the Mongol vessels into the riverside where the booby traps were waiting while it was still high tide. As the river tide on Bạch Đằng River receded, the Mongol vessels were stuck and sunk by the embedded steel-tipped stakes. The Viet forces led by Trần Hưng Đạo burned down an estimated 400 large Mongol vessels and captured the remaining naval crew along the river. The entire Mongol fleet was destroyed and the Mongol fleet admiral Omar was captured and executed.

The cavalry force of Prince Toghan was more fortunate. They were ambushed along the road through Nội Bàng, but his remaining force managed to escape back to China by dividing their forces into smaller retreating groups but most were captured or killed in skirmishes on the way back to the border frontier.

Great loyalty

Although the entire Trần army was under his control, he never showed any sign of defection from the Dynasty. One day, he wished to survey his trustworthy subordinates Da Tuong and Yet Kieu. He brought up the promises he made with his dying father Trần Liễu to usurp the throne of the Trần dynasty. His two loyal men responded:

"You may gain not only brief riches and luxury but also bad reputation for eternity. My Lord, have you not acquired enough riches and luxury? We would rather die as your lowly servants than live as unfaithful high rank officials."

Quốc Tuấn was moved to tears and praised them. On another occasion, Quốc Tuấn asked his son Trần Quốc Hiền:

"A powerful man makes his name in history by seizing the entire country to pass it to his children, does my son have such ambition?" Tran Quoc Hien answered “Strangers should not do that, let alone people of the same bloodline.”

Tran Quoc Tuan strongly agreed with his son. And one day, he asked his second child Trần Quốc Tảng the same thing. Trần Quốc Tảng said:

"Emperor Gaozu of Song was a mere farmer, but he seized his opportunity and won the country for himself".

Trần Quốc Tuấn was angered:

"My own son is a rebellious subject".

He drew his sword, ready to kill Quốc Tảng. Quốc Hiền begged for his brother's life. Quốc Tuấn spared Quốc Tảng, however ordered him to never see his father's face any more.

In 1285, Trần Quốc Tuấn often escorted the Emperor Emeritus and reigning Emperor. People glared at his pointed staff and suspected that he might desire to harm the two Emperors. Quốc Tuấn then discarded the point and kept only the wooden staff. Historian Ngô Sĩ Liên wrote:


Conferring a title permission

Because he is greatly credited with having repelled three major Mongol invasions, the Emperor confers the position of supreme Commander of Đại Việt on him and allows him to grant anyone titles as he wished. But Tran Quoc Tuan never used that privilege. When Yuan forces attacked Đại Việt, he asked rich people to provide provisions for his army but only rewarded them with nominal titles.

He recommended many men of great talents: Da Tuong, Yet Kieu, they were credited with killing Generals Omar and Sogetsu of Yuan army. Many other pillars of the Trần court: Phạm Ngũ Lão, Trần Thì Kiến, Trương Hán Siêu, Phạm Lãm, Trịnh Dũ, Ngô Sĩ Thường, Nguyễn Thế Trực, all of them were his former subordinates. They are all well known for their excellent skill in politics as well as intellects.


Being a member of the royal family, Trần Hưng Đạo was a man of intellect and was an accomplished poet. Poetry was his first and true passion. He would have pursued this course had not for the multiple Yuan Mongol invasion attempts into Đại Việt that spanned over sixty years during his lifetime.


In 1300 AD, he fell ill and died of natural causes at the age of 73. His body was cremated and his ashes were dispersed under his favorite oak tree he planted in his royal family estate near Thăng Long in accordance to his will. The Viet intended to bury him in a lavish royal mausouleum and official ceremony upon his death, but he declined in favour of a simplistic private ceremony. For his military brilliance in defending Đại Việt during his lifetime, The Emperor posthumously bestowed Trần Hưng Đạo the title of "Hưng Đạo Đại Vương" (Great Lord Hưng Đạo).


Trần Hưng Đạo achieved his military success with an army largely constituted of poorly equipped volunteers and peasant conscripts against the mighty hordes of the Mongols who were at the apex of their power after conquering most of Asia. His strategic brilliance had contributed much to this success.

Đại Việt's General Trần Hưng Đạo defeated the Mongols in two major campaigns. General Trần Hưng Đạo led an army of poorly equipped volunteers and peasant conscripts against the overstretched forces of the Mongol Empire. This, combined with losses against the Japanese in the Battle of Koan, marked the end of the apex of Mongol power. Trần Hưng Đạo defeated them with inventive military tactics by exploiting their traditional "raiding" style of warfare which relied on lightning-strike cavalry maneuverability. He is famous for arguably pioneering the "hit and run" warfare. Trần Hưng Đạo was a master of strategic geographical war fighting, applying advantageous landscapes to stage battles in places such as dense forests or on waterfronts where enemy cavalry were mostly ineffective.

Most notable was his speech Proclamation to the Officers, addressing his soldiers at the beginning of the Mongol Invasion in 1285.

His advice to Emperor Trần Anh Tôn prior to his death in 1300 served several times as reference for most of Vietnamese in the struggle for independence: "When the enemy advances roaring like fire and wind, it is easy to overcome them. If they use patience like the silkworm nibbling berry leaves without looking for a quick victory and without fleecing people, we need to have not only good generals but also an elaboration of adequate tactics like in a chess game. In any way, the army should be united, having only one heart like father and sons in a family, the people should be treated with humanity so we can guarantee deep roots and durable bases."


He is revered by the Vietnamese people as a national hero. Several shrines are dedicated to him, and even religious belief and mediumship includes belief in him as a god, Đức Thánh Trần (Tín ngưỡng Đức Thánh Trần). Most major cities in Vietnam, regardless of the political orientation of the government, have streets named after him.[4][5][6]

See also


  1. ^ Marie-Carine Lall, Edward Vickers Education As a Political Tool in Asia 2009 - Page 144 "... to the official national autobiography, the legends relating to the origins of the nation are complemented by other legends of heroes in order to constitute the Vietnamese nation's pantheon: Hai Bà Trưng, Lý Thường Kiệt, Trần Hưng Đạo, etc."
  2. ^ Bruce M. Lockhart, William J. DuikerThe A to Z of Vietnam p374 Trần Hưng Đạo
  3. ^ The Tran Dynasty and the Defeat of the Mongols
  4. ^ Vietnam Country Map. Periplus Travel Maps. 2002–03.  
  5. ^ Andrea Lauser, Kirsten W. Endres Engaging the Spirit World: Popular Beliefs and Practices in Modern Vietnam Page 94 2012 "These scholars may have underestimated existing links between male and female rituals. Nowadays, as Phạm Quỳnh Phương (2009) has noted, a strict distinction between the Mothers' cult and the cult of Trần Hưng Đạo is no longer upheld, "
  6. ^ Forbes, Andrew, and Henley, David: Vietnam Past and Present: The North (History and culture of Hanoi and Tonkin). Chiang Mai. Cognoscenti Books, 2012. ASIN: B006DCCM9Q.


  • Taylor, K. W. (2013). A History of the Vietnamese (illustrated ed.). Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521875862. Retrieved 7 August 2013.
  • Hall, Kenneth R., ed. (2008). Secondary Cities and Urban Networking in the Indian Ocean Realm, C. 1400-1800. Volume 1 of Comparative urban studies. Lexington Books. ISBN 0739128353. Retrieved 7 August 2013.

External links

  • TRAN HUNG DAO (1213-1300)
  • Statue of Trần Hưng Đạo, Vietnamese Hero, 19th-20th. C.
  • (French) Le Vietnam et la stratégie du faible au fort
  • Call of Soldiers Translated and adapted by George F. Schultz

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