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Tay Son Uprising (1776-1802)

Late in the eighteenth century three brothers of a Nguyen family in the village of Tay Son of Cochinchina in central Vietnam led an uprising against the ruling Nguyen (to whom they were not related). The rebellion had popular support, both of the peasants and of the merchants. All-powerful now in Northern Annam, the ex-rebel, now king, turned his attention to the rich southern provinces, which for more than a century had claimed their independence; aided by the hardy mountaineers of Taeping, to whose prowess he virtually owed his kingdom.

The oldest of the brothers, Nhac, drove the Nguyen lords out of the south by 1778 and proclaimed himself emperor over southern Dai-Viet. The attempt to reconquer this valuable district was completely successful ; the king, Gia Long, was driven from his throne and, barely escaping with his life, took refuge with the Court of Siam. The Emperor of Siam was by no means inclined to run the risk of a collision with the all-powerful usurper in Annam, and though willing to afford hospitality to Gia Long, declined to aid him in regaining his kingdom.

Bankok in those days was the site of an important mission station, and the "Jesuits, who have ever looked on themselves as political agents as well as preachers of the Gospel, saw in the arrival of the destitute king an opportunity for increasing French influence in the East. Gia Long readily consented to his eldest son, Canh Dzue, accompanying the Catholic bishop to Paris, with a view of soliciting the aid of the French King towards the expulsion of his foes. Thus, in 1787, French interference was first solicited in Anuam by an exile king; to quote the words of Francis Gamier, used a century later, little did Gia Long realise that he was introducing a wolf into his fold. Louis XVI received the prince with much empressement, but, before embarking on such a distant enterprise, demanded full particulars of the country and the probable value of such interference from the clerical ambassador.

The youngest brother, Hue, led the attack on the Trinh in the north, defeating them in 1786. In 1788, after abolishing the decrepit Le dynasty and extending his power to the south at the expense of his brother, he made himself emperor of a reunited Vietnam. A new Chinese invasion attempt was repelled by him in 1788. He is known as the Quang-Trung Emperor. Hoping to cultivate a Vietnamese national consciousness free of Chinese influence, he substituted chu nom (the vulgate script using Chinese characters to express Vietnamese sounds) for Chinese in all public acts and military proclamations.

The rule of the Tay Son brothers was brief, and with their fall the West, through the agency of the French, assumed a new and larger role in the affairs of the country.



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Page last modified: 09-07-2011 13:35:39 ZULU