Vietnamese Culture - A 1970's Perspective
                        Copyright 1996 Vn-families

Issue #24. Tran Hung Dao's proclamation to his officers, George F. 
Schultz, Vietnam Bulletin, Februrary 1, 1971.

We will run this column weekly until we run out of interesting cultural 
Please direct all questions to [email protected]
Here is the proposed schedule of this column.

Issue #1:  Tet 1971 in Vietnam! by Phu Si, VB710118
Issue #2:  The Unicorn dance at Tet, by Minh Tam, VB710118.
Issue #3:  The origin of Tao Quan, the three kitchen gods, by
           George F. Schultz, VB710118.
Issue #4:  1971 - The year of the Pig, by Van Ngan, VB710118.
Issue #5   The Joy of "first writing of the new year", by Thuy Ngoc,
Issue #6:  Traditional Vietnamese male attire, by Van Ngan, VB710208
Issue #7:  The legend of Princess Lieu Hanh, George F. Schultz, VB710215 
Issue #8:  The dialogue on Mount Na-Son, George F. Schultz, VB710222
Issue #9:  The secret housewife, George F. Schultz, VB710301
Issue #10: The golden axe, George F. Schultz, VB710308
Issue #11: Golden age of Viet Nam under the Hung Kings, Pham Tung, 
Issue #12: The legend of Chu Van Dich, George F Schutlz, VB701221
Issue #13: The sandalwood maiden, George F. Schultz, VB7010??
Issue #14: Legend about Emperor Ly Thai-To, George F Schultz, VB7010??
Issue #15. Chu Dong-Tu and Princess Tien Dung, George F. Schultz,
Issue #16. The husband's most difficult task: teaching his wife, 
           Van Ngan, VB 691216
Issue #17: Superstition in Viet Nam, Van Ngan, VB6911??
Issue #18: Hair: VN style, VB7007??
Issue #19: Funeral rites in Viet-Nam, Van Ngan, VB7006??
Issue #20: "Non Bai Tho" or the "Poetical Leaf", ???, VB7011??.
Issue #21: The different systems of writings in Viet-Nam, ???, VB710201.
Issue #22: Vietnamese literature in "Chu Nom", ???, VB710201.
Issue #23 The boat of illusion, Nguyet Cam, Heritage Sept/Oct 1995
Issue #24: Tran Hung Dao's proclamation to his officers, 
           George F. Schultz, VB 710201 - June 26, 1996.
Issue #25: The refined pleasure of tea-drinking, Tuong Minh,
           The Saigon Times Weekly, No. 238 - July 3, 1996. 


The three most revered generals in Vietnamese history are Ly
Thuong Kiet (XI century), Tran Hung Dao (XIII century), Quang
Trung Nguyen Hue (XVIII century). 

Ly Thuong Kiet came from a
modest background to become one of the pillars of the Viet
kingdom. He was the only Vietnamese general to have
taken the fight to China. Like Tran Hung Dao, he wrote a
proclamation to his soldiers during the 1076 Chinese invasion
of the Viet kingdom. However unlike THD, his
proclamation was not made officially but only by word of mouth. 
It consisted of 4 verses

	Nam quo^'c so+n ha` Nam dde^' cu+
	Tie^.t nhie^n ddi.nh pha^.n ta.i thie^n thu+
	Nhu+ ha` lo^~ lai xa^m pha.m
	Nhu+~ dda(?ng ha`nh khan thu? ba.i hu+
The southern kingdom should be governed by the Southern king.
This has been decided in heaven. How dare you invade. You will
only meet failure.

THD is a prince of the Tran dynasty well versed in literature
and military tactics. Thus, his lengthy proclamation. 

Nguyen Hue is the brilliant member of the Tay Son brother trio
who rebelled against the Nguyen Lord in the Southern part of the
Viet Kingdom. Nguyen Hue who proclaimed himself, Emperor Quang Trung
in 1788, on the eve of his big military campaign against the Chinese
invaders apparently did not leave any similar proclamation.
             Translated and adapted by George F. Schultz

The name of Prince Tran Hung Dao is one of the greatest in Vietnamese 
military history. It was he who twice inflicted crushing defeats on the 
Mongols (in 1284-85 and 1287) when they attempted to invade and subjugate 
Dai Viet.
TT: there was an earlier invasion in 1257, but THD played only a
minor role.

In the tenth month of the Year of the Goat (1283) Tran Hung Dao was 
appointed commander-in-chief of the Dai Viet armed forces. When, in the 
last month of 1284, the Mongol army crossed the border at Lang Son, he 
issued his famous "Proclamation to the Officers" (Hich Tuong-Si). The 
prince was as masterful with the brush as with the sword, and his 
composition has remained a gem of Vietnamese literature.

The names cited in the opening paragraphs are taken from ancient Chinese


I have often read the story of Ky Tin who replaced the Emperor Cao to 
save him from death, of Do Vu who took a blow in his back to spare King 
Chieu, of Du Nhuong who swallowed burning charcoal to avenge his leader,
of Than Khoai who cut off an arm to save  his country, of young Kinh Duc
who rescued the Emperor Thai Tong besieged by The Sung, and of Cao 
Khanh, a subject living far from the Court, who insulted the rebel Loc 
Son to his face. Every  century has produced heroes who have sacrificed 
their lives for their country. If they had remained at home to die by 
the fire, would their names have been inscribed on bamboo and silk to 
live eternally in Heaven and on the Earth?

But as descendants of warrior families, you are not well-versed in 
letters; on hearing about these deeds of the past, you may have some 
doubts. Let us speak of them no more. I shall tell you instead of 
several more recent events that have taken place during the years of the 
Tong and Nguyen dynasties.

Who was Vuong Cong Kien?  And who was his lieutenant Nguyen Van Lap? 
They were the ones who defended the great citadel of Dieu Ngu against 
Mong Kha's immense army; Therefore, the Tong people will be eternally 
grateful to them.

Who was Cot-Ngai Ngot-Lang? And who was his lieutenant Xich Tu Tu? They 
were the ones who drove deep into an unhealthful country in order to put
down the Nam-Chieu bandits and they did it within the space of a few 
weeks; therefore, their names have remained rooted in the minds of the 
Mongol military chieftains.

You and I were born in a period of troubles and have grown up at a time 
when the Fatherland is in danger. We have seen the enemy ambassadors 
haughtily traveling over our roads and wagging their owlish tongues to 
insult the Court. Despicable as dogs and goats, they boldly humiliate 
our high officials. Supported by the Mongol emperor, they incessantly 
demand the payment of pearls, silks, gold and silver. Our wealth is 
limited but their cupidity is infinite. To yield to their exactions 
would be to feed their insatiable appetites and would set a dangerous 
precedent for the future.

In the face of these dangers to the Fatherland, I fail to eat during the
day and to sleep at night. Tears roll down my cheeks and my heart bleeds
as if it were being cut to shreds. I tremble with anger because I cannot
eat our enemy's flesh, lie down in his skin, chew up his liver, and 
drink his blood. I would gladly surrender my life a thousand times on 
the field of battle if I could do these things.

You have served in the army under my orders for a long time. When you 
needed clothing, I clothed you; when you lacked rice, I fed you; when 
your rank was too low, I promoted you; when your pay was insufficient, I
increased it. If you had to travel by water, I supplied you with 
vessels; if you had to travel by land, I supplied you with horses. In 
time of war, we shared the same dangers; at the banquet table our 
laughter resounded in unison. Indeed, even Cong-Kien and Ngot-Lang did 
not show more solicitude for their officers than I have displayed for 

And now, you remain calm when your emperor is humiliated; you remain 
indifferent when your country is threatened! You, officers, are forced 
to serve the barbarians and you feel no shame! You hear the music played 
for their ambassadors and you do not leap up in anger. No, you amuse 
yourselves at the cockfights, in gambling, in the possession of your 
gardens and rice fields, and in the tranquility of family life. The 
exploitation of your personal affairs makes you forget your duties to 
the State; the distractions of the fields and of the hunt make you 
neglect military exercises; you are seduced by liquor and music. If the 
enemy comes, will your  cocks' spurs be able to pierce his armor? Will 
the ruses you use in your games of chance be of use in repulsing him? 
Will the love of your wives and children be of any use in the Army? Your
money would neither suffice to buy the enemy's death, your alcohol to 
besot him, nor your music to deafen him.

All of us, you and I together, would then be taken prisoner. What grief!
And not only would I lose my fief, but your property too would fall into
enemy hands. It would not be my family alone that would be driven out, 
but your wives and children would also be reduced to slavery. It would 
not be only the graves of my ancestors that would be trampled under the 
invader's heel, but those of your ancestors  would also be violated. I 
would be humiliated in this life and in a hundred others to come, and my
name would be ignominiously tarnished. Your family's  honor would also 
be sullied forever with the shame of your defeat. Tell me: Could you 
then indulge yourselves in pleasures?

I say to you in all frankness: Take care as if you were piling wood by 
the fire or about to imbibe a hot liquid. Exercise your soldiers in the 
skills of archery until they are the equals of Bang Mong and Hau Nghe, 
those famous archers of olden times. Then we will display Tat-Liet's 
head at the gates of the Imperial Palace and send the King of Yunnan to 
the gallows.

After that, not only my fief will be safe forever, but your privileges 
too will be assured for the future. Not only my family will enjoy the 
comforts of life, but you too will be able to spend your old age with 
your wives and children. Not only the memory of my ancestors will be 
venerated from generation to generation, but yours too will be 
worshipped in the spring and autumn of every year. Not only will I have 
accomplished my aspirations in this life, but your fame too will endure 
for a hundred centuries to come. Not only will my name be immortalized, 
but yours too will find a place in our nation's history. At that moment,
would you not be perfectly happy even if you did not expect to be?

I have studied every military treatise in order to write my manual 
entitled "Principles of Military Strategy".  If you will make an effort 
to study it conscientiously, to instruct yourselves in its teachings, 
and to follow my directions, you will become my true companions-in-arms.
On the other hand, if you fail to study it and ignore my advice, you 
will become my enemies. Why? Because the Mongols are our mortal enemies;
we cannot live under the same sky with them.

If you refuse to fight the Mongols in order to wash away the national 
shame, if you do not train your soldiers to drive out these barbarians, 
it would be to surrender to them. If that is what you want, your names 
will be dishonored forever. And when the enemy has finally been 
defeated, how will you be able to hold your head high between Heaven and 

The purpose of this proclamation is to let you know my deepest thoughts.