Ngô Quyền ( March 12, 897 – 944) was a Vietnamese king of Ngô dynasty who ruled from 939 to 944. He defeated the Southern Han kingdom at the Battle of Bạch Đằng River north of modern Haiphong and ended 1,000 years of Chinese domination dating back to 111 BC under the Han dynasty. A central district in modern Haiphong is named after him.
Ngô Quyền was born in 897 AD in Đường Lâm (modern-day Ba Vì District, Hanoi of northern Vietnam) during the Tang dynasty. He was the son of Ngô Mân, an influential Tang government official in Annam.
In 931, he served under Dương Đình Nghệ (the administrator of Zhou Cho Giao Chỉ) and quickly rose through the military ranks and government administration; by 934, he was promoted to the post of military governor of Ái Châu. After Dương Đình Nghệ was assassinated in a military coup in 938 by a usurper named Kiều Công Tiễn, he took control of the military and was well received. That same year, Ngô Quyền's forces defeated the rebel Kiều Công Tiễn and had him executed. This transpired into an opportunistic pretense for wrestling control of Annam by the new Southern Han regime due to its strategic geographical location. Ngô Quyền foresaw the Southern Han intention. He quickly mobilized the armed forces and made war preparations well in advance. His victory at the Battle of Bach Dang paved the way for Annam independence.
Ngô Quyền declared himself King and was officially recognized by the Southern Han in 939. In the process, Annam gained full independence and governmental autonomy.
Rise in the military
Ngô Quyền was a commander and trusted son-in-law of the warlord and de-facto Jiedushi Dương Đình Nghệ. In 931, when Dương Đình Nghệ defeated the Southern Han in Annam, Ngô Quyền was a 33-year-old general. Dương Đình Nghệ loved his talent and gave him one of his daughters, Lady Dương, in marriage and placed him in charge of Ái Châu (Nghệ An province at present). The province was Dương Đình Nghệ's hometown and military power base. By giving Ngô Quyền command of this region Dương Đình Nghệ recognized Ngô Quyền's loyalty and talent.
Defeating the Southern Han
In 938, the Southern Han dispatched an army to quell the An Nam rebellion. Ngô Quyền calculated that the Southern Han would sail down the Bạch Đằng River to unload their troops right in the middle of Giao Châu to do the most damage. To prevent this incursion, Ngô Quyền strategized and ordered the waters of Bạch Đằng embedded with thousands of large wooden pikes hidden just beneath the rising tide water. He used boats with shallow drafts to instigate and lure the Southern Han toward the traps after the tide had risen. When the hundreds of Southern Han ships were punctured and caught against the deadly traps, Ngô Quyền led his forces in the attack. Hundreds of trapped ships were burned and sabotaged and thousands of Southern Han soldiers were killed, while some managed to retreat and were chased out relentlessly by the forces of An Nam. In the thick of battle, most of the Southern Han army, including the Admiral Liu Hongcao (劉弘操; Vietnamese: Lưu Hoằng Tháo; the son of the Southern Han Emperor), were killed.
King of Viet Nam
After overthrowing the Chinese government in Vietnam and founding the Ngô Dynasty, the first Vietnamese dynasty, Ngô Quyền transferred the capital to Cổ Loa, the capital of Âu Lạc, the ancient Vietnamese kingdom, thus affirming the continuity of the traditions of the Lạc Việt people.
From this time, Ngô Quyền reclaimed Vietnamese independence and was proclaimed as King (Ngô Vương) of An Nam in 939. He named Vietnam Đại Việt when he was made king.
Ngô Quyền's immediate heirs proved unable to maintain a unified state. After his death in 944, Dương Tam Kha usurped the throne for a brief time, until Ngô Quyền's two sons, Ngô Xương Văn and Ngô Xương Ngập, finally established a joint rule, which lasted until the collapse of the Ngô Dynasty in 954.
Importance in Vietnamese history
The first history of Vietnam by Lê Văn Hưu (13th century), Anthology of Palace Spirits of Lý Tế Xuyên (14th Century), and successive histories all recognised the importance of Quyền.
Ngô Quyền's temple in Cam Lâm village.
Ngô Quyền's Temple.
Tomb of Ngô Quyền.