Nguyễn Phúc Nguyên

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Nguyễn Phúc Nguyên (阮福源) was a warlord who ruled the southern provinces of Vietnam from 1613 to 1635.[1]

Nguyễn Phúc Nguyên was an early Nguyễn lord who ruled south Vietnam from the city of Phú Xuân (modern-day Huế). During his rule, the Nguyễn established a city at modern-day Saigon. Later, his refusal to pay tribute to the court in Hanoi sparked the Trịnh–Nguyễn War.

Map of Vietnam showing (roughly) the areas controlled by the Trịnh, Nguyen, Mac, and Champa about the year 1640

Biography[edit]

Nguyễn Phúc Nguyên was the sixth son of Nguyễn Hoàng. Upon the death of his father, Nguyễn Phúc Nguyên took over the rule of the southern provinces of Vietnam. He continued his father's policy of refusing to submit to the authority of the court in Hanoi, dominated at this time by his cousin, Trịnh Tùng. Unlike his father he did not take the title Vuong but instead called himself Nhon Quoc-Cong (roughly Duke of the Southern Provinces).

Starting as early as 1615, Nguyễn Phúc Nguyên allowed Portuguese merchants to set up a trading post at Faifo (modern-day Hội An).[2] The Nguyễn began to purchase advanced European cannons from the Portuguese and learned something of European ship design. This would help them enormously in later years. As time passed, Faifo became a major trade port for the south-west Pacific where traders in the region came to sell and acquire goods. Chinese, Japanese, Europeans, and South Asians all came to trade at Faifo. Originally the land itself did not have any high value products, nevertheless later on Nguyễn lords established various sugar cane and mullberry plantations for the sole purpose of producing goods for overseas export. Traders from Japan came all the way to Vietnam because the Ming and the Manchu Emperors forbade trade with Japan. In order to obtain the highly desirable Chinese silks and ceramics, the Japanese had to come to Faifo. Local high quality silk was also one of the primary trade for Japanese merchants, who often purchase whole batches months prior to their annual arrival. The local silk price also reflected any changes in Japanese market. In return, Đàng Trong experienced serious shortage of precious metals like gold and copper which the Japanese had abundance to export, therefore Nguyễn Lords imported massive quantity of Japanese coins, either to circulate or to use in their cannon foundries.

Around 1620, Nguyễn Phúc Nguyên's daughter (Nguyen Thi Ngoc) married the king of Cambodia, Chey Chettha II (the marriage seems to have been contracted years earlier). As a result of this marriage, the Cambodian King allowed the Nguyễn to establish a small city at what is now Saigon in 1623. This settlement was the start of a major expansion by the Vietnamese beyond the borders established by Lê Thánh Tông in 1471.

With the death of Trịnh Tùng in 1623 and the new rule of his son, Trịnh Tráng, another formal demand was made by the Court in Hanoi for the Nguyễn to pay tribute. In 1624, Nguyen Phuc Nugyen formally refused. Three years later, the Royal (Trịnh) army marched south and attacked the Nguyễn.

The first set of battles lasted for four months but the Nguyễn armies were not defeated and Phú Xuân was not taken. The Royal army withdrew north to regroup. The Nguyễn immediately began the building of a massive pair of walls to defend their lands. This pair of walls, just south of the Linh River, eventually grew to a length of 11 miles, stretching from the sea to the mountains. The walls were each 20 feet tall and equipped with many cannons of European design.

In 1633, the Trịnh tried to outflank the walls with an amphibious invasion but the Nguyễn fleet was able to defeat the Royal (Trịnh) fleet at the battle of Nhat-Le.

Nguyễn Phúc Nguyên died in 1635 with the war still going on. Still, the defensive measures he had put in place served the Nguyễn well. Phú Xuân was not taken by the Trịnh till 1774. Further, his defensive success in these first battles is a credit to his ability to attract talented men to his cause and make use of expert military advice, even when it came from another country.


Preceded by
Nguyễn Hoàng
Ruler of South Vietnam
1613–1635
Succeeded by
Nguyễn Phúc Lan

See also[edit]

Sources[edit]

  1. ^ Dutton The Tây Sơn Uprising p20 "Nguyễn Phúc Nguyên"
  2. ^ Charles Wheeler in Viet Nam: Borderless Histories ed. Nhung Tuyet Tran, Anthony Reid - 2006 Page 168 "To signal the post's importance, Lord Hoàng appointed his son and heir, Nguyễn Phúc Nguyên, to govern it. Once the garrison was established and Nguyễn order prevailed, “the market did not have two prices [i.e., there was one fixed ..."