Gia Long

Emperor Gia Long
Emperor of Việt Nam
Emperor Gia Long.jpg
Portrait of Gia Long
Emperor of Đại Việt
PredecessorNguyễn Quang Toản of Tây Sơn dynasty
SuccessorĐại Việt renamed to Việt Nam
Emperor of Việt Nam
PredecessorĐại Việt renamed to Việt Nam
SuccessorMinh Mạng
Emperor of Nguyễn dynasty
PredecessorDynasty established
SuccessorMinh Mạng
Nguyễn lords
PredecessorNguyễn Phúc Dương
SuccessorEnd of Military Commander
Born8 February 1762
Phú Xuân, Đàng Trong, Đại Việt
Died3 February 1820 (aged 57)
Imperial City, Huế, Việt Nam
SpouseEmpress Thừa Thiên
Empress Thuận Thiên
Noble Consort Lê Ngọc Bình
More than 100 concubines
IssueNguyễn Phúc Cảnh
Nguyễn Phúc Đảm
13 other sons and 18 daughters
Full name
Nguyễn Phúc Ánh ()
Era name and dates
Gia Long (): 1802–1820[note 1]
Regnal name
Đại nguyên súy Nhiếp quốc chính (大元帥國政 "commander in chief and the regent", 1778–1780)[1]
Nguyễn Vương ( "king of Nguyễn", 1780–1802)[2][note 1]
Posthumous name
Khai thiên Hoằng đạo Lập kỷ Thùy thống Thần văn Thánh võ Tuấn đức Long công Chí nhân Đại hiếu Cao hoàng đế
Temple name
Thế Tổ ()
FatherNguyễn Phúc Luân
MotherNguyễn Thị Hoàn
ReligionBuddhism, Ruism

Gia Long (Vietnamese: [zaː lawŋm]; 8 February 1762 – 3 February 1820), born Nguyễn Phúc Ánh or Nguyễn Ánh[note 2]), was the first Emperor of the Nguyễn dynasty of Vietnam. Unifying what is now modern Vietnam in 1802, he founded the Nguyễn dynasty, the last of the Vietnamese dynasties.

A nephew of the last Nguyễn lord who ruled over southern Vietnam, Nguyễn Ánh was forced into hiding in 1777 as a fifteen-year-old when his family was slain in the Tây Sơn revolt. After several changes of fortune in which his loyalists regained and again lost Saigon, he befriended the French Catholic priest Pigneau de Behaine. Pigneau championed his cause to the French government—and managed to recruit volunteers when this fell through—to help Nguyễn Ánh regain the throne. From 1789, Nguyễn Ánh was once again in the ascendancy and began his northward march to defeat the Tây Sơn, reaching the border with China by 1802, which had previously been under the control of the Trịnh lords. Following their defeat, he succeeded in reuniting Vietnam after centuries of internecine feudal warfare, with a greater land mass than ever before, stretching from China down to the Gulf of Siam.

Gia Long's rule was noted for its Confucian orthodoxy. He overcame the Tây Sơn rebellion and reinstated the classical Confucian education and civil service system. He moved the capital from Hanoi south to Huế as the country's populace had also shifted south over the preceding centuries, and built up fortresses and a palace in his new capital. Using French expertise, he modernized Vietnam's defensive capabilities. In deference to the assistance of his French friends, he tolerated the activities of Roman Catholic missionaries, something that became increasingly restricted under his successors. Under his rule, Vietnam strengthened its military dominance in Indochina, expelling Siamese forces from Cambodia and turning it into a vassal state.

Early years

Born on 8 February 1762,[3] he also had two other names in his childhood: Nguyễn Phúc Chủng (阮福種) and Nguyễn Phúc Noãn (阮福暖).[4] Nguyễn Ánh was the third son of Nguyễn Phúc Luân and Nguyễn Thị Hoàn. Luan was the second son of Lord Nguyễn Phúc Khoát of southern Vietnam—the first son had already predeceased the incumbent Lord. There are differing accounts on which son was the designated successor. According to one theory, Luân was the designated heir, but a high-ranking mandarin named Trương Phúc Loan changed Khoat's will of succession on his deathbed, and installed Luan's younger brother Nguyễn Phúc Thuần—who was the sixteenth son—on the throne in 1765. Luan was jailed and died in the 1765, the same year as Thuan's installation.[5][6][7][8] However, the historian Choi Byung Wook claims that the notion that Luân was the designated heir was based on fact but was propagated by 19th century Nguyễn Dynasty historians after Nguyễn Ánh had taken the throne as Gia Long to establish the emperor's legitimacy.[8] According to Choi, Lord Khoát had originally chosen the ninth son, who then died, leaving Loan to install Lord Thuần.[9] At the time, the alternative was the eldest son of the ninth son, Nguyễn Phúc Dương, whom opposition groups later tried unsuccessfully to convince to join them as a figurehead to lend legitimacy.[9] In 1775, Thuan was forced to share power with Dương by military leaders who supported the Nguyêns. At this time, Nguyễn Ánh was a minor member of the family and did not have any political support among court powerbrokers.[10]

However, Thuan lost his position as lord of southern Vietnam and was killed—along with Duong—during the Tây Sơn rebellion led by the brothers Nguyễn Nhạc, Nguyễn Huệ and Nguyễn Lữ in 1777.[11] Nguyễn Ánh was the most senior member of the ruling family to have survived the Tây Sơn victory, which pushed the Nguyễn from their heartland in central Vietnam, southwards towards Saigon and into the Mekong Delta region in the far south.[12][13][14] This turn of events changed the nature of the Nguyễn power hierarchy; the family and the first leader Nguyễn Hoàng had originally come from Thanh Hoa Province in northern Vietnam, and this is where most of their senior military and civil leadership's heritage derived from, but as a result of the Tây Sơn's initial successes, much of this old power base was destroyed and Nguyễn Ánh had to rebuild his support network among southerners, who later became the core of the regime when the Nguyễn Dynasty was established.[15]

Nguyễn Ánh was sheltered by a Catholic priest Paul Nghi (Phaolô Hồ Văn Nghị) in Rạch Giá.[16] Later, he fled to Hà Tiên on the southern coastal tip of Vietnam, where he met Pigneau de Behaine,[17][18][19] a French priest who became his adviser and played a major part in his rise to power.[19] Receiving information from Paul Nghi, Pigneau avoided the Tay Son army in Cambodia, and came back to assist Nguyễn Ánh. They hid in the forest to advoid the pursuit of Tay Son army.[16][20][21][22][23] Together, they escaped to the island of Pulo Panjang in the Gulf of Siam.[12][24] Pigneau hoped that by playing a substantial role in a Nguyễn Ánh victory, he would be in position to lever important concessions for the Catholic Church in Vietnam, helping its expansion in South East Asia.[25]

Pigneau de Behaine, the French priest who recruited armies for Nguyễn Ánh during the war against the Tây Sơn.

In late 1777, the main part of the Tây Sơn army left Saigon to go north and attack the Trịnh lords, who ruled the other half of Vietnam. Nguyễn Ánh stealthily returned to the mainland, rejoining his supporters and reclaimed the city.[26] He was crucially aided by the efforts of Do Thanh Nhon, a senior Nguyễn Lord commander who had organized an army for him,[27][8] which was supplemented by Cambodian mercenaries and Chinese pirates.[28] The following year, Nhon expelled further Tây Sơn troops from the surrounding province of Gia Dinh, and inflicted heavy losses on the Tây Sơn naval fleet. Taking advantage of the more favorable situation, Nguyễn Ánh sent a diplomatic mission to Siam to propose a treaty of friendship. However, this pact was derailed in 1779 when the Cambodians held an uprising against their pro-Siamese leader Ang Non. Nguyễn Ánh sent Nhon to help the uprising, which saw Ang Non defeated decisively and executed.[27]

Nhon returned to Saigon with high honor and concentrated his efforts on improving the Nguyễn navy. In 1780, in an attempt to strengthen his political status, Nguyễn Ánh proclaimed himself Nguyễn vương (Nguyễn king or Nguyễn ruler in Vietnamese),[29][30] with the support of Nhon's Dông Sơn Army. Then, in 1781, Nguyễn Ánh sent further forces to prop up the Cambodian regime against Siamese armies who wanted to reassert their control.[13][27] Shortly thereafter, Nguyễn Ánh had Nhon brutally murdered. The reason remains unclear, but it was postulated that he did so because Nhon's fame and military success was overshadowing him.[13][27] At the time, Nhon had much, if not dominant power, behind the scenes. According to later Nguyễn Dynasty chronicles, Nhon's powers included that of deciding who would receive the death penalty, and allocating budget expenditures. Nhon also refused to allocate any money for royal spending, and both he and his men were reported to have acted in an abrasive and disrespectful manner to Nguyễn Ánh.[8]

The Tây Sơn brothers reportedly broke out in celebration upon hearing of Nhon's execution, as Nhon was the Nguyễn officer that they feared the most. Large parts of Nhon's supporters rebelled, weakening the Nguyễn army, and within a few months, the Tây Sơn had recaptured Saigon mainly on the back of naval barrages.[27][28] Nguyễn Ánh was forced to flee to Ha Tien, and then onto the island of Phu Quoc. Meanwhile, some of his forces continued to resist in his absence.[31] While the murder of Nhon weakened Nguyễn Ánh in the short term, as many southerners who were personally loyal to Nhon broke away and counter-attacked, it also allowed Nguyễn Ánh to gain autonomy and then take steps towards exerted direct control over the remaining local forces of the Dong Son who were willing to work with him.[8] Nguyễn Ánh also benefited from the support of Chau Van Tiep, who had a power base in the central highlands between the strongholds of the Nguyễn and the Tây Sơn.[32]

In October 1782, the tide shifted again, when forces led by Nguyễn Phúc Mân, Nguyễn Ánh's younger brother, and Chau Van Tiep drove the Tây Sơn out of Saigon.[31][33] Nguyễn Ánh returned to Saigon, as did Pigneau[31] The hold was tenuous, and a counterattack by the Tây Sơn in early 1783 saw a heavy defeat to the Nguyễn, with Nguyen Man killed in battle.[13][31] Nguyễn Ánh again fled to Phu Quoc, but this time his hiding place was discovered.[31] He managed to escape the pursuing Tây Sơn fleet to Koh-rong island in the Bay of Kompongsom. Again, his hideout was discovered and encircled by the rebel fleet. However, a typhoon hit the area, and he managed to break the naval siege and escape to another island amid the confusion.[28][31] In early-1784, Nguyễn Ánh went to seek Siamese aid, which was forthcoming, but the extra 20,000 men failed to weaken the Tây Sơn's hold on power.[28] This forced Nguyễn Ánh to become a refugee in Siam in 1785.[note 3][31][38] To make matters worse, the Tây Sơn regularly raided the rice growing areas of the south during the harvesting season, depriving the Nguyễn of their food supply.[17] Nguyễn Ánh eventually came to the conclusion that using Siamese military aid would generate a backlash amongst the populace, due to prevailing Vietnamese hostility towards Siam.[18]

Other Languages
Bân-lâm-gú: Gia Long
brezhoneg: Gia Long
Deutsch: Gia Long
eesti: Gia Long
Esperanto: Gia Long
français: Gia Long
한국어: 가륭제
Bahasa Indonesia: Gia Long
Latina: Gia Long
Bahasa Melayu: Gia Long
Mìng-dĕ̤ng-ngṳ̄: Gă-lṳ̀ng Huòng-dá̤
Nederlands: Gia Long
日本語: 嘉隆帝
norsk: Gia Long
polski: Gia Long
português: Gia Long
русский: Нгуен Тхе-то
suomi: Gia Long
svenska: Gia Long
Tiếng Việt: Gia Long
文言: 阮世祖
吴语: 阮福映
粵語: 阮福暎
中文: 阮福映