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Wednesday, July 8, 2009

General Ly Thuong Kiet - Ly Dynasty

Li Chang Jie (1019-1105) is the second most prominent general of Dai Viet (to-day Viet Nam) who left his mark with a series of greatest victories. Only ranked behind the greatest tactician Tran Hung Dao (The author of the masterpiece Bach Dang), Li Chang Jie showed his superiority and flexibility in his tactics and showed his dedicated atitude to the Ly monarchy and to his own army.

Li Chang Jie (Vietnamese: Lý Thường Kiệt) was born in Gia Lam, later he moved back to Ba Dinh, Ha Noi (contemporary name is Thang Long, english means A Flied Dragon - their capital). His birth name is Ngo Tuan (Ngô Tuấn), however, when he got older, the king especially loved him as his own brother and use the royal family name "Ly" as a gift for his enormous contribution. His farther is a general, who died while visiting the Chinese-Vietnamese border, left his grand child alone at the age of 13. However, Ly was taught very strictly by his mother and his uncle. He proved to be a genius in learning martial arts and practising tactics by playing Chinese chess with his peers.

At the age of 23, he was appointed as eunuch to the royal palace, then was nominated quickly to high-ranking mandarin, and then finally to commander-in-chief, due to his talents. It was said that he was Buddhism and never got kill even an aunt.

The Song dynasty (大宋 or 宋朝) long watched Dai Viet as her target for a conquering after lost her control in 938, due to the collapse of the East Han dynasty. Her ambition is to engulf the Dai Viet and then getting to the South, eliminate the Champa Kingdom. The Chinese first find an opportunity to do that when the new king of Dai Viet, Ly Nhan Ton (1072-1127) enthroned when he was only 7 years old. Never let this golden chane slip through their fingers, the Song emperor sent an announcement ordered the whole kingdom to surrender, if not he would massacre to the last Vietnamese. This move, according to Chinese and Western historians, was a foolish evidence of arrogance. However, even before the announcement reached to Thang Long, Li Chang Jie had predicted the ambition of the Chinese through a careful observation of military mobilisation near the border of the two kingdoms. When the new came to the capital, the whole country, instead of panic, grew animosity and was deep in vengeful mood for their outrage of being conqured by Chinese dynasty more than 1000 years.

Under the Song Shen Zhong regime, Chinese talented politcian, Wang An Shi (1021-1086) proposed a plan in which Chinese main army will concentrated on Xiao Zhu and Yong Zhou before totally manoeuvre Dai Viet. They quickly built forts and amassed food supplies, ensured domestic tranquility and most of all, cut off trade with Dai Viet.

The young king of Dai Viet Ly Nhan Ton insisted to the whole kingdom that there would be no further concessions and appointed Li Chang Jie as primary commander of all Dai Viet army, Ton Dang as secondary general, shared the total army of only 10,000 prepared for a defend line along the border. However, Li Chang Jie considered to the king an alternative tactic, in which he attacked both Xiao Zhu and Yong Zhu at once to kill off their strength first, then retreat and quickly firm the defend line. The king with his wisdom, allowed Li Chang Jie keep on his plan but only led Ton Dang know.

The king even responsed to Chinese by answering the announcement with a letter writting in a very insolent tone to pick a quarrel on the Chinese army.

The letter generally said that under Song Dynasty, the fat emperor used tax to construct his palaces, plunged Chinese people into anguishness. As a merciful king, Tran Nhan Ton could not accept this happen and would allowe the Chinese army to surrender within 10 days, if not the king would attack and no more discussion in diplomatic front.

This was a war declaration and immediately outraged the Chinese emperors right away when it reached to his hand.

In 1075, Li Chang Jie attacked suddenly Qian Zhou and even spread through Lian Zhou, killing 8000 men of the Chinese, the plan was so successful that the second auxilliaries under leadership of Ton Dang attacked Yong Zhou.

A brave Zhang Shou Jie brought reinforcement to hold the front line was frustrated in Kun Lun Kuang by Li Chang Jie.

Zhang Shou Lie died immediately and was burried carefully as a brave man and returned him to honour among his dead soldiers.

The total casualties were still debated. Vietnamese contemporary historians seemed to narrow the number down as 9000, but according to modern historians and archeologists, the sudden assaults took off at least 10,000 or even more up to 12,000.
Vietnamese casualties were only among 2500 men.

There is a discussion according to available sources that I accumulated during the Vietnamese trip (refer to my gallery in Asian Gallery). There is a possibility that while keeping the campaign, Li Chang Jie used scouts everywhere he could to gather information for Chinese mobilisation. These scouts were highly trained and kept on their mission after the quick withdraw of Vietnamese troops. Monthly they sent secretly report to Thang Long, thus Li Chang Jie understood all movements within Chinese territories.

As being predicted, Chinese army with nearly 100,000 men crossed the border to Dai Viet territory. The two grand armies clashed at Nhu Nguyet river, in this intial clash, Chinese army lost 1000 men and was forced to retreat to Phu Luong river, a branch of Nhu Nguyet river. The battle happened so aggressive and nearly one month without significant victory. In the 10th day, Quach Qui, high commander of Chinese Army attacked Dai Viet defensive by Catapult, nearly broke off the line. The Dai Viet army nearly flee and demoralised. The chronic advance made by China could be decisive if Quach Qui

Li Chang Jie thought only increase moral would drive him to victory, he wrote a famous poem that latter became the first indenpent declaration of Viet Nam:

Nam quoc son ha nam de cu
Tuyet nhien dinh phan tai thien thu
Nhu ha nghich lo lai xam pham
Nhu dang hanh khang thu bai hu

I only can roughly translated: (sorry)

Dai Viet must be ruled by Viet King
This was seen as God will
Now the northerner conqured
Not soon they would be collapsed by a stronger force.

This document served as the first Declaration for Vietnamese freedom. Indeed, its immediate outcome was to increase markedly the demoralised troups of Dai Viet, and thus the defensive line held back longer than expected. However, stalemate arised gradually and the supreme commanders of Dai Viet assumed that if this situation prolonged, their manpower and reserve would run out. Thus, a call for ceasefire came to Chinese capital, Song emperor immediately accepted the terms.

Li Chang Jie stood out due to his brilliant tactics that had no precendents. Indeed, his move had been carefully calculated. The Batle Of Nhu Nguyet river was the first largest clash of the newborn Dai Viet kingdom with China dynasty.

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