Mongol invasions of Vietnam
The Mongol invasions of Vietnam or Mongol-Vietnamese Wars refer to the three times that the Mongol Empire and its chief khanate the Yuan dynasty invaded Đại Việt during the time of the Trần dynasty, along with Champa: in 1258, 1285, and 1287–88. The first invasion began in 1258 under the united Mongol Empire, as it looked for alternative paths to invade Song China. The Mongol general Uriyangkhadai was successful in capturing the Dai Viet capital Thang Long (now known as Hanoi) before turning north in 1259 to invade the Song dynasty in modern-day Guangxi as part of a coordinated Mongol attack with armies attacking in Sichuan under Möngke Khan and other Mongol armies attacking in modern-day Shandong and Henan.
|Mongol invasions of Đại Việt and Champa|
|Part of the Mongol invasions|
The Battle of Bạch Đằng (1288) during the Third Mongol invasion
|Commanders and leaders|
Jaya Indravarman VI
First invasion (1258): ~100,000 Mongols and 10,000 Yi people (Western estimate)|
~30,000 Mongols and 2,000 Yi people (Vietnamese estimate)
Second invasion (1285): ~300,000 (some speak of 500,000) in 1285
Third invasion (1288): reinforcement 70,000 Yuan troops, 21,000 tribal auxiliaries, 500 ships, plus remain forces from second invasion, total ~300,000 men
Đại Việt: ~40,000 in 1258, more than 100,000–200,000 in 1285 and 1288|
Champa: about 60,000 people
|Casualties and losses|
Unknown but heavy in 1258|
heavy in 1285 and heavy in 1288.
The second and third invasions occurred during the reign of Kublai Khan of the Yuan Dynasty. By this point, the Mongolian Empire had fractured into 4 separate entities with the Yuan Dynasty being the strongest and largest empire. These invasions resulted in a disastrous land defeat for the Mongols in 1285 and the annihilation of the Mongol navy in 1288. However, both the Trần dynasty and Champa decided to accept the nominal supremacy of the Yuan dynasty and serve as tributary states in order to avoid further conflicts.
By the 1250s, the Mongol Empire controlled large amounts of Eurasia including much of Eastern Europe, Anatolia, North China, Mongolia, Manchuria, Central Asia, Tibet and Southwest Asia. Möngke Khan (r. 1251–59) planned to attack the Song dynasty in South China from three directions in 1259. Therefore, he ordered the prince Kublai to pacify the Dali Kingdom. Uriyangkhadai led successful campaigns in the southwest of China and pacified tribes in Tibet before turning east towards Dai Viet by 1257.
In the autumn of 1257, Uriyangkhadai addressed three letters to Dai Viet emperor Trần Thái Tông demanding passage through to southern China. After the three successive envoys were imprisoned in the capital Thang Long (modern-day Hanoi) of Dai Viet, Uriyangkhadai invaded Dai Viet with generals Trechecdu and Aju in the rear.
The ancestors of the Trần clan originated from the province of Fujian and later migrated to Đại Việt under Trần Kinh 陳京 (Chén Jīng), the ancestor of the Trần clan. Their descendants, the later rulers of Đại Việt who were of mixed-blooded descent later established the Tran dynasty, which ruled Vietnam (Đại Việt); despite many intermarriages between the Trần and several royal members of the Lý dynasty alongside members of their royal court as in the case of Trần Lý and Trần Thừa, some of the mixed-blooded descendants of the Trần dynasty and certain members of the clan could still speak Chinese such as when a Yuan dynasty envoy had a meeting with the Chinese-speaking Trần prince Trần Quốc Tuấn in 1282.
Professor Liam Kelley noted that people from Song dynasty China like Zhao Zhong and Xu Zongdao escaped to Trần Dynasty Vietnam after the Mongol invasion of the Song and helped the Tran fight against the Mongol invasion. The ancestors of the Tran clan originated from the Fujian region of China as did the Daoist Chinese cleric Xu Zongdao who recorded the Mongol invasion and referred to them as "Northern bandits". He quoted the Đại Việt Sử Ký Toàn Thư which said “When the Song [Dynasty] was lost, its people came to us. Nhật Duật took them in. There was Zhao Zhong who served as his personal guard. Therefore, among the accomplishments in defeating the Yuan [i.e., Mongols], Nhật Duật had the most.”
Southern Song Chinese military officers and civilian officials left to overseas countries, went to Vietnam and intermarried with the Vietnamese ruling elite and went to Champa to serve the government there as recorded by Zheng Sixiao. Southern Song soldiers were part of the Vietnamese army prepared by emperor Trần Thánh Tông against the second Mongol invasion.
First Mongol invasion in 1258
In 1258, a Mongol column under Uriyangkhadai, the son of Subutai, invaded Đại Việt. According to Vietnamese sources, the Mongol army consisted of at least 30,000 soldiers of which at least 2,000 were Yi troops from the Dali Kingdom, while Western sources estimate that the Mongol army consisted of about 100,000 Mongols with an additional 10,000 Yi soldiers. A battle was fought in which the Vietnamese used war elephants: their Emperor even led his army from atop an elephant. Aju ordered his troops to fire arrows at the elephants' feet. The animals turned in panic and caused disorder in the Đại Việt army, which was routed. The Dai Viet senior leaders were able to escape on pre-prepared boats while part of their army was destroyed at No Nguyen (modern Viet Tri on the Hong River). The remainder of the Dai Viet army again suffered a major defeat in a fierce battle at the Phu Lo bridge the day after. This led the Tran leadership to evacuate the capital. The Dai Viet annals report that the evacuation was "in an orderly manner;" however this is viewed as a embellishment because the Dai Viet must have retreated in disarray to leave their weapons behind in the capital.
The emperor of Đại Việt fled to an offshore island, and the Mongols occupied the capital city Thăng Long (now Hanoi). They found their envoys in prison, however one of whom died. Although the Mongols had successfully captured the capital, the provinces around the capital was still in Đại Việt control. Đại Việt applied a scorched earth policy, burning all the farms and evacuating all food supplies around the capital, which starved off the Mongols. While Chinese source material incorrectly stated that Uriyangkhadai withdrew from Vietnam due to poor climate, Uriyangkhadai left Thang Long after nine days to invade the Song dynasty in modern-day Guangxi in a coordinated Mongol attack with armies attacking in Sichuan under Möngke Khan and other Mongol armies attacking in modern-day Shandong and Henan. Knowing that the Mongol force was weakened and demoralized, the Trần Emperor counterattacked at Đông Bộ Đầu, Thăng Long at midnight on 28 January 1258. The Mongol force suffered a heavy defeat, losing Thăng Long to Trần army and were forced to retreat back to China. During the retreat, they were ambushed by a Trần general Ha Bong..
Although the Trần Dynasty won the war, their land was devastated. The Vietnamese recognized their neighbouring country, the Southern Song dynasty, was weakened and that the rising Mongol empire would soon overcome all of China, which would conclude around 1279. By 1260, the Trần submitted and became reluctant vassals of the Mongol empire. According to the records of the Yuan dynasty, the Trần court sent tribute every three years and received a darughachi. However, the Vietnamese emperor repeatedly ignored demands to attend the Yuan court and offer his personal submission to the Great Khan. By 1266, a standoff developed, as Emperor Thánh Tông sought a loose tributary relationship, while Kublai called for full submission. Trần Thánh Tông sent an official letter demanding Kublai take his darughachi back. Due to civil war in the Mongol empire, and the ongoing occupation of China, armed conflict was delayed. Instead, Kublai reminded him of the peace treaty signed by the Mongols and Đại Việt.
As a result of the Mongol conquest of the Song Empire, by 1278–79, Mongol troops reached Đại Việt's northern borders. Some former Song officials fled to Đại Việt and Champa, former vassals of Song China, during the final stage of Mongolian conquest of China. The Viet rulers, Emperor Emeritus Thánh Tông and the new Emperor, Nhân Tông resisted renewed Mongol demands for personal attendance at Kublai's court, but dispatched Tran Di Ai (Thánh Tông's uncle) as envoy. Kublai tried to enthrone Di Ai as prince in 1281 but Di Ai and his small army were ambushed by Đại Việt forces.
Sogetu of the Jalairs, the governor of Guangzhou, was dispatched to demand the submission of Champa. Although the king of Champa accepted the status of a Mongol protectorate, his submission was unwilling. In 1282, Sogetu led a maritime invasion of Champa with 5,000 men, but could only muster 100 ships because most of the Yuan ships had been lost in the invasions of Japan.
However, Sogetu was successful in capturing Vijaya, the Champa capital later that year. The aged Champa king Indravarman V retreated out of the capital, avoiding Mongol attempts to capture him in the hills. His son would wage guerrilla warfare against the Mongols for the next few years, eventually wearing down the invaders. Stymied by the withdrawal of the Champa king, Sogetu asked for reinforcements from Kublai but sailed home in 1284 just as another Mongol fleet with more than 15,000 troops under Ataqai and Arigh Khaiya embarked on a fruitless mission to reinforce him. Sogetu presented his plan to have more troops invade Champa through Đại Việt. Kublai accepted his plan and put his son Toghan in command, with Sogetu as second in command.
Second Mongol invasion in 1285
This was the first invasion of Đại Việt by Kublai Khan's Yuan dynasty. In 1284 Kublai appointed his son Toghan (Vietnamese: Thoát Hoan) to conquer Champa. Toghan demanded from the Trần a route to Champa, which would trap the Champan army from both north and south. While Thánh Tông and Nhân Tông accepted the demand reluctantly, generalissimo Hưng Đạo rallied 15,000 troops and helped the Chams to defend their lands.
Planning to weaken the enemies first, the Đại Việt imperial family abandoned the capital and retreated south while enacting a scorched earth campaign by burning villages and crops. At the same time, Sogetu moved his army up north in an attempt to envelop the imperial family in a pincer movement, which the Vietnamese managed to escape.
Sogetu's army was weakened by the summer heat and the lack of food, so they stopped chasing the imperial family and move north to join with Toghan. Seeing the Mongol's movement, Trần Hưng Đạo concluded that the Mongol was weakened and decided to take the opportunity to strike, selecting battlefields where the Mongol cavalry could not be fully employed.
The Cham were in pursuit of Sogetu as he was heading north, and killed him and defeated his army. However, according to Vietnamese history, Sogetu was defeated in Hàm Tử, Hưng Yên and was killed by the Vietnamese in his retreat. As the Yuan forces advanced down the Red River, dispersing their power, Prime Minister Quang Khải personally launched a large counterattack at Chương Dương, forcing Toghan to withdraw. Toghan returned without a huge loss of the army under him thanks to the Kipchak officer Sidor and his navy.
The next year, Kublai installed Trần Thánh Tông's younger brother Trần Ích Tắc, a defector to the Yuan, as prince of Đại Việt, but hardship in the Yuan's Hunan supply base aborted his plan.
Third/Final Mongol invasion, 1287-88
This was the second invasion of Đại Việt by Kublai Khan's Yuan dynasty. In 1287 the Yuan commander Toghan invaded with 70,000 regular troops, 21,000 tribal auxiliaries from Yunnan and Hainan, a 1000-man vanguard under Abachi, and 500 ships under the Muslim Omar (Vietnamese: Ô Mã Nhi) (who was the son of Nasr al-Din (Yunnan)) and Chinese Fanji (according to some sources, the Mongol force was composed of 300,000–500,000 men). Kublai sent veterans such as Arigh Khaiya, Nasir al-Din and his grandson Esen-Temür. The strategy of this invasion was different: a huge base was to be established just inland from Hải Phòng, and a naval assault mounted as well as a land attack. Despite the large scale of the invasion, Trần Quốc Tuấn confidently told the emperor Nhân Tông that the invaders can be defeated easily this time. Trần Hưng Đạo withdrew from inhabited areas, leaving the Mongols with nothing to conquer. The whole fleet bringing food provisions to Toghan's army by maritime route was ambushed and destroyed by Trần Khánh Dư. Facing the lack of food again, Toghan retreated to China through the Bạch Đằng River.
Borrowing a tactic used by king Ngô Quyền in 938 to defeat an invading Chinese fleet, the Đại Việt forces drove iron-tipped stakes into the bed of the Bạch Đằng River, and then, with a small flotilla, lured the Mongol fleet into the river just as the tide was starting to ebb, while their route to the sea had been blockaded by large warships. Unable to return or escape to the sea, the entire Mongol fleet of 400 craft was caught in a bloody boarding and missile battle, sunk, captured, or burned by fire arrows. This would later become known as the Battle of Bạch Đằng (1288). The Yuan admiral Omar was captured and executed. Toghan's remaining army was routed during the retreat. However, they were able to withdraw back to China.
In Đại Việt
Kublai angrily banished Toghan to Yangzhou for life. The Mongols and the Tran Vietnamese agreed to exchange their war prisoners. While Nhan Tong was willing to pay tribute to the Yuan, relations again floundered on the question of attendance at the Yuan court and hostile relations continued.
The Trần Dynasty decided to accept the supremacy of the Yuan dynasty in order to avoid further conflicts. Because he refused to come in person, Kublai detained his envoy, Dao-tu Ki, in 1293. Kublai's successor Temür Khan (r.1294-1307), finally released all detained envoys, settling for a tributary relationship, which continued to the end of the Yuan.
The Champa Kingdom decided to accept the supremacy of the Yuan dynasty as well. A tributary relationship continued for some time, but Champa disappears from Yuan records before 1300. The king of Champa made the act of vassalage to the Mongols.
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- Kingdom of Champa
- Battle of Bạch Đằng (1288)
- Tran Hung Dao
- Yuan dynasty
- Kublai Khan
- Mongol invasions
- Trần dynasty military tactics and organization
- Mongol military tactics and organization