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 Ba.ch--Da(`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 FIRST ENCOUNTER
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^.
"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
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
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'i-Thu+o+.ng-
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)
THE EVENTS LEADING TO THE SECOND WAR
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
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 Thu+o+.ng-Tu+-Le^.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.
PREPARATION FOR BATTLE
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 La.ng-
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`nh-Tro.ng 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 La.ng-So+n
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 La.ng-So+n 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
-DA.I-VIE^.T LOSES THE FIRST PHASE OF THE FIGHTING
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 La.ng 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'i-Thu+o+.ng-Hoa`ng and the King to a
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`nh-Tro.ng 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
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, La.ng-So+n 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`nh-tro.ng 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`nh-Tro.ng as a
warrior, Thoa't-Hoan tried to win him over to the Chinese side, but Tro.ng
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'-Ha.ng 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 Ba.ch--Da(`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.
FORTUNE CHANGES HANDS
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
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'i-Thu+o+.ng-Hoa`ng, set out for Tra`ng-An, Ninh-Bi`nh Pro-
vince, and stationed himself there.
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
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.
THOA'T-HOAN'S SECOND MISSION TO -DA.I-VIE^.T
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.
THE TRAN PREPARE FOR BATTLE
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 La.ng-So+n 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
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 Ba.ch--Da(`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 La.ng-So+n 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 Ba.ch--Da(`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 La.ng-So+n to ambush
the retreating Chinese troops, so sure was he that the Nguye^n would be
defeated and would withdraw through the La.ng-So+n 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 Ba.ch--Da(`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-