Friday, October 19, 2018, 15:34 (GMT+7)
Sound strategies by Le Loi – the eminent leader of Lam Son uprising (1418-1427)

600 years ago, Le Loi – the eminent leader of the Lam Son uprising with his sound strategies led the uprising to a complete victory ending the ruling yoke by Ming Empire. Those strategies remain valuable and should continue to be studied and applied to today’s cause of national construction and protection.

Le Loi was born on September 10th 1385 in Chu Son village, Loi Duong district (Thuy Chu village, Xuan Thang commune, Tho Xuan district, Thanh Hoa province nowadays). Born and raised when the country (Dai Viet) suffered massive political upheavals and tough challenges, he forged the patriotic spirit and determination to fight the enemy for national independence.

In late 1406, under the pretext of “destroying Ho dynasty in support of Tran dynasty”, Ming dynasty deployed 80,000 troops to invade our country. In spite of accurate predictions about Ming troops’ cunning schemes, due to wrong political and military guidelines, at that time, Ho dynasty couldn’t win the people’ hearts, thus unable to unite the people to fight the enemy and protect the country. As a result, being attacked by Ming forces, our country was dominated by Chinese feudal regime once again. In opposition to Ming domination, a wave of patriotism broke out and spread across the country; there were almost continuously more than 60 uprisings during this period. The most typical one was the Lam Son uprising which consisted of sufficient elements, namely patriotism, indomitable spirit, and strength of the national great unity block to create the synergy to break Ming dynasty’s brutal domination and regain the national independence. One of the most salient features that made up the success of the uprising was the role of Le Loi with his strategies to lead the war in a sound, creative manner.

Lam Kinh Festival held in 2018 to celebrate the 600th anniversary of
Lam Son Uprising (photo: VNA)

First, relying on the people to build and develop the force and create the synergy to defeat the enemy. This is a consistent strategy which plays the central role and aims to building the force from the people to conduct the all-people warfare against the enemy. This strategy is derived from Le Loi’s awareness of the role of the people towards the uprising. Also, it shows his deep understanding about the people’s desire for national independence. And the most important thing is the principle of war: survival of the fittest. As Ming army was much more powerful, the insurgent army had to create a superior force. Thus, relying on the masses to build and develop the force from minute quantity to large quantity with the combined strength far superior than the enemy is an absolutely sound strategy. Thoroughly grasping the thought “compassion and righteousness are intended to bring peace”, Le Loi directly commanded the insurgent army to take proper measures to mobilize all forces in the uprising; to bring into full play the role, position and capability of the people to fight Ming occupation troops for national liberation. This is the fundamental difference in terms of guidelines between Lam Son uprising and previous ones against Ming occupation forces. Thanks to this difference, Le Loi succeeded in building the all-people unity block and creating the synergy to fight the enemy and win the victory.

The Lung Nhai Oath Ceremony with the participation of 19 persons, which laid the foundation for establishing the core leadership of the uprising, demonstrates a sense of unity among all social strata. To stage the uprising, Le Loi issued and spread a proclamation among the people to call for the support of the people, heroes, and patriots. Selecting Lam Son as the base of the uprising, not only Le Loi realized its material strength (its terrain is favourable for offensive, defence, and guerilla warfare when the balance of power is too unequal), but more importantly he had a strategic logistics base with the enormous human and material resources from the Thanh-Nghe region, especially with the participation and support of ethnic minorities living there. At the onset of the uprising, the insurgent army had to continuously fight against the enemy’s sieges and attacks in Chi Linh Mountain for three times. In hardship and difficulty, Le Loi’s army always knew how to rely on the people to maintain the operation and consolidate the force. Thanks to the people’s support and protection, the insurgent army remained after the period of dangers and developed its force up to tens of thousands of troops. Notably, when marching northwards for the strategic counter-attack, Le Loi received the massive support of people from all walks of life and established the posture of “sky net”  to destroy the enemy and clinch numerous victories. In the decisive battle of Chi Lang – Xuong Giang, militia teams and those from ethnic minorities both supported and joined Le Loi’s army in annihilating the enemy’s reinforcements, thereby forcing Wang Cong to surrender and withdraw his army.

Second, building a strong base to facilitate the long-lasting resistance war. In the fight against Ming occupation forces, in spite of the people’s wholehearted support, Le Loi’s army couldn’t concentrate the strength to defeat the enemy due to the enemy’s strict control and his army’s narrow area of operation. Therefore, it is important that the leadership of the uprising must establish a base to deal with the difficulties, relieve the enemy’s siege, and tap the human and material resources to guarantee the durable resistance war. After consulting the uprising’s command, leader Le Loi decided to shift the strategic direction of the resistance war to Nghe An and implement the strategy to build strong rear base to create new strength and advantage for the resistance war. This is a very sound, appropriate strategy which expresses Le Loi’s strategic vision and his scientific analyses based on 5-year experience in the fight against the enemy’s siege. In fact, Nghe An has a large area but inhospitable terrain far from the enemy’s power centres; therefore, they could hardly deploy forces to lay siege to and attack our troops. Moreover, this area has a large population and great economic potential, which lays the foundation for Le Loi’s army to develop its force.

Following that sensible strategy, after defeating Ming forces’ plots of siege, Le Loi’s army attacked Tra Lan citadel (Con Cuong, Nghe An), ambushed the enemy in Kha Luu – Bo Ai pass, liberated all districts of Nghe An, and laid siege to Nghe An citadel. Consequently, thousands of young boys flocked to join the insurgent army while many reputable generals in the region mobilized all their forces to take part in the uprising. People in the liberated areas happily brought food to Le Loi’s army and actively boosted agricultural production, consolidated and made their hometown strong rear bases to supply manpower and materials to the insurgent army. As a result, Le Loi’s forces were consolidated comprehensively with tens of thousands of troops, including corps: infantry, navy, elephants, and warships, while the combat experience was increasingly improved. This is a prerequisite of utmost importance for Le Loi’s army to move southwards to liberate Tan Binh and Thuan Hoa and develop northwards to destroy the citadels of Dien Chau and Tay Do.

It was the sound strategy by Le Loi and the uprising’s command to build the rear base of the resistance war that made massive changes on the battlefield. We gradually took the imitative and pushed the enemy into passivity. That created a new opportunity to develop the uprising into a liberation war in which we proactively attacked to destroy the enemy and completely liberate the country.

Third, besieging citadels and annihilating the reinforcements to force the enemy to surrender and reduce losses of troops and people. In the final phase of the war, studying and grasping the enemy’s situation, with his talents, Le Loi and the uprising’s command mapped out the strategy to besiege citadels, destroy the reinforcements, isolate the enemy and force them to surrender. That strategy was very appropriate for the condition at that time as the enemy inside citadels was still in a large number and powerful, though they suffered a lot of defeats in many places. Meanwhile, our military and people had experienced more than 20 years of Ming Empire’s severe domination and devoted every effort to fight the enemy in a long time. More importantly, the enemy’s reinforcements were very powerful and on the move to save the citadels besieged by our forces; if we adopted no strategy to deal with this issue, our military would easily fall into passivity. Thus, besieging citadels and destroying the reinforcements in order to force the enemy to surrender unconditionally served as the most feasible solution. If we succeeded in implementing this strategy, we not only won the war completely, liberated the country, reduced losses of troops and people, but also foiled the enemy’s will of invasion and created a favourable condition for long-term national construction and development. Accordingly, after occupying necessary areas, Le Loi planned to closely lay siege to the enemy’s fortified citadels. As we predicted, under our intense pressure, in September 1427, Ming Emperor hurriedly ordered Liu Sheng and Mu Sheng to deploy 100,000 reinforcements from Guangxi and 50,000 reinforcements from Yunnan respectively to enter our country in a bid to save Wang Cong under siege in Dong Quan citadel. Consequently, our troops completely defeated these two powerful armies, forced Wang Cong to surrender and withdraw his troops, brought peace to the people, ended 21-year brutal rule of Ming Empire, opened up a new period of national construction.

Looking back on the whole Lam Son uprising, we could clearly realize Le Loi’s talents for leading and directing the war. Le Loi and the uprising’s command worked out ingenious strategies in accordance with the uprising’s ups and downs to end the war properly and pave the way for peace and friendliness. Although more than 6 centuries have elapsed, the sound strategies by Le Loi – the eminent leader of Lam Son uprising remain valuable and should continue to be studied, developed and flexibly applied to today’s cause of national construction and protection.

Sr. Col. Truong Mai Huong, PhD, Deputy Head of the Military History Institute of Vietnam

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