Tay Son Rebellion

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The Tay Son Rebellion was an uprising against Vietnam's Le Dynasty by members of the Nguyen family of Tay Son, which ended in the fall of the Le.

The rebellion, led by this time by Ngyuen Van Hung, successfully pushed Emperor Le Chieu Thong out of his capital, Dong Kinh, in 1787. Le fled to China, and successfully petitioned for aid from the Qianlong Emperor. Qing forces invaded Vietnam, and attempted to unseat the rebels, retaking the city of Dong Kinh by 1788/10. This was to be considered one of Qianlong's Ten Great Campaigns. However, within three months, by 1789/1, the Tay Son forces retook the city once more, driving the Qing forces, and Le Chieu Thong, out of Vietnam.

Nguyen Van Hung changed his name to Nguyen Quang Binh, and despite encountering considerable initial hesitation from the Qing court, which considered him a rebel and usurper, he eventually in 1789/5 received official recognition and investiture from the Qing court, as King of Annam. As Le Chieu Thong had abandoned his throne and his state twice, and had shown he could not maintain control or peace & order on his own, the Qing declared that he had lost the Mandate of Heaven, and could no longer be rightful ruler. He was, however, granted a position within the Qing court; he was made to adopt Qing costume and hairstyle, and was granted a position of third rank as a government official.

The king of Annam, Nguyen Hue, was meanwhile ordered to travel to Beijing to pay his respects to the Qianlong Emperor in person. This was an important test of Nguyen loyalty, but was also a dangerous proposition for a king to leave his kingdom, leaving his throne open to further coups, and making himself vulnerable to attack or capture in China. Therefore, a Vietnamese official traveled to Beijing and attended celebrations for the Qianlong Emperor's birthday in the king's place, claiming to be the king himself. The majority of records from this mission, including even private diaries kept by members of the mission, treat the envoy as the king and make no mention of this deception; seemingly, it went undetected, being known to us today only from certain internal Vietnamese court documents.[1]

The Tay Son state lasted only briefly, falling by 1802 to a new Nguyen Dynasty.


  • Ge Zhaoguang, “Costume, Ceremonial, and the East Asian Order: What the Annamese King Wore When Congratulating the Emperor Qianlong in Jehol in 1790,” Frontiers of History in China 7:1 (2012), 142.
  1. Liam Kelley, Beyond the Bronze Pillars, University of Hawaii Press (2005), 179.