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Trn Thnh Tng

Trn Thnh Tng (12 October 12403 July 1290),

given name Trn Hong ( ), was the second emperor
of the Trn dynasty, reigning over i Vit from 1258
to 1278. After ceding the throne to his son Trn Nhn
Tng, Thnh Tng held the title Retired Emperor (Vietnamese: i thng hong) from 1279 to his death in
1290. During the second and the third Mongol invasions
of i Vit, the Retired Emperor Thnh Tng and the
Emperor Nhn Tng were credited as the supreme commanders who led the Trn dynasty to the nal victories
and as a result established a long period of peace and prosperity over the country. With his successful ruling in both
military and civil matters, Trn Thnh Tng was considered as one of the greatest emperors of not only the Trn
dynasty but also the whole dynastic era in the History of

Trn dynasty was able to throw back the invasion and ultimately re-established the peace in i Vit in December
Returned to the capital Thng Long, Trn Thi Tng decided to cede the throne to Crown Prince Trn Hong,
now Trn Thnh Tng, on the 24th day of the second lunar month (March 30) 1258. After the coronation, Thnh
Tng changed the era name to Thiu Long ( , 1258
1272).During his reign, the emperor had one more era
name, which was Bo Ph ( , 12731278).[8] Although
passing the throne to his son, Thi Tng continued to rule
the country with Thnh Tng in the position of Retired
Emperor (i thng hong) from 1259 to his death in

2 As emperor

Background and during Thi

Tngs reign

After the enthronement, Thnh Tng and his father began to rehabilitate both the countrys economy and administrative system, which had been heavily damaged by
the Mongol invasion and the troubled time at the end of
the L dynasty. In June 1261 the Emperor opened an
examination for scholars who wanted to be appointed as
mandarins of the administrative system. The examination comprised two abilities of writing and calculating.[9]
In the royal court, Thnh Tng proved to be a skilled
ruler with his often right appointment of ocials such
as his brother Prince Chiu Minh Trn Quang Khi for
the position of grand chancellor[10] or L Ph Trn and
Prince Hng o Trn Quc Tun for the position of military commander.[9][11] For members of the royal family,
Thnh Tng had them hire the poor to cultivate their land
and thus created a social reform.[6][12]

Thnh Tng was born on September 25 of the lunar calendar 1240 as Trn Hong,[1] the second prince but the
rst natural son of the Emperor Trn Thi Tng and Empress Consort Thun Thin. He had a half-brother on
the mothers side, Prince Tnh Quc (Vietnamese: Tnh
Quc i vng) Trn Quc Khang, who was born after
the forced marriage by Trn Th between the Emperor Nhn Tng and Princess Thun Thin. In fact, although being Thi Tngs rst prince, Trn Quc Khang
was the son of his elder brother Prince Hoi Trn Liu,
therefore ocially he was not chosen by Thi Tng as
the heir, a position which ultimately belonged to prince
Trn Hong.[2] Besides Prince Tnh Quc, Trn Hong
had some other younger brothers including Prince Chiu
Minh Trn Quang Khi, who was also given birth by Empress Thun Thin, Prince Chiu Quc Trn ch Tc or
Prince Chiu Vn Trn Nht Dut.[3]

In March 1266 Trn Thnh Tng ordered to carry out his

rst imperial examination in which over 50 scholars was
chosen for high-ranking positions in the royal court and
administrative system of i Vit.[12] For the purpose of
educating more scholars for the royal court, Thnh Tng
permitted his brother Trn ch Tc, the prince well known
for his intelligence and knowledge, to open his own school
at Trn ch Tcs palace .[6] Several prominent mandarins
of the royal court in the future such as Mc nh Chi or
Bi Phng were trained in this school.[13] At the same
time, the Emperor also reinforced i Vits army by
several recruitements and reorganization of the military
organization in order to improve its eciency.[6][13] Besides, Trn Thnh Tng always kept a vigilant eye for the
northern border by sending several scout units to learn

In 1257, Crown Prince Trn Hong witnessed the rst

Mongol invasion in Vietnam.[4] In the beginning, i
Vits army suered several defeats by the Mongols who
had already conquered a vast area in Asia. Several highranking ocials of Trn dynasty were so frightened that
Prince Khm Thin Trn Nht Hiu, younger brother of
Thi Tng, even suggested the Emperor that they might
escape from i Vit to the Song dynasty.[5] But because
of the rm faith of the Emperor Thi Tng, grand chancellor Trn Th and the talents of generals such as
Prince Hng o Trn Quc Tun and L Ph Trn, the


about military actions of the Yuan dynasty, the potential Yuans side including Thnh Tngs own brother, Prince
threat for i Vit.[12][14]
Chiu Quc Trn ch Tc and Trn Kin who was son of
After the death of the Retired Emperor Trn Thi Tng Prince Tnh Quc Trn Quc Khang. For the safeness of
on April 1 of Lunar calendar, 1277, the Emperor Trn Thnh Tng and Nhn Tngs retreat, Princess An T was
Thnh Tng ocially began to reign as the sole ruler of oered as present and diversion for prince Toghan while
i Vit,[15] but only one year later, he decided to pass the Marquis Bo Ngha Trn Bnh Trng was captured and
in the Battle of Mc in defending the two
throne to his crown prince Trn Khm, now Trn Nhn later killed[23]
In the southern border, Trn Quang Khi
Tng, took up the post of Retired Emperor on the 22nd
also had to retreat under the pressure of Sogetus navy and
of the tenth lunar month (November 8) 1278.
the defection of the governor of Nghe An.[24] Despite the
repeated problems, the royal family and royal court of the
Trn dynasty still kept their harmony and determination
3 As retired emperor
owing to accurates decisions and actions from the leaders
Thnh Tng, Nhn Tng,[25] Trn Quc Tun and Trn
Quang Khi.[26]
3.1 Second Mongol invasion
In 1279, the Yuan dynasty had the decisive victory over
the Song dynasty in the Battle of Yamen which marked
the end of the Song dynasty and the total control of Kublai
Khan over China.[17] As a result, Kublai Khan began to
expose his attempt to take over the southern countries like
i Vit or Champa. Aware of the situation, Thnh Tng
and Nhn Tng began to prepare the Trn dynasty for the
obvious and inevitable war while tried to keep a exible
policy with the Yuan dynasty.[18] Firstly, Prince Chiu
Vn Trn Nht Dut was appointed for the mission of
pacifying the revolt led by Trnh Gic Mt in Giang
by diplomatic means in order to keep the country in stability before the war. With his knowledge of minority peoples language and culture, Trn Nht Dut successfully
accomplished his task in 1278, hence, the Trn dynasty
had free hand to deal with the threat from the North.[19]
In October 1282, the Retired Emperor Trn Thnh Tng
and the Emperor Trn Nhn Tng gathered all members
of royal family, Trn clan and ocials in royal court in
Bnh Than to discuss about the unadvoidable war.[20] Two
prominent generals of the i Vit army who were noticed on this occasion were Trn Khnh D, former commander of the army but was deprived of all titles after his
guilt, and Trn Quc Ton, a marquis who was only sixteen years old.[20] In 1283, Prince Hng o Trn Quc
Tun was appointed as commander in chief (Quc cng
tit ch) of i Vit army, the Retired Emperor and the
Emperor began to hold military exercises with their generals and troops.[20]
In December 1284, the second Yuan invasion of i
Vit was opened under the command of Kublai Khans
prince Toghan.[21] i Vit was attacked in two directions, Toghan himself conducted the infantry invaded
from the northern border while the Yuan navy under general Sogetu advanced from the southern border through
Champa's territory.[22] In the beginning of the war, Thnh
Tng and Nhn Tng had to order the army retreat to
avoid the pressure from the Yuan force when Prince
Chiu Minh Trn Quang Khi commanded troops try
to stop Sogetus eet in the Ngh An Province. During
this time, there were several high-ranking ocials and
members of royal family of the Trn dynasty defected to

The critical situation of the Trn dynasty began to change

after their victory in Battle of Hm T in April 1285,
where the troops commanded by Trn Nht Dut, Prince
Chiu Thnh, Trn Quc Ton, and Nguyn Khoi were
nally able to defeat the eet of general Sogetu. On May
10 of Lunar calendar 1285, Trn Quang Khi fought the
decisive battle in Chng Dng where Yuans navy was
almost destroyed and therefore the balance in battleeld
titled denitely in favour of the Trn dynasty.[24][27] 10
days after Sogetu was killed and the Trn Emperor Nhn
Tng and Retired Emperor Thnh Tng returned to the
capital, Thng Long, on June 6 of the Lunar calendar,

3.2 Third Mongol invasion

In March 1287, the Yuan dynasty launched their third invasion of i Vit.[29] Unlike the second attack, this time
commander in chief Prince Hng o Trn Quc Tun
armed with the Emperor that i Vits army could
easily break the Yuans military campaign. Indeed, this
invasion was ended one year later by a disastrous defeat of
the Yuan navy in Battle of Bch ng on March 8 of the
lunar calendar, 1288.[30] Besides Trn Quc Tun, other
notable generals of the Trn dynasty during this time were
Prince Nhn Hu Trn Khnh D who destroyed the logistics convoy of Yuan navy[31][32][33][34] in the Battle of
Vn n or general Phm Ng Lo who took charge of
ambushing prince Toghans retreating troops.[35]
In rewarding Trn dynasty generals and mandarins after
the victory, Thnh Tng and Nhn Tng also reminded
them of the caution to the northern border.[36] About the
defectors to Yuan side, the Emperor issued an order in
which the family name of every defected member of Trn
clan was changed to Mai, for example Trn Kin was renamed as Mai Kin, being the only defected prince of
Trn clan, Trn ch Tc was exempted from this order but
he was called in historical accounts of the Trn dynasty by
the name " Trn (the woman named Trn) meaning
that Trn ch Tc was coward as a woman.[33][36][37]
The Retired Emperor Trn Thnh Tng died on May 25



of the Lunar calendar, 1290 at the age of 50.[38] He was

buried in D Lng with the posthumous name Huyn
cng thnh c nhn minh vn v tuyn hiu hong

[7] Trn Trng Kim 1971, p. 51

[8] Ng S Lin 1993, p. 174
[9] Ng S Lin 1993, p. 176
[10] Ng S Lin 1993, p. 181


Trn Thnh Tng had one empress, the Empress Thin

Cm Trn Thiu, fth daughter of his uncle Trn Liu.[1]
The rst son of Thnh Tng, Trn Khm, was born on
November 11 of lunar calendar, 1258, only 8 months after the enthronement of the Emperor,[1] he was entitled
as Crown Prince in December 1274.[14] His second son,
Prince T Thin Trn c Vip was born in 1265[12] The
only daughter of Trn Thnh Tng was Princess Thin
Thy[40] who married to Prince Hng V Trn Quc
Nghin, son of Trn Quc Tun. She had with general
Trn Khnh D an adulterous aair which almost led
to Trn Khnh D's death by order of the Emperor.[20]
Princess Thin Thy and her younger brother Trn Nhn
Tng died on the same day, November 3 of lunar calendar, 1308.[40]

[11] Ng S Lin 1993, p. 189

[12] Ng S Lin 1993, p. 179
[13] Ng S Lin 1993, p. 180
[14] Ng S Lin 1993, p. 182
[15] Ng S Lin 1993, p. 183
[16] Ng S Lin 1993, p. 185
[17] Ng S Lin 1993, p. 186
[18] Trn Trng Kim 1971, p. 52
[19] Ng S Lin 1993, pp. 186187
[20] Ng S Lin 1993, p. 188
[21] Ng S Lin 1993, pp. 189190


[22] Ng S Lin 1993, p. 193

[23] Ng S Lin 1993, p. 192

The historian Ng S Lin praised Trn Thnh Tng as

one of the nest emperors of the Trn dynasty. He was
not only a righteous ruler but also a dutiful son, kindhearted brother and father with sense of responsibility
who was credited for the stability of both the royal family and the whole country. Thnh Tngs successful reign
was the solid foundation for the long period of prosperity
and peace in i Vit afterwards.[1][18][39] Moreover, like
his brother Trn Quang Khi, Trn ch Tc and Trn Nht
Dut, Trn Thnh Tng was a renowned scholar, Thnh
Tng taught his princes by his own poems, and he also had
a literary work named Di hu lc.[14] The Emperor was
only criticized sometimes by Ng S Lin, a Confucian
historian, for his devotion for Buddhism, which was not
suitable for a person in such a high position like him.[1]

[24] Chapuis 1995, p. 83

[25] Chapuis 1995, pp. 8485
[26] Ng S Lin 1993, pp. 192193
[27] Trn Trng Kim 1971, p. 58
[28] Ng S Lin 1993, pp. 192195
[29] Ng S Lin 1993, p. 195
[30] Ng S Lin 1993, pp. 196198
[31] Ng S Lin 1993, p. 197
[32] Trn Trng Kim 1971, p. 61
[33] Chapuis 1995, p. 84



[1] Ng S Lin 1993, p. 175

[34] Delgado, James P. (2009). Khubilai Khans Lost Fleet: In

Search of a Legendary Armada. University of California
Press. pp. 161162. ISBN 0-520-25976-9.
[35] Trn Trng Kim 1971, p. 62

[2] Ng S Lin 1993, p. 165

[36] Ng S Lin 1993, p. 200

[3] Ng S Lin 1993, p. 166

[37] Trn Trng Kim 1971, p. 63

[4] Ng S Lin 1993, p. 173

[38] Ng S Lin 1993, p. 201

[5] Ng S Lin 1993, pp. 172173

[39] Ng S Lin 1993, p. 202

[6] Chapuis 1995, p. 81

[40] Ng S Lin 1993, p. 220



Ng S Lin (1993), i Vit s k ton th (in Vietnamese) (Ni cc quan bn ed.), Hanoi: Social Science Publishing House
National Bureau for Historical Record (1998),
Khm nh Vit s Thng gim cng mc (in Vietnamese), Hanoi: Education Publishing House
Trn Trng Kim (1971), Vit Nam s lc (in Vietnamese), Saigon: Center for School Materials
Chapuis, Oscar (1995), A history of Vietnam: from
Hong Bang to Tu Duc, Greenwood Publishing
Group, ISBN 0-313-29622-7


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