Lý Cao Tông

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Lý Cao Tông
King of Vietnam
Predecessor Lý Anh Tông
Successor Lý Huệ Tông
Full name
Lý Long Cán or Lý Long Trát
Dynasty Lý Dynasty
Born 6 July 1173
Died 15 November 1210

Lý Cao Tông (1176–1210), born Lý Long Trát or Lý Long Cán, was the seventh king of the Lý dynasty, ruling for 35 years. Some consider his reign being the beginning of the falling into decay of the Lý Dynasty because of erroneous determinations made by him. However, many historians agree his important influence in Vietnamese history.[1]


Lý Cao Tông
Vietnamese name
Vietnamese Lý Cao Tông
Chữ Hán

He was the sixth son of Lý Anh Tông. His mother was Đỗ Thụy Châu who later became Empress Dowager Đỗ. He was born Lý Long Cán (or Trát) on May 25, 1173 according to the Eastern calendar. He was enthroned when he was very young, at the age of three; in fact one of the youngest Emperors enthroned in Vietnam's history. Prior to this, his predecessor Emperor Lý Anh Tông discrowned the former Crown Prince Long Xưởng and replace Prince Cán for this title. Tô Hiến Thành was trusted to become the regent to help young Emperor run the court and administer his nation. It is often noted the age and inexperience prove to be a minimal disadvantage in his ability to govern.

The Regent Tô Hiến Thành[edit]

Tô Hiến Thành was considered a talent and competent official when he was conferred the title Regent. After the decease of Anh Tông, his uppermost consort (now became Empress Dowager Chiêu Linh) wanted to dethrone her son Long Xưởng, who was the former Crown Prince. But thanks to Tô Hiến Thành's peremptoriness, Cán eventually became the successior of the throne.

But no longer after that, Tô Hiến Thành fell into the ailment and the agedness. At death's door, he recommended Empress Dowager Đỗ an official named Trần Trung Tá. She said a good word for his recommendation but it was merely something to please the dying people. After he was dead in 1179, she chose Đỗ An Di to become the Regent for her son.[2]

In 1181, Lý Long Xưởng led his army, subordinates, and servants to wantonly loot over the capital, wanted to mutiny. One year later, Empress Dowager Đỗ appointed Lý Kính Tu to teach her son. He was a capable official tutoring the young emperor and also helping him indoctrinate his people literature and morality. Thereafter, Empress Dowager Chiêu Linh and his son gave up the plot to mutiny.

Epicurean Emperor[edit]

When he was small, the Emperor was quite meek and lenient, but when growing up and directly administering his reign, he became more and more cruel and the nation rapidly was bunkered into turbulent state. He was enamoured by hunting and building many large palace for himself, put his people aside. Addition to fact that most of people were forced to drudge in many working, the code and rules under his reign was very obscure and immoral making his people to be very indignant and, in some area, they conflicted with local administration or in some worse case, they devastated buildings and looted from one village to another.

In March 1189, Cao Tông took a trip around the nation and built pagoda or temple wherever presumed having a deity or spirit. Nine years later, he continuously built Nghênh Thiềm palace. At the apex of the expenditure and the lavishment, in 1203, he had numerous palaces built. By the year 1208, the crop was in failure, many people died of starvation; the Emperor till devoted the life to pleasure, continuously built palaces, pagodas, and so on.

An official named Cao Đường Long when was observing a strange-bird nesting on the roof of constructing palace Kính Thiên (means Respecting the Heaven) augurred that a new and more powerful dynasty would soon supersede the current dynasty and advised the Emperor against continuing to built and built, but he put the advice aside and heard a eunuch named Phạm Bỉnh Di, who will be mentioned in this article later. When he heard that there were loots and robberies outside the citadel, he pretend unknown and put everything aside.

Turbulent era[edit]

Some rebellions[edit]

At that time, the affair of the state was abandoned; civil belief was replaced by disgust. As the result, many revolts and secessions exploded under the hand of local peasants and even small local nobles. The court had some efforts to oppress these rebellions, but it has no actual effect. Thereinafter, historians detail some main revolts at this time:

In 1192, the civilians from Cổ Hoằng, Thanh Hóa rioted. This was followed in 1198 by the rebellion of Câu Diễn and Đinh Khả, who professed to be the descendants of Đinh Tiên Hoàng.

In Aug. 1203, the king of Champa, Vidyanandana, entered Cửa Lò seeking asylum from a Khmer invasion. However, Vidyanandana killed the governor of Nghệ An, Pham Gieng. Vidyanandana then fled, never to be heard from again.[3]:79–80

September 1203, there was a potent force rebelling under the leading of two people from Đại Hoàng river who many years ago had accused Đàm Dĩ Mông of bleeding monetary and civil property and lashed by him. Fastening upon the chance accrued by the turbulent society and the lost of control of central power, they established the force to oppose against the court and step-by-step reinforced it. In turn, all generals despatched to suppress them were failed, the two firsts were Trần Lệnh Hinh and Từ Anh Nhữ who a minister, and the last was Đỗ Kính Tu; of them, two formers were killed.

In 1207, in mountainous area of Tản Viên ( now Hà Tây ) there has a revolt of some minorities, which was quite prestigious.

In addition to the internal conflict and constant hunger, during this time, Vietnamese people, particularly in the areas abutting on the Song Dynasty, incurred the intrusion of Northern army whereby they ran about to flee the intruder.

The shifty official Phạm Du[edit]

March 1207, two squires in Hồng Châu area ( now Hải Dương and Hải Phòng) Đoàn Thượng and Đoàn Chủ rioted, built fortress and wall, conferred the title Lord on themselves. Cao Tông dispatched a great amount of soldiers, dividing them on some corps to conquest the rebellion. There were 4 main corps from 4 directions: the Đại Thông corps of Đàm Dĩ Mông, the Khả Liễu corps of Phạm Bỉnh Di, the Phù Đái corps of Trần Hinh, the Nam Sách corps of Bảo Trinh; they all would assemble to suppress Đoàn Thượng's army. Recognizing that confronting with such a large army was merely a short way to come to the death, Thượng bribe Du many costly furniture, willingly followed him. The coalition between Du and Thượng was established. Thanks to the effort of Du to implore Cao Tông for forgiving Thượng, Thượng saved his neck.

At the beginning of 1209, Du was sent to Nghệ An to manage the army. This province underwent a catastrophic starvation whereby a large amount of people die of hunger, the survivors were out of money, left their home to wander. Most of them became beggars. Hence Phạm Du told the king that: "The society now is chaotic, and the pillage and the rebellion are uncontrolled. Please allow me to recruit soldier for establishing self-defense army ...." Cao Tông agreed with him. Du recruited people from local wanderers, allowing them to blockade the transport system, both on land and water. Cao Tông identified his army as rebel army and dispatch army from Đằng Châu Hưng Yên under the leading of Phạm Bỉnh Di to conquer him. Du retreated to Cổ Miệt, uniting his army with the army of Đòan Thương, Đoàn Chủ from Hồng Châu to battle with Bỉnh Di in Đằng Châu. Bỉnh Di failed. In February 1209, Bỉnh Di one more time brought army from Đằng Châu and Khoái Châu to conquer Phạm Du. The situation now was reversed. Du suffered the defeat and had to flee. All of Du's property was confiscated and then was inflamed.

After the defeat of Phạm Du, in April 1209, Đoàn Thượng's army also was overthrown. Phạm Du made an underhand maneuver by bribing lots to high-rank officials in the capital, accusing Bỉnh Di of ferocious massacre and wailed about the guiltlessness. Cao Tông allowed Trần Hinh to convoke Phạm Du to come to the court and also called Bỉnh Di back. Phạm Du returned to the capital prior to Bỉnh Di's arrival, flattering the king and traducing Bỉnh Di with false rumours. Then just after Bỉnh Di had arrived in, Cao Tông committed both him and his son to prison.

General Quách Bốc[edit]

Main article: Quách Bốc

A subordinate of Bỉnh Di named Quách Bốc, just after informed, led his army batterring the Đại Thanh Gate of the citadel down to save his guvnor. Two brothers Phạm Du and Phạm Kinh killed both Bỉnh Di and his son and then escaped out of the citadel with Cao Tông.

Quách Bốc occupied the citadel and subsequently enthroned the young prince Lý Thầm. Cao Tông fled to Tam Nông, Phú Thọ and lodged at the residence of Hà Vạn, who was a minority leader holding a potential force. The Crown Prince Sảm, who later became the succeeding king Lý Huệ Tông, fled to Hải Ấp, Thái Bình with his mother, Noble Consort Đoàn and his two younger sisters. Sảm lodged at the residence of Trần Lý, who was also an indigenous squire. Sảm married with Trần Thị Dung, who was Trần Lý daughter. Then he conferred the title Minh Tự on Trần Lý and title Commander of Anterior Citadel ( a title also held by Lý Thái Tổ during the time he was an official of Anterior Lê Dynasty ) on the brother-in-law of Trần Lý named Tô Trung Từ. They recruit soldiers from the surrounding and managed to conflict against Quách Bốc.

Informed that Lý Sảm himself established his own court and arbitrarily conferred handles on somebody, Cao Tông was annoyed and wanted to suppress his military power. He sent Phạm Du to associate with Đoàn Thượng, but Du intrigued with the Princess Thiên Cực and missed the meeting with Đoàn Thượng. When fulfilling another meeting, as crossing over Ma Lãng, he was killed by the army of the landlord of Bắc Giang.

Trần Lý and Tô Trung Tự led their army back to the capital to defeat Quách Bốc. At the end of 1209, the rebellion was suppressed, Trần Lý was killed in the battle, Tô Trung Từ sent army to bring Cao Tông back. In the circumstance that Phạm Du have died and Tô Trung Từ held almost power over the court, Cao Tông had to lean toward him. Đàm Dĩ Mông although quisling with Quách Bốc when he occupied the citadel but eventually was accepted to be the Thái úy – a rather high official.

There had no document confirmed about how the endings of Quách Bốc and Lý Thầm were.

The ending of the reign and some comments[edit]

October 28, 1210, Cao Tông died at the age of 38 at Thánh Thọ palace. The affair of the court was committed to Đỗ Kính Tu who became the Regent. The Crown Prince Sảm acceded to the throne, becoming the Emperor Lý Huệ Tông. The society was more and more turbulent. Ten years later the Lý Dynasty was replaced by Trần Dynasty

Historians criticise Cao Tông about his incompetence whereby the Lý Dynasty lost and was replaced. There were some comments was given by Vietnamese ancient historians :

  • Cao Tông was an epicurean Emperor, who was lost in lust, hunting, spirits, music. He also wasted much money in building his own palace, pagoda ....
  • He had many competent officials such as Đỗ Kính Tu, Phạm Bỉnh Di but he didn’t hear them, per contra, he killed Phạm Bỉnh Di and heard Phạm Du, who a foxy and deceitful official.
  • Quách Bốc's force could not very powerful but instead of confronting and oppressing him, Cao Tông and his subordinates fled cowardly.
  • Đàm Dĩ Mông was a disloyal official, but instead of killing him, Cao Tông conferred a high-rank official on him.

Lê Văn Hưu (1230–1322), a historian of the next generation, criticised Lý Cao Tông for presuming himself to be a Buddha.[4]


  1. ^ A Brief Chronology of Vietnam's History Anh Thư Hà, Hồng Đức Trần - 2000 - Page 44 "with the will of the deceased King, brought the Crown Prince to the throne as King Lý Cao Tông. As he grew up, the new King indulged in debauchery and neglected his duty. As a consequence, famines repeatedly occurred while robbery and ..."
  2. ^ Phillip Taylor, Modernity and Re-Enchantment: Religion in Post-revolutionary Vietnam Institute of Southeast Asian Studies - 2007 Page 89- "35 Second son of King Lý Cao Tông, r. 1176-1210. "
  3. ^ Maspero, G., 2002, The Champa Kingdom, Bangkok: White Lotus Co., Ltd., ISBN 9747534991
  4. ^ Nhung Tuyet Tran, Anthony Reid Viet Nam: Borderless Histories 2006 - Page 55 "He noted that it was a violation of Confucian ethics for Lý Thánh-Tông to call himself "A Man Having Ten Thousand Carriages" (vӘn thԢa), and for Lý Cao-Tông (r. 1176–1210) to presume himself to be a Buddha.
Preceded by
Lý Anh Tông
Emperor of the Lý Dynasty
Succeeded by
Lý Huệ Tông