Lý Thánh Tông

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Lý Thánh Tông
Emperor of Đại Việt
A statue of emperor Lý Thánh Tông
Emperor of Đại Việt
Reign3 November 1054 –
1 February 1072[1][2]
PredecessorKingdom of Đại Cồ Việt renamed to kingdom of Đại Việt
SuccessorLý Nhân Tông
Monarch of the Lý dynasty
PredecessorLý Thái Tông
SuccessorLý Nhân Tông
Born19 March 1023
Long Đức palace, Thăng Long
Died1 February 1072 (aged 48)
Hội Tiên palace, Thăng Long
Thọ Tomb
Spouse8 concubines, including Empress Thượng Dương
Empress Linh Nhân (靈仁皇太后)(Ỷ Lan)
IssueDuke Lý Càn Đức(Lý Nhân Tông)
Duke of Minh Nhân
Princess Động Thiên
Princess Thiên Thành
Princess Ngọc Kiều(adoptive)
Lý Nhật Tôn (李日尊)
Era dates
Long Thụy Thái Bình (龍瑞太平: 1054–1058)
Thiên Thánh Gia Khánh (彰聖嘉慶: 1059–1065)
Long Chương Thiên Tự (龍彰天嗣: 1066–1068)
Thiên Thống Bảo Tượng (天貺寶象: 1068–1069)
Thần Vũ (神武: 1069–1072)
Regnal name
Pháp Thiên Ứng Vận Sùng Nhân Chí Đức Anh Văn Duệ Vũ Khánh Cảm Long Tường Hiếu Đạo Thánh Thần Hoàng Đế (法天應運崇仁至德英文睿武慶感龍祥孝道聖神皇帝)
Posthumous name
Ứng Thiên Sùng Nhân Chí Đạo Uy Khánh Long Tường Minh Văn Duệ Vũ Hiếu Đức Thánh Thần Hoàng Đế (應天崇仁至道威慶龍祥明文睿武孝德聖神皇帝)
Temple name
Thánh Tông (聖宗)
FatherLý Thái Tông
MotherEmpress Linh Cảm (Mai thị) (靈感皇后枚氏)
Temple name
Vietnamese alphabetLý Thánh Tông
Chữ Hán
Personal name
Vietnamese alphabetLý Nhật Tôn
Chữ Hán

Lý Thánh Tông (19th March 1023 - 1st February 1072), personal name Lý Nhật Tôn [lǐ ɲə̀t ton], temple name Thánh Tông, was the third emperor of the Lý dynasty and the 8th ruler of the Vietnamese kingdom Đại Việt. In his reign, Lý Thánh Tông promoted the agricultural development, reducing some harsh laws and building many Confucianist and Buddhist institutions, most notably the first Temple of Literature in Vietnam (1072). He also fought several successful wars with Champa, resulting in the expansion of Vietnamese territory to the areas which are Quảng Bình Province and Quảng Trị Province today. Chinese sources identify Lý Nhật Tôn as the Viet king that dared to claim imperial status, which for the Chinese was a direct challenge to their view of the world that prelude to the Song-Viet war in 1070s.

Early life[edit]

Lý Nhật Tôn was the eldest son of the second emperor Lý Phật Mã and Queen Mai Thị. He was born on March 30, 1023, at Càn Đức palace. Unlike his father and grandfather, he had not lived in the disturbed atmosphere of Hoa Lư. He came of age witnessing and participating in the exuberance of Lý Phật Mã's reign. His father had readily delegated important tasks to him. He led soldiers against rebels, he judged offenders, he presided over the court in his father's absence, and he always knew that he would be king. In 1033, he was conferred crown prince after his father ascended the throne as Prince Khai Hoàng (開皇王).



Just after succession, Lý Nhật Tôn shortened the kingdom's name from Đại Cồ Việt to Đại Việt (literally "Great Viet"),[3] initiating the most prosperous epoch throughout the history of Vietnam under that name.[4]

Lý Thánh Tông incorporated both Sinic and Indic elements into his court.[5] In 1059 he ordered all palace officers who would approach him to wear contemporary Chinese-style headgear and footwear. Junior royal servants, scribes (thư gia), ten of whom were promoted to law officers in 1067.[3] In 1063, at 40 years old and still without a son and having visited shrines and temples throughout the kingdom to pray for an heir, he traveled to the Pháp Vân pagoda, about thirty kilometers east of Thăng Long at the ancient site of Luy Lâu, where Shi Xie had governed at the turn of the third century. This was among the first Buddhist temples to be built in the Red River Delta. Thánh Tông found interest on a young girl named Ỷ Lan who ignored the king's hubbub while continued working on the mulberry farm, and then took her as queen. Three years later she gave birth for prince Lý Càn Đức.[4] It appears that it was Lý Nhật Tôn who first conferred upon Lý Công Uẩn and Lý Phật Mã posthumous titles derived from Chinese dynastic usage.[6]

In order to educate people with Chinese classics, in 1070 Thánh Tông authorized the construction of Văn Miếu, the Temple of Literature, a scholarly shrine and archive in Thăng Long that was stocked with clay statues of the Duke of Zhou and of Confucius and his followers and paintings of seventy-two other disciples of Confucius.[3] Thánh Tông also relied on his chief minister Lý Đạo Thành to educate his four-year-old son Lý Càn Đức in Chinese classics.[5] Thánh Tông also reorganized the royal army, equipped them with cavalries and catapults.[7] In 1068, Thánh Tông ordered the war boats to be repaired. In making plans for the Champa campaign he relied on Lý Thường Kiệt (1019–1105), the ranking military officer at court.[8]

Foreign relations[edit]

Depiction of Tanguts and Vietnamese embassies to Sung China

After Nong Zhigao's rebellion was suppressed in 1055, the Guangnan West Circuit Fiscal Commissioner, Wang Han (fl. 1043–1063), feared that Nong Zhigao's kinsmen Nùng Tông Đán intended to plunder the region after he crossed the Song border in 1057.[9][10] Wang Han took a personal visit to Nùng Tông Đán's camp and spoke with Nong Zhigao's son, explaining that seeking "Interior Dependency" status would alienate them from the Vietnamese, but if they remained outside of China proper they could safely act as loyal frontier militia.[11] A local Song official, Xiao Zhu, agitated for military action against Thăng Long to settle the border question. They secretly trained military units and sheltered refugees from the Vietnamese side, including army deserters. The contradiction between the pacific pronouncements of the Song court and the devious, provocative policy of local Song officials angered Lý Nhật Tôn. In 1059, Lý Nhật Tôn to launch a punitive attack across the border, declaring his hate for "Sung's untrustworthiness".[6][12] After a year or so of attacks and counter-attacks, in which the local Sung officials fared poorly, a parley between Sung and Vietnamese envoys produced a temporary calm as some activist Sung officials were dismissed and the Sung court officially accepted Thăng Long's explanation of events.[13] According to the Chinese, Lý Nhật Tôn violated propriety by arrogantly proclaiming himself an emperor.[4] Because of recently violence in the borders, local Song officials went so far as to conspire with the Cham king to put pressure on the Vietnamese.[14] A Vietnamese embassy was permitted to offer tribute to the court of Renzong in Kaifeng, arriving on 8 February 1063 to deliver gifts, including nine tamed elephants.[15] The king sent a second embassy to the Sung court in 1067 to congratulate Shenzong's coronation, and received gifts from the Sung emperor including a golden belt, silver ingots, 300 bolts of silk, two horses, a saddle inlaid with gold and silver plating.[16]

As Champa constantly harassed the area near the border between the two nations and sometimes intruded deeply to loot, in 1069 Lý Thánh Tông himself led an seaborne invasion of Champa. He defeated the Cham army, burned Vijaya, and captured the king of Champa, Rudravarman III on Khmer territories.[17] Rudravarman III implored Lý Thánh Tông to release him in exchange for three areas, known as Địa Lý, Ma Linh, and Bố Chính. These now form part of Quảng Bình Province and Quảng Trị Province.[18]

Nhật Tôn's victorious army brought back thousands more Cham prisoners and resettled them near capital Thăng Long. These captives contributed Cham music to Viet court; they included Tao Tang, a Chinese monk who had been living at the Cham court. Under the guidance of his new royal patron Nhật Tôn, he established Đại Việt's third Thiền Buddhist sect. Alongside the popular Vinītaruci sect that Lý Công Uẩn had favored and the more ascetic and scholarly Võ Ngôn Thông sect of Lý Phật Mã, the kingdom acquired a princely order that was patronized by later Lý monarchs and catered to court interests, but also incorporated more cosmopolitan influences, including elements of Chinese Buddhism.[19]

Religious activities[edit]

Bodhisattva statue, dated 1057 AD from Phật Tích temple, Bắc Ninh Province, attributed to Lý Thánh Tông

Unlike his father and grandfather, Thánh Tông does not seem to have been much engaged with either the Buddhist or the spirit world.[5] In 1057 Thánh Tông erected a Buddha statue in Thăng Long as the reincarnation of a pantheon of spirits, including the ancient Lạc saint Gióng and the Chinese god of war, Chen Wu, while several years later the minister Lý Đạo Thành erected a Buddha statue and established a garden dedicated to a Bodhisattva in the grounds of the provincial Temple of Literature in Nghệ An.[3] In the capital, Thánh Tông ordered the construction of a temple called Phạn Vương Đế Thích for the worship of Indra (Đế Thích).[20] Also in the same year he constructed a royal cult linked Hindu-Buddhist king of the god Indra as well as Brahma (Phạn Vương);[21][5] every year, before the Tết lunar new year two days, Vietnamese kings and his entourage would go to the shrine of Indra to worship.[20] He also had two temples Thiên Phúc and Thiên Thọ, golden statues of Brahma and Sakra to worship.[22] In early 1072, Thánh Tông went up to the mount of Tản Viên to worship the mountain spirit.[23]

Era name[edit]

In January 1072, he suddenly died at the age of 49, having ruled for 17 years. During his rule, he used 5 era names:

  • Long Thụy Thái Bình (1054–1058)
  • Chương Thánh Gia Khánh (1059–1065)
  • Long Chương Thiên Tự (1066–1067)
  • Thiên Huống Bảo Tượng (1068)
  • Thần Vũ (1069–1072)


  • Parents
    • Lý Phật Mã (李佛瑪, 1000 – 1054)
    • Empress Mai
  • Wives
  • Empress Thượng Dương
    • Lady Ỷ Lan (倚蘭) or Lê Khiết Nương (黎潔娘)
    • 8 other unknowns
  • Children
    • Lý Càn Đức (李乾德, 1066 – 1128), first son
    • Lý Càn Quyết, second son
    • Sùng Hiền Hầu
    • Princess Động Thiên
    • Princess Thiên Thành
    • Lý Thị Ngọc Kiều (李氏玉嬌, 1042 – 1113), adopted daughter


Lý Khánh Vân (adoptive father)
Lý Công Uẩn (974–1028)
Phạm Thị Ngà
Lý Phật Mã (1000–1054)
Lê Mịch
Lê Hoàn (941–1005)
Đặng Thị Sen
Lê Thị Phất Ngân (981–?)
Dương Tam Kha (?–980)
Queen Dương (942–1001)
Lý Nhật Tôn (1023–1072)
Queen Mai



  1. ^ Nguyen Thu (2009). Dai-viet Kingdom of the South. Cornell University Press. p. 107. ISBN 9781425186456.
  2. ^ Mạnh Thường Trần (2008). Các tác giả văn chương Việt Nam. Nhà xuất bản Văn hóa thông tin. p. 1099.
  3. ^ a b c d Kiernan 2019, p. 156.
  4. ^ a b c Taylor 2013, p. 73.
  5. ^ a b c d Whitmore 2015, p. 288.
  6. ^ a b Tarling 1999, p. 144.
  7. ^ Chapuis 1995, p. 76.
  8. ^ Taylor 2013, p. 74.
  9. ^ McGrath 1986, p. 334.
  10. ^ Anderson 2008, p. 195.
  11. ^ Anderson 2008, p. 196.
  12. ^ Taylor 2013, p. 75.
  13. ^ Tarling 1999, p. 145.
  14. ^ Taylor 2013, p. 76.
  15. ^ Anderson 2008, p. 200.
  16. ^ Anderson 2008, p. 202-203.
  17. ^ Coedès 2015, p. 84.
  18. ^ Miksic & Yian 2016, p. 435.
  19. ^ Kiernan 2019, p. 154.
  20. ^ a b Taylor 2018, p. 27.
  21. ^ Whitmore 1986, p. 126.
  22. ^ Taylor 2018, p. 111.
  23. ^ Taylor 2018, p. 28.


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  • Kiernan, Ben (2019). Việt Nam: a history from earliest time to the present. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0190053796.
  • Chapuis, Oscar (1995), A history of Vietnam: from Hong Bang to Tu Duc, Greenwood Publishing Group, ISBN 0-313-29622-7
  • Whitmore, John K. (1986), ""Elephants Can Actually Swim": Contemporary Chinese Views of Late Ly Dai Viet", in Milner, Anthony Crothers; Marr, David G. (eds.), Southeast Asia in the 9th to 14th Centuries, Cambridge: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, pp. 117–137, ISBN 978-9-971-98839-5
  • Anderson, James A. (2008), "Treacherous Factions': Shifting Frontier Alliances in the Breakdown of Sino-Vietnamese Relations on the Eve of the 1075 Border War", in Wyatt, Don J. (ed.), Battlefronts Real and Imagined: War, Border, and Identity in the Chinese Middle Period, Palgrave MacMillan, pp. 191–226, ISBN 978-1-4039-6084-9
  • Tarling, Nicholas (1999). The Cambridge History of Southeast Asia: Volume 1, From Early Times to c.1800. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-66372-4.
  • McGrath, Michael (1986), "The Reigns of Jen-tsung (1022–1063) and Ying-tsung (1063–1067)", in Twitchett, Denis; Fairbank, John K. (eds.), The Cambridge History of China: Volume 5, The Sung Dynasty and Its Precursors, 907-1279, Part 1, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 279–346, ISBN 0-52181-248-8
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  • Whitmore, John K. (2015), "Building a Buddhist monarchy in Dai Viet: Temples and texts under Ly Nhan Tong (1072-1127)", in Lammerts, Dietrich Christian (ed.), Buddhist Dynamics in Premodern and Early Modern Southeast Asia, ISEAS Publishing, Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, pp. 283–306, ISBN 978-9-814-51906-9
  • Taylor, K. W. (2018). Essays Into Vietnamese Pasts. Cornell University Press. ISBN 978-1-50171-899-1.
Preceded by Emperor of the Lý dynasty
Succeeded by
Colour note
Lý Thái Tổ
Lý Thái Tông
Lý Thánh TôngỶ Lan
Sùng Hiền hầuLý Nhân Tông
Lý Thần Tông
Lý Anh Tông
Lý Long TườngLý Nguyên vươngLý Cao TôngEmpress Đàm
Lý ThẩmLý Huệ TôngTrần Thị Dung
Trần Thái TôngLý Chiêu HoàngPrincess Thuận ThiênTrần Liễu
Family tree of Vietnamese monarchs