Military Wiki
Ngô Quyền
Succeeded by Dương Bình Vương
Personal details
Born 898
Died 944 (aged 45–46)
Spouse(s) Dương hậu
Đỗ phi

Ngô Quyền (吳權; March 12, 897 – 944) (r. 939–944) was a Vietnamese prefect and general during the Southern Han Dynasty occupation of Giao Châu in the Red River Valley in what is now northern Vietnam. In 938, he soundly defeated the Chinese at the famous Battle of Bạch Đằng River north of modern Haiphong and ended 1,000 years of Chinese domination dating back to 111 BC under the Han Dynasty.[1]

Early life

Ngô Quyền was born in 897 AD in Đường Lâm (modern-day Ba Vì District, Hanoi of northern Vietnam). He was the son of Ngô Mân, an influential government official in Annam during the Tang Dynasty occupation. His father was a strong supporter of Phùng Hưng, the first Jiedushi of the Annam and semi-autonomous ruler when the Tang Dynasty was in decline.

In 931, he served under Dương Đình Nghệ and quickly rose through the military ranks and government administration, by 934, he was promoted military governor of Ái Châu. After Dương Đình Nghệ was assassinated in a military coup in 938 by a usurper named Kiều Công Tiễn, he took control of the military and was well received. That same year, Ngô Quyền's forces defeated the rebel Kiều Công Tiễn and had him executed. This transpired into an opportunistic pretense for wrestling control of Annam by the new Southern Han regime due to its strategic geographical location. Ngô Quyền foresaw the Chinese intention. He quickly mobilized the armed forces and made war preparations well in advance. His victory at the Battle of Bach Dang paved the way for Viet independence.

Ngô Quyền was declared King and was officially recognized by Imperial China in 939. In the process, Annam (future Vietnam) gained full independence and governmental autonomy ever since (with the exception of a short period of 20 years under military occupation by the Ming Dynasty in the early 15th century.

Rise in the military

Ngô Quyền was a commander and trusted son-in-law of Vietnamese warlord and de facto Lord Protector Dương Đình Nghệ. In 931, when Dương Đình Nghệ defeated the crumbling Southern Han influence in Annam, Ngô Quyền was a 33-year-old Army General. Dương Đình Nghệ loved his talent and gave him one of his daughters, Lady Dương, in marriage and placed him in charge of Ái Châu (Nghệ An province at present). The province was Dương Đình Nghệ's hometown and military power base. By giving Ngô Quyền command of this region Dương Đình Nghệ indicated Ngô Quyền's loyalty and talented leader amongst his subordinates.

Defeating the Southern Han

In 938, the Chinese dispatched an army to quell the Viet rebellion. Ngô Quyền calculated that the Chinese would sail down the Bạch Đằng River to unload their troops right in the middle of Giao Châu to do the most damage. To prevent this incursion, Ngô Quyền strategized and ordered the waters of Bạch Đằng embedded with thousands of large wooden pikes hidden just beneath the rising tide water. He used boats with shallow drafts to instigate and lure the Chinese toward the traps after the tide had risen. When the Chinese hundreds of ships were punctured and caught against the deadly traps, Ngô Quyền led his forces in the attack. Hundreds of trapped ships were burned and sabotaged and thousands of Chinese soldiers were killed, while some managed to retreat and were chased out relentlessly by the Viet forces. In the thick of battle, most of the Han army, including the Admiral Liu Hongcao (劉弘操; Vietnamese: Lưu Hoàng Thao; the son of the South Chinese imperator), commander of the Chinese force, were drowned.

King of Viet Nam

After overthrowing the Chinese government in Vietnam and founding the Ngô Dynasty, arguably the first Vietnamese dynasty, Ngô Quyền transferred the capital to Cổ Loa, the capital of Âu Lạc Kingdom, thus affirming the continuity of the traditions of the Lạc Việt people. From this time, Ngô Quyền reclaimed Vietnamese independence and was proclaimed as King (Ngô Vương) of An Nam in 939. He named Vietnam Đại Việt when he was made king

Ngô Quyền's immediate heirs proved unable to maintain a unified state. After his death in 944, Duong-Binh Vuong Tam-Kha usurped the throne for a brief time—until Ngô Quyền's two sons, Ngô Nam-Tan Vuong Xuong-Van and Ngô Thien-Sach Vuong Xuong-Ngap, finally established a joint rule, which lasted until the collapse of the Ngô Dynasty in 954.

Importance in Vietnamese history

The first history of Vietnam by Lê Văn Hưu (13th Century), Anthology of Palace Spirits of Lý Tế Xuyên (14th Century), and successive histories all recognised the importance of Quyền.[2]


  1. Van Dao Hoang Viet Nam Quoc Dan Dang: A Contemporary History of a National Struggle: 1927-1954 Page 7 2008 "... expression of the traditional attitude against foreign invasion derived from such heroes as Trưng Sisters Queens, Ngô Quyền, Lê Lợi, Hưng Đạo, and Quang Trung."
  2. Patricia M. Pelley Postcolonial Vietnam: New Histories of the National Past 2002- Page 177 "For instance, the first history of Vietnam, written in the thirteenth century by Lê Văn Hưu, recognized the importance of the Trưng sisters and Ngô Quyền. Subsequent texts, such as Palace Spirits, the popular compilation of the fourteenth ."

Further reading

Ngô Quyền
Ngô Dynasty
Born: 897 Died: 944
Preceded by
Kiều Công Tiễn
as governor of Tĩnh Hải quân
King of Nam Việt
939 – 944
Succeeded by
Dương Tam Kha

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