Nguyen Lords
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Nguyen Lords
Nguy?n lords

Chúa Nguy?n
Map showed the division of Vietnam territory among Nguy?n lords, Tr?nh lords, M?c rulers and Champa in the civil war.
Map showed the division of Vietnam territory among Nguy?n lords, Tr?nh lords, M?c rulers and Champa in the civil war.
CapitalPhú Xuân
Common languagesVietnamese
Neo-Confucianism, Buddhism, Taoism
GovernmentMonarchic feudal stratocracy
o 1558-1613
Nguy?n Hoàng (first)
o 1778-1802
Nguy?n Phúc Ánh (last)
o Established
o Disestablished

The Nguy?n lords (Vietnamese: Chúa Nguy?n; 1558-1777), also known as Nguy?n clan or House of Nguy?n, were rulers of the Kingdom of ?àng Trong (Inner Realm) in Central and Southern Vietnam, as opposed to ?àng Ngoài or Outer Realm, ruled by the Tr?nh lords.[1][a]

While they recognized and claimed to be loyal subjects of the Later Lê dynasty, they were de facto kings of Cochinchina. Meanwhile the Tr?nh lords ruled northern Vietnam, where the Lê Emperor remained a puppet figure.[2][b][3] They fought a long, bitter war that lasted 45 years that separated Vietnam into two polities for nearly two centuries. After the Tây S?n wars, their descendants would finally rule over the whole of Vietnam as the Nguy?n dynasty and posthumously elevated their titles to emperors. Their rule consolidated earlier southward expansion into Champa and push into Cambodia.[4][c]

The Nguy?n-Tr?nh alliance

The Nguyen lords traced their descent from a powerful clan originally based in Thanh Hóa Province. The clan supported Lê L?i in his successful war of independence against the Ming dynasty. From that point on, the Nguy?n were one of the major noble families in Vietnam. Perhaps the most famous Nguy?n from this time was Nguy?n Th? Anh, the queen-consort for nearly 20 years (1442-1459).

In 1527 M?c ng Dung replaced the last Lê emperor Lê Cung Hoàng and established a new dynasty (M?c dynasty). The Tr?nh and Nguy?n lords returned to Thanh Hóa province and refused to accept the rule of the M?c. All of the region south of the Red River was under their control, but they were unable to conquer ?ông ?ô for many years. During this time, the Nguy?n-Tr?nh alliance was led by Nguy?n Kim; his daughter was married to the Tr?nh lord leader, Tr?nh Ki?m.

In 1545 Nguy?n Kim was assassinated. One logical successor to the leadership of the Nguy?n-Tr?nh alliance was his eldest son, Nguy?n Uông but instead, Uông was killed and Tr?nh Ki?m took control. The younger son Nguy?n Hoàng was sent to the far south to administer the newer province of Ô-châu (modern Qu?ng-bình to Qu?ng-nam), in what used to be Champa lands. Governing from the new city of Phú Xuân (modern Hu?), the Nguy?n lord, under Nguy?n Hoàng, slowly expanded their control to the south while the Tr?nh lords waged their war for control over the north of Vietnam.

In 1592 ?ông ?ô (Hanoi) was captured the last time by the Tr?nh army under Tr?nh Tùng, and the M?c Emperor was executed. The next year, Nguy?n Hoàng came north with an army and money to help defeat the remainder of the M?c forces, but soon afterwards Nguy?n Hoàng refused to obey the orders coming from the new court at Hanoi.

Rising tensions

In 1600, a new Lê emperor took the throne, Lê Kính Tông. The new emperor, like the previous Lê emperors, was a powerless figurehead under the control of Tr?nh Tùng. Also, a revolt broke out in Ninh Bình Province, possibly instigated by the Tr?nh. As a consequence of these events, Nguy?n Hoàng formally broke off relations with the Court, rightly arguing that it was the Tr?nh who ruled, not the Lê emperor. This uneasy state of affairs continued for the next 13 years until Nguy?n Hoàng died in 1613. He had ruled the southern provinces for 55 years.

H?i An port in 18th century

His successor, Nguy?n Phúc Nguyên, continued Nguy?n Hoàng's policy of essential independence from the Court in Hanoi. He initiated friendly relations with the Europeans who were now sailing into the area. A Portuguese trading post was set up in H?i An. By 1615 the Nguy?n were producing their own bronze cannons with the aid of Portuguese engineers. In 1620 the emperor was removed from power and executed by Tr?nh Tùng. Nguy?n Phúc Nguyên formally announced that he would not be sending any money to the Court nor did he acknowledge the new Emperor as the Emperor of the country. Tensions rose over the next seven years till open warfare broke out in 1627 with the new leader of the Tr?nh, Tr?nh Tráng.

The war lasted until 1673 when peace was declared. The Nguy?n not only fought off the Tr?nh attacks but also continued their expansion southwards along the coast, though the war slowed this expansion. Around 1620, Nguy?n Phúc Nguyên's daughter married Chey Chettha II, a Khmer king. Three years later, 1623, the Nguy?n formally gained permission for Vietnamese to settle in Prei Nokor, which was later reborn as the city of Saigon.

When the war with the Tr?nh ended, the Nguy?n were able to put more resources into pushing suppression of the Champa kingdoms and conquest of lands which used to belong to the Khmer Empire.

The Dutch brought Vietnamese slaves they captured from Nguy?n lord territories in Qu?ng Nam Province to their colony in Taiwan.[5]

The Nguyen lord Nguyen Phuc Chu had referred to Vietnamese as "Han people" (Hán nhân) in 1712 when differentiating between Vietnamese and Chams.[6] The Nguyen Lords established n ?i?n after 1790. It was said "Hán di h?u h?n" ? ("the Vietnamese and the barbarians must have clear borders") by the Gia Long Emperor (Nguy?n Phúc Ánh) when differentiating between Khmer and Vietnamese.[7]

Trousers and tunics on the Chinese pattern in 1774 were ordered by the Vo Vuong Emperor to replace the sarong type Vietnamese clothing.[8] The Chinese Ming dynasty, Tang dynasty, and Han dynasty clothing was ordered to be adopted by Vietnamese military and bureaucrats by the Nguyen Lord Nguy?n Phúc Khoát (Nguyen The Tong).[9] Pants were mandated by the Nguyen in 1744 and the Cheongsam Chinese clothing inspired the Ao Dai. [10] Chinese clothing started having an impact on Vietnamese dress in the Ly dynasty. The current Ao Dai was introduced by the Nguyen Lords.[11] Cham provinces were seized by the Nguyen Lords.[12] Provinces and districts originally belonging to Cambodia were taken by Vo Vuong. [13][14]

Wars over the south

Map of Vietnam showing the conquest of the south (the Nam Tien), dark green portions conquered by the Nguy?n lords

In 1714 the Nguy?n sent an army into Cambodia to support Keo Fa's claim to the throne against Prea Srey Thomea (see also, Dark ages of Cambodia). Siam joined in siding with the Prea Srey Thomea against the Vietnamese claimant. At Bantea Meas the Vietnamese routed the Siamese armies, but by 1717 the Siamese had gained the upper hand. The war ended with a negotiated settlement whereby Keo Fa was allowed to take the Cambodia crown in exchange for his allegiance to Siam.[15] For their part, the Nguy?n lords wrested more territory from the weakened Cambodian kingdom.

Two decades later, in 1739, the Cambodians attempted to reclaim the lost coastal land. The fighting lasted some ten years, but the Vietnamese fended off the Cambodian raids and secured their hold on the rich Mekong Delta.[16]

With Siam embroiled in war with Burma, the Nguy?n mounted another campaign against Cambodia in 1755 and conquered additional territory from the ineffective Cambodian court. At the end of the war the Nguy?n had secured a port on the Gulf of Siam (Hà Tiên) and were threatening Phnom Penh itself.

Under a new king Phraya Taksin, the Siamese reasserted its protection of its eastern neighbor by coming to the aid of the Cambodian court. War was launched against the Nguy?n in 1769. After some early success, the Nguy?n forces by 1773 were facing internal revolts and had to abandon Cambodia to deal with the civil war in Vietnam itself. The turmoil gave rise to the Tây S?n.

The fall of the Nguy?n lords

In 1771 as a result of heavy taxes and defeats[] in the war with Cambodia, three brothers from Tây S?n sparked a peasant uprising that quickly engulfed much of southern Vietnam. Within two years the Tây S?n brothers captured the provincial capital Qui Nh?n. In 1774, the Tr?nh in Hà N?i, seeing their rival gravely weakened, ended the hundred-year truce and launched an attack of the Nguy?n from the north. The Tr?nh forces quickly overran the Nguy?n capital in 1774, while the Nguy?n lords fled south to Saigon. The Nguy?n fought on against both the Tr?nh army and the Tây S?n, but their effort was in vain. By 1777 Saigon was captured and nearly the entire Nguy?n Phúc family was killed, all except one nephew, Nguy?n Ánh, who managed to flee to Siam.

Nguy?n Ánh did not give up, and in 1780 he attacked the Tây S?n army with a new army from Siam (he was allied with King Taksin). However, Taksin went insane and was killed in a coup. The new king of Siam, Chulaloke, had more urgent affairs than helping Nguy?n Ánh retake Vietnam and so this campaign faltered. The Siamese army retreated, and Nguy?n Ánh went into exile, but would later return.

Nguy?n foreign relations

Da Nang in painting "Giao Ch? qu?c m?u d?ch h?i (?)" of Chaya Shinroku (?) in 17th century

The Nguy?n were significantly more open to foreign trade and communication with Europeans than the Tr?nh. According to Dupuy, the Nguy?n were able to defeat initial Tr?nh attacks with the aid of advanced weapons they purchased from the Portuguese (see Artillery of the Nguy?n lords for more details). The Nguy?n also conducted fairly extensive trade with Japan and China.[17]

The Portuguese set up a trade center at Faifo (present day H?i An), just south of Hu? in 1615. However, with the end of the great war between the Tr?nh and the Nguy?n, the need for European military equipment declined. The Portuguese trade center never became a major European base (unlike Goa or Macau).

In 1640, Alexandre de Rhodes returned to Vietnam, this time to the Nguy?n court at Hu?. He began work on converting people to the Catholic faith and building churches. After six years, the Nguy?n Lord, Nguy?n Phúc Lan, came to the same conclusion as Tr?nh Tráng had, that de Rhodes and the Catholic Church represented a threat to their rule. De Rhodes was condemned to death but he was allowed to leave Vietnam on pain of death were he to return.

List of the Nguy?n lords

Preceded by
M?c dynasty
Ruler of southern Vietnam
Succeeded by
Tây S?n dynasty

Family tree


  1. ^ Taylor, p. 170 "The "Kingdom of Cochinchina" was the polity of the Nguy?n lords (chúa), who had become the more and more independent rivals of the Tr?nh lords of the north -- if not of the Lê emperors whose affairs the Tr?nh lords managed.."
  2. ^ Pelley, p. 216 "This fragmentation became more pronounced in the mid-sixteenth century when a distinctly bifurcated pattern of politics arose, with the Tr?nh lords in the North and the Nguy?n lords in the South."
  3. ^ Hardy, p. 61 "Vietnam's southward expansion as it took place before the period of the Nguy?n Lords ..."


  1. ^ Taylor, p. 170.
  2. ^ Pelley, p. 216.
  3. ^ Chapuis, p. 119ff.
  4. ^ Hardy, p. 61.
  5. ^ Mateo, p. 125.
  6. ^ Wong Tze Ken.
  7. ^ Choi Byung Wook, p. 34.
  8. ^ Reid, p. 90.
  9. ^ Werner, p. 295.
  10. ^ Ao Dai.
  11. ^ Vietnamese Ao Dai.
  12. ^ Bridgman, p. 584.
  13. ^ Coedes (1966), p. 213.
  14. ^ Coedes (2015), p. 175.
  15. ^ Kohn, p 445.
  16. ^ Aung-Thwin, p. 158.
  17. ^ Khoang, pp. 414-425.


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See also

External links

Coordinates: 16°28?N 107°36?E / 16.467°N 107.600°E / 16.467; 107.600

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