Mongol invasions of Vietnam

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Mongol-Vietnamese Wars
Part of the Mongol invasions
Battle of Bach Dang (1288).jpg
The Battle of Bạch Đằng (1288) during the Third Mongol invasion
Date 1258, 1285 and 1287-88
Location Đại Việt and Champa

Mongol military defeat

  • To avoid further conflict, Đại Việt and Champa agreed to a tributary relationship with the Yuan dynasty
  • The capital city of the Tran was sacked by the Mongols three times
  • Huge fiscal loss suffered by all parties

Mongol Empire (1258)

Đại Việt under the Trần dynasty

Commanders and leaders
Möngke Khan
Kublai Khan
Umar (Omar)
Trần Thái Tông
Trần Thánh Tông
Trần Nhân Tông
Trần Hưng Đạo
Trần Quang Khải
Jaya Indravarman VI
about 55,000 in 1257[citation needed]
about 500,000 in 1285
More than 500,000 in 1287-88[citation needed]
Đại Việt more than 200,000-300,000 people in 1285; Champa about 60,000 people[citation needed]
Casualties and losses
Unknown[citation needed] More than 50,000-100,000 killed[citation needed]

The Mongol invasions of Vietnam or Mongol-Vietnamese War refer to the three times that the Mongol Empire and its chief khanate the Yuan dynasty invaded Đại Việt (now northern Vietnam) during the Trần dynasty and Champa: in 1258, 1285, and 1287–1288.[1] Although ultimately a failure for the Mongols, both the Trần dynasty and Champa decided to accept the nominal supremacy of the Yuan dynasty in order to avoid further conflicts.


By the 1250s, the Mongol Empire controlled most of Eurasia including 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. After subjugating Dali, Kublai sent one column under Uriyangkhadai to the southeast. Uriyangkhadai sent envoys to demand the submission of Đại Việt, but the Trần rulers imprisoned the Mongol envoys.[2] This action led Uriyangkhadai and his son Aju to invade Đại Việt with 40,000 Mongols and 10,000 Yi people.[2]

The Chinese region of Fujian was the original home of the Chinese Tran (Chen) clan before they migrated under Trần Kinh (陳京, Chén Jīng) to Dai Viet and whose descendants established the Trần dynasty which ruled Vietnam Đại Việt, 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 (later King Trần Hưng Đạo) in 1282.[3][4][5][6][7][8]

First Mongol invasion in 1258[edit]

Kublai Khan, the fifth Great Khan of the Mongol Empire, and the founder of the Yuan dynasty

In 1258, a Mongol column under Uriyangkhadai, the son of Subutai, invaded Đại Việt. A battle was fought in which the Vietnamese used war elephants. 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 King of Đại Việt fled to an offshore island, and the Mongols occupied the capital city Thăng Long (now Hanoi). When they found their envoys in prison, one of whom died, they responded by massacring the population of the capital.

In January 29, 1258, Đại Việt's Emperor Trần Thái Tông along with Prince Trần Hoảng counterattacked and defeated the Mongols at Đông Bộ Đầu (vi). The Mongols retreated completely from Đại Việt. According to historians, Hòe Nhai Pagoda in Ba Đình District, Hanoi, is the site of Đông Bộ Đầu where the battle took place.[9]

The following year (1259), Uriyangkhadai returned to Đại Việt with an army of three thousand Mongols and ten thousand local troops from the conquered Kingdom of Dali, now the Yuan province of Yunnan. He led this army into Song China, and fought his way to the Yangtze River, joining with an army led by Kublai which had invaded from the north and was besieging Ezhou (modern Wuhan).[10]

The Vietnamese had submitted unwillingly, and were reluctant vassals. The King repeatedly ignored demands to attend the Yuan court and offer his personal submission to the Great Khan. Nevertheless, according to the history of the Yuan dynasty, the Trần court sent tribute every three years and received a darughachi. By 1266, however, a standoff developed, as the King Thánh Tông sought a loose tributary relationship, while Kublai demanded full submission. Thánh Tông sent an official letter requiring Kublai to take his darughachi back. Because of civil war in the Mongol Empire, and the Yuan conquest of Song 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.[11] The Trầns' new ruler Nhân Tông resisted renewed Mongol demands for personal attendance at Kublai's court, but dispatched his uncle Tran Di Ai 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,[12] 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.[13]

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.[14] Stymied by the withdrawal of the Champa king, Sogetu asked reinforcements from Kublai but sailed home in 1284 just as another Mongol fleet with more than 15,000 troops under Ataqai and Arigh Khaiya reembarked 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.

Map depicting Mongol campaign in Đại Việt in the north and Champa in the south

Second Mongol invasion in 1285[edit]

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 Nhân Tông preferred to accept the demand, General Hưng Đạo rallied 15,000 troops and refused to help the Mongols by providing a route and supplies.

However, Toghan defeated Hưng Đạo's army and reoccupied Thăng Long in June 1285. Drawing from experience with previous Chinese invasions, the Đại Việt royal family abandoned the capital and retreated south while enacting a scorched earth campaign by burning villages and crops.[14] At the same time, Sogetu moved his army up north in an attempt to envelop Đại Việt in a pincer movement.[14]

The Cham were in hot pursuit of Sogetu, however, and managed to kill him and defeat his army while it was moving north.[15] As the Yuan forces advanced down the Red River, dispersing their power, General Quang Khải counterattacked them 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.

Seeing the Mongol force weakened under the Vietnamese heat and sickness, Trần Hưng Đạo took this opportunity to strike, selecting battlefields where the Mongol cavalry could not be fully employed.[15] The Mongol forces under Sogetu and Li Heng (Vietnamese: Lí Hằng) suffered a major defeat on the muddy grounds of the Red River. The Yuan army retreated north, but few made it back to China due to pursuing Đại Việt troops and warriors from the Hmong and Yao tribes.[15]

The next year, Kublai installed Nhân 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[edit]

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 1,000-man vanguard under Abachi, and 500 ships under the Muslim Omar (Vietnamese: Ô Mã Nhi) 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 large-scale naval assault mounted as well as a land attack. Trần Hưng Đạo withdrew from inhabited areas, leaving the Mongols with nothing to conquer. A fleet prepared to bring provisions to Toghan's army by maritime route was ambushed and burned by Trần Khánh Dư. Facing the lack of food again, Toghan retreated to China through Bach Dang River. Borrowing a tactic used by general 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. The invading Mongol army of the Yuan retreated to China, harassed en route by Trần Hưng Đạo's troops. The Yuan officers such as Abachi and Fanji died in bloody retreat and Omar was captured.


In Đại Việt[edit]

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 foundered 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.

In Champa[edit]

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.


  1. ^ Tansen Sen - The Yuan Khanate and India: Cross-Cultural Diplomacy in the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Centuries, pp. 305
  2. ^ a b Atwood, C. (2004) p. 579
  3. ^ Taylor, K. W. (2013). A history of the Vietnamese (1. publ. ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 103, 120. ISBN 978-0521699150. 
  4. ^ Hall, edited by Kenneth R. (2008). ed. Secondary cities and urban networking in the Indian Ocean Realm, c. 1400-1800 Check |url= value (help). Lanham: Lexington Books. p. 159. ISBN 978-0739128350. 
  5. ^ eds. Dutton & Werner & Whitmore 2013 .
  6. ^ Gunn 2011, p. 112.
  7. ^ Embree & Lewis 1988, p. 190.
  8. ^ Woodside 1971, p. 8.
  9. ^ Historical site of Đông Bộ Đầu.
  10. ^ Haw, S. G. (2013)
  11. ^ Hok-Lam Chan - Chinese Refugees in Annam and Champa at the End of the Sung Dynasty, Journal of Southeast Asian History, Vol. 7, No. 2 (Sep., 1966), pp. 1-10
  12. ^ Grousset, R. (1970) p. 290
  13. ^ Delgado, J. (2008) p. 158
  14. ^ a b c Delgado, J. (2008) p. 159
  15. ^ a b c Delgado, J. (2008) p. 160


  • Atwood, Christopher Pratt. (2004). Encyclopedia of Mongolia and the Mongol Empire. New York: Facts of File. ISBN 978-0-8160-4671-3.
  • Connolly, Peter. (1998). The Hutchinson Dictionary of Ancient & Medieval Warfare. Routledge. ISBN 978-1-57958-116-9.
  • Delgado, James P. (2008). Khubilai Khan's Lost Fleet: In Search of a Legendary Armada. Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre. ISBN 978-0-520-25976-8.
  • Grousset, René. (1970). The Empire of the Steppes. Rutgers University Press. ISBN 978-0-8135-1304-1.
  • Haw, S. G. (2013) "The Deaths of Two Khaghans", Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies.

See also[edit]

 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the Library of Congress Country Studies.