Mạc dynasty

Last updated
Mạc Triều / Bắc Mạc (莫朝 / 北莫)

Đại Việt Quốc (大越國)
Map of Southern and Northern Dynasties of Vietnam.png
The Mạc (green) and Nguyễn-Trịnh alliance (blue) in 1570.
StatusChinese tributary [1]
(Ming 1540–1644)
(Southern Ming 1644–1661)
(Qing 1644–1673)
Capital Đông Kinh

Cao Bằng
Common languages Vietnamese
Neo-Confucianism, Buddhism, Taoism, Roman Catholicism
Government Monarchy
Mạc Đăng Dung (first)
Mạc Kính Vũ (last)
Currency Văn
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Blank.png Later Lê dynasty
Revival Lê dynasty Blank.png

The Mạc dynasty (Vietnamese : Nhà Mạc / Mạc triều / Nhà Bắc Mạc; Hán Nôm: 家莫 / / 家北莫), as known as Northern Mạc or House of Mạc ruled the whole of Đại Việt between 1527 and 1533 and the northern part of the country from 1533 until 1592, when they lost control over the capital Đông Kinh for the last time in their wars against the Lê dynasty. [lower-alpha 1] Later Mạc representatives ruled over the province of Cao Bằng (with the direct support of the Ming and Qing dynasties) until 1677.


Mạc Đăng Dung

The founder of the Mạc dynasty was a man who was related to a famous Trần dynasty Confucian scholar named Mạc Đĩnh Chi. The Ming's ethnic Vietnamese collaborators included Mac Thuy whose grandfather was Mạc Đĩnh Chi who was a direct ancestor of Mạc Đăng Dung. [2] [3] Unlike his ancestor, Mạc Đăng Dung chose to enter the military and ascended the ranks to become the senior general in the Vietnamese army. Later he seized power in a coup d'état and ruled Vietnam from 1527 till his death in 1541. Officially he resigned his position as Emperor in favor of his son but the reality was, he continued to rule. [4]

Mac dynasty dragon head, stone RongMac.JPG
Mạc dynasty dragon head, stone

Mạc Đăng Dung, famed for his strength and cunning, got his start as a bodyguard for Lê Uy Mục, the unpopular Lê Emperor, around 1506. Over time, despite the deaths of several emperors, Mạc Đăng Dung increased his power and gained many supporters. However, he also gained the enmity of other rivals for power.

Around 1520, a civil war started. This war would last, with occasional breaks, for the next 150 years. Apparently fearing the growing ambition of Mạc Đăng Dung, the young Emperor, Lê Chiêu Tông, fled to the south. A revolt started with the Trịnh and the Nguyễn families claiming to support the Emperor against the power of Mạc Đăng Dung. Mạc Đăng Dung responded by proclaiming that the Emperor's younger brother, Prince Xuan, was now the true Emperor and installed as Emperor under the name Lê Cung Hoàng. The revolt was ended, temporarily, when Mạc Đăng Dung's forces captured and executed Lê Chiêu Tông along with the leaders of the revolt.

In 1527 Mạc Đăng Dung removed the figurehead Emperor he had installed earlier and proclaimed himself as the new Emperor under the title Minh Đức. This usurpation of the throne from the rightful Lê Emperors was not well received by the officials in the government. Some were killed, some committed suicide, some fled to the south to join a new revolt by the Trịnh and the Nguyễn against the Mạc Emperors.

A new revolt began, and both sides tried to pull in allies, mainly the Ming dynasty but also from King Phothisarat I of Lan Xang (modern-day Laos). Mạc Đăng Dung, through submissive diplomacy and massive bribes, convinced the Ming not to attack in 1528. He then abdicated his position as Emperor in favor of his son, Mạc Đăng Doanh a year later. However, this was done purely to solidify his son's claim to rule after he was gone. In reality Mạc Đăng Dung continued to rule with the title of Senior Emperor (Viet: Thái thượng hoàng).

Mạc Đăng Dung's return

Statue of Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva, crimson and gilded wood (16th century) National Museum Vietnamese History 82.jpg
Statue of Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva, crimson and gilded wood (16th century)

The revolt in the south gathered strength and over the next three years all the provinces south of the Red River were captured by the Nguyễn and Trịnh armies. In 1533 the figurehead Lê Emperor, Lê Trang Tông, was officially crowned at the newly recaptured western capital.

At this point, Mạc Đăng Doanh died and his father reclaimed the throne. The Ming Chinese threatened Mạc Đăng Dung with an invasion of 110,000 men ready to invade Vietnam from Guangxi in 1540. Mac succumbed and caved in to Chinese pressure and accepted the bitter demands the Chinese made, including crawling barefoot in front of the Chinese, giving up land to China, downgrading the status of his polity from a country to a chieftaincy and giving up official documents like tax registers to the Ming. [5] [6] The Ming official position was that the Mạc should rule over the northern half of Vietnam, while the Lê should rule over the southern half (in other words, below the Red River). Then the Ming returned home. The Nguyễn and the Trịnh refused to accept this division of the country and the war continued.

In 1541 Mạc Đăng Dung died and was succeeded by his grandson Mạc Phúc Hải.

1541–92: Lê–Mạc wars

Mạc Phúc Hải ruled only for six years, during which he was defeated by the Trịnh army and lost more territories. He was succeeded by Mạc Phúc Nguyên (1545–61) who had to fight a war with his brother Trung.

Mạc Mậu Hợp ruled from 1561 to 1592. He was the last significant Mạc ruler. In 1572 the capital was captured by the Trịnh army but then he recaptured it a year later. Then, in 1592, Trịnh Tùng unleashed a massive invasion of the north and conquered Hanoi along with the rest of the northern provinces. Mạc Mậu Hợp was captured during the retreat and was cut to pieces over three days. The Mạc had lost control over most of Vietnam, only retaining areas around Cao Bằng Province under the formal protection of the Ming army.

1592–1677: Northern rule and decline

In 1592, the new Mạc leader was Mạc Kinh Chi. He managed to assemble a large army which defeated the army of Trịnh Tùng but a year later, he and his army were wiped out by a new Trịnh army under Trịnh Tùng. Mạc Kinh Cung ruled for more than twenty years (1593–1616). Based out of Van Ninh (Quảng Ninh Province) the Mạc army staged many attacks against the Trịnh. The Trịnh requested and received aid from the Nguyễn and the joint army (with Nguyễn Hoàng) defeated the Mạc.

In 1598 yet another official Ming commission declared the Mạc to be rulers over Cao Bằng province and so the Mạc rulers stayed in this protected area, occasionally launching raids into Trịnh controlled Vietnam.

After the fall of the Southern Ming, the Qing dynasty became the mediator in the Lê-Mạc conflict while receiving tribute from both sides. [1] [7] The Kangxi Emperor attempted to negotiate peace between the two states. [7] After the Lê attacked and gained control of Cao Bằng Province without permission from the Qing, the Kangxi Emperor demanded in 1667 that Lê Chiêu Thống return Cao Bằng Province to the Mạc. [7] In 1673, the Qing had lost interest in mediating the conflict on behalf of the Mạc. [7] In 1677, the Revolt of the Three Feudatories in southern China prompted the Qing to enlist the aid of the Lê, who accused the Mạc of joining the rebels. [7] The Kangxi Emperor and his advisors agreed to arrest Mạc Kính Vũ as he fled into Guangxi, leading to the demise of the Mạc dynasty. [7]

Foreign relations

The Lê dynasty held a tributary relationship with the Ming dynasty in exchange for the recognition and military protection. [8] [9] [1] As part of their tributary relationship, the Ming to provided external military support to the Lê state against the Mạc beginning in 1537. [1] After the 1540 surrender of the Mạc to the Ming, the Ming court ceremonially revoked the Lê dynasty's status as an independent kingdom and reclassified it as a dutongshisi: a category only slightly higher than a chieftaincy. [1] After 1540, the Ming received tribute from both the Lê dynasty and the Mạc, a state of affairs that continued through the end of the Southern Ming at which point the two sides became tributary states of the Qing dynasty. [1] [7] [7]


While contemporary historians of feudal Le and Nguyen dynasties regarded Mac rulers as downright usurpers, historians after 1945 debate over this controversial dynasty with more favorable and objective viewpoints. Modern researchers recognize that during the reign of Mạc Emperors, women enjoyed much more freedom and privileges than in the previous dynasties. The Mạc court also allowed domestic and foreign trade to flourish, resulting in the rise of Đông Đô and the surrounding areas such as Chu Đậu in Hải Dương province as an important link in the East-West maritime commerce route.

Many notable figures of the Mạc court, such as Prince regent Mạc Kính Điển, general Nguyễn Quyện, general Mạc Ngọc Liễn were praised by both friends and foes for their virtues, talents and exceptional loyalty, which is indeed rarely seen far and wide.

See also


  1. Lockhart & Duiker, p. 437.
    • Mạc Dynasty:
    • Mạc Thái Tổ (Mạc Đăng Dung) (1527–30)
    • Mạc Thái Tông (Mạc Đăng Doanh) (1530–40)
    • Mạc Hiến Tông (Mạc Phúc Hải) (1540–46)
    • Mạc Tuyên Tông (Mạc Phúc Nguyên) (1546–64)
    • Mạc Mậu Hợp (Ruler without imperial titles) (1564–92)


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Baldanza, Kathlene (2014). "Perspectives on the 1540 Mac Surrender to the Ming". Asia Major. 27 (2): 115–146. JSTOR   44740553.
  2. Taylor, p. 232.
  3. Lockhart & Duiker, p. 229.
  4. Hodgkin
  5. Dardess, p. 5.
  6. Yamazaki
  7. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Baldanza, Kathlene (2016). Ming China and Vietnam: Negotiating Borders in Early Modern Asia. Cambridge University Press. p. 207. ISBN   9781316531310.
  8. Le Loi at the Encyclopædia Britannica
  9. Womack, B. (2012). "Asymmetry and China's Tributary System". The Chinese Journal of International Politics. 5 (1): 37–54. doi:10.1093/cjip/pos003. ISSN   1750-8916.

Related Research Articles

History of Vietnam Part of East Asian and Southeast Asian history

The history of Vietnam can be traced back to around 4000 years ago. Archaeological findings from 1965, still under research, show the remains of two hominins closely related to Sinanthropus, dating as far back as the Middle Pleistocene era, roughly half a million years ago. Pre-historic Vietnam was home to some of the world's earliest civilizations and societies—making them one of the world's first people who practiced agriculture. The Red River valley formed a natural geographic and economic unit, bounded to the north and west by mountains and jungles, to the east by the sea and to the south by the Red River Delta. The need to have a single authority to prevent floods of the Red River, to cooperate in constructing hydraulic systems, trade exchange, and to fight invaders, led to the creation of the first mythology Vietnamese states approximately 2879 BC. However, archaeologists suggested the Đông Sơn culture found in Northern Vietnam, Guangxi and Laos was around 700 BC.

Southern and Northern Dynasties (Vietnam)

The Southern and Northern Dynasties in the history of Vietnam, spanning from 1533 to 1592, was a political period in the 16th century during which the Mạc dynasty, established by Mạc Đăng Dung in Đông Đô, and the Later Lê dynasty based in Tây Đô were in contention. For most of the period, these two dynasties fought a lengthy war known as the Lê–Mạc War.

Tây Sơn dynasty dynasty

The Tây Sơn dynasty was a ruling dynasty of Vietnam, founded in the wake of a rebellion against both the Nguyễn lords and the Trịnh lords before subsequently establishing themselves as a new dynasty. The Tây Sơn were led by three brothers, who modern Vietnamese historians refer to as the Tây Sơn brothers because of their origin in the district of Tây Sơn. The Tây Sơn dynasty ended the century-long war between the Trịnh and Nguyễn families, fought off an attack by Qing China, and united the country for the first time in 200 years. Under the most prominent of the Tây Sơn brothers, Nguyễn Huệ, Vietnam experienced an age of relative peace and prosperity. However, when he died in 1792 he left no successor capable of administrating the country properly, which allowed the exiled Nguyễn lord Nguyễn Ánh to retake the south of Vietnam and eventually pave the way for his own imperial dynasty, the Nguyễn dynasty.

Lê dynasty

The Lê dynasty, better known as Later Lê dynasty, was the longest-ruling Vietnamese dynasty, ruling from 1428 to 1789 with a brief six-year interruption by the Mạc dynasty (1527–1533). It is usually divided into two historical periods – the Early Lê dynasty (1428–1527) in which emperors ruled in their own right, and the Restored Lê dynasty (1533–1789), in which figurehead emperors reigned under the auspices of the powerful Trịnh family. During their reign, Vietnam's economy quickly recovered, grew and became the third-largest economy power in Eastern Asia.

Trịnh lords Noble feudal Vietnamese clan

The Trịnh lords, also known as Trịnh clan or House of Trịnh, were a noble feudal clan who were the de facto rulers of northern Vietnam while Nguyễn lords ruled the southern Vietnam during the Later Lê dynasty. Both of two rulers referred to themselves as Chúa (lord) and controlled their countries while the Later Lê emperors did not have any real power, only maintained their title. The Trịnh lords traced their descent from Trịnh Khả, a friend and advisor to the 15th-century Vietnamese Emperor Lê Lợi. The Trịnh clan had officially 12 lords that ruled Northern Vietnam and the royal court of Later Lê dynasty for more than 2 centuries.

Nguyễn lords Noble feudal clan of Vietnam

The Nguyễn lords, also known as Nguyễn clan or House of Nguyễn, were rulers of Đàng Trong in Central and Southern Vietnam, as opposed to Đàng Ngoài or Outer Realm, ruled by the Trịnh lords.

Trịnh–Nguyễn War Civil war between feudal clans in Vietnam

The Trịnh–Nguyễn Civil War was a long war waged between the two ruling families in Vietnam.

Trịnh Tùng Trịnh lords

Trịnh Tùng (1550–1623), also known as Trịnh Tòng and later given the title Bình An Vương, was the de facto ruler of Dai Viet from 1572 to 1623. Trịnh Tùng is the first official Trịnh Lord, although his father – Trịnh Kiểm – was de facto ruler of Dai Viet before him, Trịnh Kiểm never claimed himself as Trịnh Lord. Therefore Trịnh Kiểm is not considered as the first Trịnh Lord.

Trịnh Kiểm Trịnh lords

Trịnh Kiểm (1503–1570) ruled northern part of Vietnam from 1545 to 1570. Trịnh Kiểm was the founder of the Trịnh Lords or House of Trịnh who ruled Dai Viet while a succession of figurehead Later Lê Emperors took the role as puppet government. During his rule, the war with the Mạc Dynasty continued. Although he was the de facto ruler of Dai Viet during his reign, he never claimed himself title of Lord, hence he is not the first official Trịnh Lord but his son Trịnh Tùng is the first. Later Trịnh Kiểm was posthumously proclaimed Trịnh Lord by his descendants.

Trịnh Tạc Trịnh lords

Trịnh Tạc ruled Vietnam from 1657–1682

Nguyễn Kim Vietnamese regent

Nguyen Kim was a Vietnamese statesman who was the ancestor of the famous Nguyễn Lords who later ruled south Vietnam. During his rule, the war with the Mạc Dynasty started.

Lê Chiêu Thống Emperor of Đại Việt

Lê Chiêu Thống (1765–1793), born Lê Duy Khiêm and later Lê Duy Kỳ, was the last emperor of the Vietnamese Lê dynasty.

Mạc Thái Tông Emperor of Đại Việt

Mạc Thái Tông, known also by his given name Mạc Đăng Doanh (莫登瀛), was the second emperor of the Mac Dynasty of Vietnam from 1530 to 1540. His father Mạc Thái Tổ was still alive during the first year of his reign and also reigning as “senior emperor”. His posthumous name is Văn hoàng đế (文皇帝) and his era name is Đại Chính.

Mạc Hiến Tông, birth name Mạc Phúc Hải (莫福海), was the third emperor of the Mạc Dynasty of Annam from 1540 to 1546. He was born in Cao Đôi village, Bình Hà district. He was the oldest son of emperor Mac Thai Tong and grandson of Mac Dang Dung.

Mạc Mậu Hợp Emperor of Đại Việt

Mạc Mậu Hợp was the fifth and effectively last reigning emperor of the Mạc dynasty from 1562 to 1592.

Mạc Tuyên Tông Emperor of Đại Việt

Mạc Phúc Nguyên, also known as Mạc Tuyên Tông (莫宣宗), was an emperor of Vietnam's Mạc dynasty who reigned from 1546 to 1561.

Lê Anh Tông, posthumous name Tuấn Hoàng đế (峻皇帝) birth name Lê Duy Bang (黎維邦) was the 12th emperor of the later Lê dynasty of Đại Việt, ruling nation's south realm from 1556 to 1573 during the Lê-Mạc war. Through his reign, Anh Tông was just a nominal emperor of south Đại Việt, with actual governing and military power possessed by the Trịnh, a warrior house from Thanh Hóa. Although the Lê house was namely the main enemy of the Mạc house in the north, Lê troops fighting the northerners were actually commanded by Trịnh warlords. Lê Anh Tông eventually grew hostile against those warlords, who he saw as occupying too much power. The emperor made a plot against one of them, Prime Minister Trịnh Tùng. The plot failed at the cost of Anh Tông's life. However, after Anh Tông's death, Trịnh Tùng decided to maintain the Lê imperial house by keeping Anh Tông's youngest son Lê Duy Đàm as figurehead emperor.

Mạc Thái Tổ Emperor of Đại Việt

Mạc Đăng Dung, also known by his temple name Mạc Thái Tổ (莫太祖), was an emperor of Vietnam and the founder of the Mạc Dynasty. Previously a captain of the imperial guard of one of the Lê Dynasty emperors, he gradually rose to a position of great power. Mạc eventually deposed the last Lê monarch and became a monarch himself.

Battle of Cao Binh or Fall of Cao Binh, was the last battle of the Mạc dynasty's army in Vietnam history, when Trịnh Lords's army attack Cao Binh Citadel - the last capital of the Mạc dynasty. The battle happened in August 1677, at Cao Bằng, North Vietnam. Trịnh Lords's army leading by commander Đinh Văn Tả and Nguyễn Hữu Đăng. Mạc Kính Vũ emperor run away to China. Mạc force was defeated, bringing an end to the Lê-Mạc war. The Cao Bằng territory back to Đại Việt.

Lê–Mạc War

The Lê–Mạc War was a long-time civil war waged between two Vietnamese dynasties, the Mạc and Revival Lê, during the Southern and Northern Dynasties period of Vietnamese history.


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Coordinates: 16°28′N107°36′E / 16.467°N 107.600°E / 16.467; 107.600