In the annals of the vietnamese kingdom, from the Dai Viet su ky toan thu of the Le-Trinh au Viet su thong giam cuong muc of the Nguyen, as well as in the traditional thought of the historians of the time, there are three dynasties that have been banished from official history and considered as “usurping
In the annals of the vietnamese kingdom, from the Dai Viet su ky toan thu
of the Le-Trinh au Viet su thong giam cuong muc
of the Nguyen, as well as in the traditional thought of the historians of the time, there are three dynasties that have been banished from official history and considered as “usurping dynasties” because they have been founded “by killing kings to usurp their throne, using an illegal pretext and illogical arguments, seizing the power by force”, and are not considered as official dynasties. They are the dynasties of Ho, of Mac and of Tay Son.
With a new point of view, the modern history has lately several specialized works, showing in relief the positive aspects and the limitations of these dynasties. Thus, opinions appear, glorifying the Tay Son as a revolution, a summit of glory in the tradition of resistance against agression, in which Quang Trung – Nguyen Hue
is considered as a national hero. Likewise, the dynasty of the Ho, though of short duration, is considered as a dynasty having many progressist reforms aiming at solving the serious crisis which is ruining the dynasty of the Tran. Though they have been defeated by the agression of the Minh, Ho Quy Ly and the Ho have always been considered as reformers, worth of study.
As for Mac Dang Dung and the Mac, the feudal and capitalist historians are speaking ill of them. The official annals of the following dynasties show a contempt toward that dynasty, accusing Mac Dang Dung of all kinds of bad acts, especially that of misuse of power, of usurping the throne and of surrender to the agressors Minh. The Mac were considered as a usurping dynasty. Le Quy Don, in some of his works, either considers the dynasty of Mac as not existing (Kien van tieu luc), or considers it as a usurping dynasty (Dai Viet thong su). The encyclopedy-like book of Phan Huy Chu – Lich trieu hien chuong loai chi – mentions the dynasty of Mac only as an exception… This point of view continues to prevail until the modern and contemporary time through the works of Tran Trong Kim (Viet Nam su luoc), Phan xuan Hoa (Lich su Viet Nam)… and even until the book Lich su Viet Nam tome I, written by the Committee of Social Sciences of Vietnam, edited for the first time in 1971, and re-edited in 1976, in which, the Mac are considered as a militarist group which has usurped the throne for the interests of its own family… and the Mac have attracted the anger of the people.
However, from another point of view, we can note since very early, even in official annals which consider the Mac as usurpers, estimations on a dynasty appearing as a flourishing and pacific period: the Dai Viet su ky toan thu noted the state of social security of the reign Dai Chinh (Mac Dang Doanh, 1530 – 1540). The Viet su thong giam cuong muc noted that the heart of the people is turned toward the Mac. Not speaking of the numerous details which Le Quy Don described in Dai Viet thong su, or which Pham Dinh Ho reported in his Vu trung tuy but… These details, together with the documents about more than 20 examinations for the selection of talented men, with eminent personnages such as Trang Trinh Nguyen Binh Khiem, Trang Ke Giap Hai… have stirred up reflexions of the following generations in reading the history of the usurpers Mac.
Thus, lately, we noted velleities of re-estimation of the dynasty of Mac among the researchers of the decade 40, 50 of the last century… particularly among the vietnamese historian of the 80 decade of the XXth century.
The history reports that, at the end of the XVth century, beginning of the XVIth, the posterior Le , after a time of prosperity, enter a period of decadence; the rice-fields are concentrated in the hands of the land owners, the mandarinate is alienated, lhe life of most peasants are more and more miserable. The court of the posterior Le of this time, headed by Le Uy Muc, is condemned: the mandarinal titles are exhausted but the corruption is not exhausted, the people is exhausted but the perceptions increase. The taxes are gathered until the hair. Meek as Tan Chinh, treat the dignitaries as dogs and horses, consider the people as trash.
Under the yoke of this dictatorial and depraved court, the life of the people is more and more miserable, taxes and toils increase continuously, weighing heavily on the painful life of the peasants all year round. The land owners and the mandarins monopolize the rice-fields, threaten the miserable economy of the peasant. The life of the peasant becomes more and more miserable, the agriculture is not taken care of, the dams and the irrigation works are not cared for, inondations and famines occur every year. The pirates burst everywhere, the factions fight each other, kill each other to dispute the loot. It is a consequence of the arbitrary regime and it has become a chronic disease of the regime, now that the unification of the country and the task of repelling the agressors have been achieved fundamentally.
In this conjoncture, Mac Dang Dung, originally a fisher of Nghi Duong (Hai Phong), from a task of Do chi huy su ve Than Vu under Le Uy Muc, has profited from conflicts between fighting factions and repressions of peasant uprisings to grasp power in his hands. After a long time, Mac Dang Dung acceded to the title of prince and holded in his hands the 13 divisions of infantry and navy. His prestige earns the whole people. In 1527, he overthrew King Le Chieu Tong, acceded to the throne and founded the dynasty of Mac.
One can say that the arising of the dynasty of Mac is inevitable in the historical conjuncture of that time. Objectively speaking, if there had not been Mac Dang Dung, another figure, another family would appear to take the helm of the vietnamese boat in the tempest. In fact, Mac Dang Dung is the personnage who, by his own force, has received from the history the helm of the vietnamese boat. The dynasty of Mac, as a real administrative power, exists only during 65 years before being expelled from Thang long in 1592 by the feudal forces of the Trinh under the pretext of restoration of the Le. The dynasty of Mac has 5 kings: Mac Dang Dung (1527-1529), Mac Dang Doanh (1530-1540), Mac Phuc Hai (1541-1546), Mac Phuc Nguyen (1547-1561) and Mac Mau Hop (1562-1592).
Though the time on the throne be relatively short, and be constantly in instability because of continuous efforts to cope with enemies from inside and outside (in this time, on one hand the Mac must fight the factions of restoration of the Le, among which the main faction is that of Nguyen Kim, then that of the Trinh of Thanh Hoa, which give rise to the intestine war north-south; on the other hand, the feudal Minh of the north, under the pretext of punishing the Mac for having usurped the throne of the Le, are preparing to invade our country a second time). However, with the reforms and a rational policy to edify the reign and the country, with a wise diplomacy, Mac Dang Dung and the court of the Mac have avoided the agression of the northern feudalists, stabilized the inner situation, given an impulsion to the stable development of economy.
In certain domains, the Mac continue to apply the policy of the Le; for example, in the gestion of the state, they follow the ideology of the confucianists of the Tong. In other domains, taking experience from the rotten regime of the last posterior Le, the Mac have had more positive, more open policies.
In economy, the Mac take care of clearing of wild lands, of the creation of new villages, of the construction of dams against the floods. In commerce and industry, the Mac do not follow the policy of priority of agriculture with regard to trade of the posterior Le. The recent archaeological discoveries have shown this development. For example, in Hai Duong (natal land of the Mac), the excavation has discovered many ceramics of the XVIth century, the excavation of the sea bed of Cu Lao Cham (Quang Nam) in 1999-2002 has discovered an wrecked ancient vessel, transporting ceramics of the time of Mac for exportation. The study of the specimens discovered in these two places has shown that the XVIth century of the Mac is a flourishing time for vietnamese blue ceramics, and for foreign trade of the Vietnamese of this time. Particularly, in production, the role of the worker is highly considered, many ceramics and statues carry explicitly the name of the producer and the commander. The foreign trade is favoured, the stele of the time of Mac have reported the construction of bridges, the creation of markets of the local authorities, especially on the bank of rivers and on sea beach. Big towns such as Thang Long and Pho Hien are prosperous.
Thus, in spite of the domestic war, the vietnamese society of the XVIth century under the Mac has registered notable realizations, reflecting a flourishing period, particularly at the beginning of the dynasty of Mac. In spite of serious prejudices toward the Mac, the feudal historians of the Le have nevertheless positive estimations of the Mac: since then, the merchants and the passers-by go on the road with bare hands, there are no pirates at night, buffaloes and oxen go in liberty outside of the house and one has to count them only once by month; one cannot know whether these animals have brought forth young ones or not. During years, one does not pick up fallen things on the road, the gate has not to be locked at night, the crops are good and the country is in security.
On the cultural front, there have been new developments under the Mac: exams are organized regularly once every three years and have selected great intellectuals to serve the court of Mac, such as Nguyen Binh Khiem, Giap Hai, Nguyen Du… According to statistics, during more than 60 years of reign, the Mac have organized 21 exams Hoi, selected 460 doctors of different classes and 40 doctors-champions among 46 doctors-champions in 800 years of the history of exams in chinese characters of our country. The exams under the Mac have a great number of candidates. The first exam organized in the 3rd year Minh Duc (1529) has until 4000 candidates, among which are numerous children of the mandarins of the Le. The stele, registering the names of doctors of this exam, reports that the Mac have rewarded more generously than usually the newly received doctors. And the reputation – the Mac venerate the confucianists – lasts a long time after. In the XIXth century, the author of Giap Ty nien bieu still mentions it.
Besides, the art in the time of Mac has also developments among which the most typical are the communal haoses, opening the road to the strong development of the architecture of the communal houses and of the culture of communes in following centuries. So far, the survival of certain communal houses of the time of Mac is the nearly thorough and complete survival of the architecture of the Mac…
Thus, with the arising of Mac Dang Dung and the dynasty of Mac on the political stage, the history of the vietnamese people of the first half of the XVIth century has had positive facts, marking a development on many points of view and leaving precious lessons to the history of future times. Mac Dang Dung and the dynasty of Mac deserve to be acknowledged in history.
Nguyễn Ngọc Chất