Research and Discussion

Key decisions of Tran Dynasty in national construction and defence

10/2/2022 9:26:38 PM

Dai Viet under Tran Dynasty was an independent, self-reliant, and vigorously developing country, which recorded great achievements in political, military, economic, cultural, and social domains. These achievements were attributed to Tran Dynasty’s key decisions and leverage of comprehensive strength of the whole people in the cause of national building and defence.

On the basis of a peaceful power transition from the Ly Dynasty and practical context at that time, Tran Dynasty focused on resolving state affairs and promulgated many sound, people-centred policies aimed at continuing to build a strong, prosperous Dai Viet. This is one of the most successful periods of development in our history with the glorious Dong A spirit, which wrote a resplendent page in the cause of national construction and defence of our country and is manifested in the following contents:

First, restore and strengthen centralised governance and build a strong military. After taking over power, Tran Dynasty embarked on restoring and consolidating the apparatus of government with the aim to continue to develop the country. Within a short period of time, Tran Dynasty’s apparatus of government was strengthened from the central to local levels and was divided into four levels, namely the court, province, district, and commune. The court held the highest power, managed all operations of the country, and controlled localities through the government system and law of a feudal state. Additionally, the local apparatus of government was strengthened in a more unified and regular manner. The close organisation of the apparatus of government from the central to local levels proved that the state apparatus under Tran Dynasty was restored, developed vigorously, and more complete than that under Ly Dynasty.

Second, establish a stable, sustainable society. The social structure under Tran Dynasty consisted of strata, namely king and his father; mandarin, aristocrat, royal family; common man (Confucian scholar, serf, craftsman, merchant), and house servant. Like Dinh, Early Le, and Ly dynasties, a king represented a man of supreme power, who occupied the central position of a community, led and managed all operations of the country. All Tran kings at the early stages stayed close to the people, loved the people, and were wholeheartedly devoted to the people. Tran Dynasty’s people-centred policy was a key matter, which served to relieve people’s burden and connect communities to create comprehensive strength in order to defeat enemies, cope with natural disasters, and solve state affairs for the sake of national building and development. Tran Thanh Tong, Tran Thanh Tong, and Tran Nhan Tong are heroic kings in the wars of resistance against the Mongol Yuan aggressors. They were persons of great learning, used to pay attention to cultivation of solidarity and unity throughout the country, and were the most vivid manifestations of Tran Dynasty’s people-centred policy. In fact, these kings used to share hardships with military generals, troops, and people; fight many battles and construct the country. Therefore, they all knew that each victory in war or achievement in national building depended on people’s support.

The mandarins, aristocrats, and members of the royal family were all subjects of the king and held important positions in the apparatus of feudal government. They were the mainstay of the king in ruling the country. According to Tran kings, a stable or chaotic country is attributed to mandarins. If the mandarins are good, the country will be stable or vice versa. Previous kings’ successful rule was largely due to the use of gentlemen. They lost their thrones because of using bad hats. At the outset of their rule, important positions at court were all occupied by members of the royal family. There were a few mandarins coming from the system of examinations. Nevertheless, when the Tran Dynasty speeded up selection of talented people through examinations since the second half of the 13th century, more and more men of great learning became mandarins. Important positions at court were occupied by not only aristocrats but also by people passing examinations. Although the Tran Dynasty’s mandarins, aristocrats, and family members were the major part of the then government system, they were young, energetic, full of potential, and in a good position to bring into their advantages. It was these factors that helped to create a stable society, contributing to generating comprehensive strength of the country, harmonising relationships at home and with foreign countries, and reducing the risk of war. Because Tran Dynasty treated the feudal intellectuals generously without constraints, amiably but politely, thus people who had sense of self-reliance, generosity, and talent were capable of transcending normality to bring honour to the national history.

The ordinary people under Tran Dynasty were the main productive force in the society and also the armed force existed in the form of “farmers in peacetime and troops in wartime.” They performed most of duties, ranging from paying taxes, doing hard labour, building dikes, land reclamation to military building and fighting against foreign aggressors to protect the country. The house servants were people of low social standing, completely dependent on their masters, the productive and service force at farms and palaces of mandarins, aristocrats, and members of the royal family. Although there was discrimination in political, economic, social domains under Tran Dynasty, it did not leave an enormous gap. As a result of Tran kings’ people-centred policy, people from various walks of life, regardless of their social standings, made every effort to develop the country in peacetime and stayed united under the leadership the court to resolutely defend the country in the face of foreign aggressors.

Third, develop estates. Apart from holding key positions at court, members of the royal family were also entrusted with guarding key areas and wielded enormous power over their areas of responsibility. The aristocrats and members of the royal family were rewarded with private estates and palaces. The size of these estates corresponded with their ranks and titles. Consequently, many estates possessed thousands of plots of land and tens of thousands of house servants. More importantly, besides engaging in production activities and serving their own masters, the house servants were also trained and organised into formations, becoming aristocrats’ troops, who were prepared to preserve order and fight against the enemy. In fact, in the wars of resistance against the Mongol Yuan aggressors, this force made considerable contribution and was recognised by the history. Tran Quoc Toan, one of the most prominent generals and a member of the royal family at that time, mobilised more than 1,000 house servants and relatives, procured weapons, built warships, and raised the flag embroidered with six words, namely “destroying powerful enemy, reciprocating king’s favour” to join hands with the court to fight the enemy.

Apart from their position as owners of the estates, the Tran Dynasty’s aristocrats and family members were allowed to administer vast areas surrounding their estates, recruit troops by order of the king, and directly command these armies. If they were good at organisation and command, the aristocrats could use these armies to safeguard their estates and localities or fight alongside the court’s regular force. Obviously, the formation of estates under Tran Dynasty was the combination of economic development and force disposition. This combination played an extremely important role in the fight against foreign aggressors and national development.

Tran Dynasty’s sound decisions in the cause of national construction and defence turned Dai Viet into a famous, prosperous, civilised nation in the region. Those key decisions remain invaluable and need to be studied and applied creatively in building and safeguarding the Fatherland.