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Timeless reforms and regrets

In 1400, Ho Quy Ly usurped the Tran family throne, establishing the Ho Dynasty. In 1401, Ho Quy Ly ceded the throne to his younger son, Ho Han Thuong, became the Thai Thuong Hoang and ruled the country with the king. When it comes to the policies of the Ho Dynasty, it must start right from the moment when Ho Quy Ly became the power to disrupt the Tran dynasty. Ho Quy Ly is recognized as a major reformer in Vietnamese history. Under his hand, Dai Viet transformed strongly from an aristocratic state model to a bureaucratic state model, with the concentration of power in the central court being enhanced to a new level. The reform of this period had both progress and shortcomings.

Ho Quy Ly: Timeless reforms and regrets - Photo 1.

In terms of personnel selection, Ho Quy Ly paved the way for capable people but not of noble lineage to participate in important national affairs. In 1375, he advised King Tran Due Tong to come down to select officials who knew how to practice martial arts and understood tactics, all of whom could become generals, not necessarily being venerable. In fact, at the beginning of the Tran Dynasty, there were also famous generals from outside the royal family who were in high authority such as Le Tan, Pham Ngu Lao, Nguyen Khoai…

However, those are individual cases, not the policy of the court. Under the rule of Ho Quy Ly, studying for exams was also restructured and more organized, opening the way for intellectuals to advance by the way of examination. The examination method of the Ho Dynasty was taken as the standard for Vietnam throughout the next few hundred years. Talent is the resource of the nation. Ho Quy Ly’s policy really helped to strengthen Dai Viet’s principle. However, that did not make up for the principles lost in the change of throne.

The Tran aristocracy, which had many well-trained people in the art of governance and military tactics, were either killed or had to go into seclusion. Even the talented mandarins who were not from the royal family but opposed the Ho family’s authority were not immune to disaster. Like the famous general Nguyen Da Phuong was the one that Ho Quy Ly himself recommended, and Ho Quy Ly stood side by side against the Chiem Thanh army, but then because of jealousy, he was slandered by Ho Quy Ly, causing Da Phuong to be killed by Nghe Tong.

In 1396, in order to collect copper materials from the people for gun casting, Ho Quy Ly ordered the people to change all copper coins into paper money named Thong Bao Hoi Sao. Those who make counterfeit money or still store and use copper coins will be sentenced to death and confiscation of their property. Considering the circulation of paper money both saves raw materials and has a progressive transaction method. However, Ho Quy Ly’s paper money policy made a fundamental mistake of going against the principle that money must have enough grounds for people to believe in its transaction value. In the condition that the commodity economy has not really been fully developed, the dong itself is guaranteed its value by money-making materials. When changing to paper money, the mentality of people in this period mostly believed that paper was a low-value material, leading to skepticism about the new currency. That made people’s life greatly disturbed, affecting the prestige of the court with the people.

In 1397, Ho Quy Ly wanted to separate the king from the basic land to easily usurp the throne, so he changed Thanh Hoa town to Thanh Do town, built An Ton citadel, forcing King Tran Thuan Tong to move the capital there. The new capital is called Tay Do. The old capital, Thang Long, was changed to Dong Do Highway. On this, some mandarins did not agree, very intervening. The secret zone, presided over by Nguyen Nhu Thuyet, presented: “Once upon a time, the Zhou and Wei dynasties moved the capital, all of them met with bad luck. Now the land of Long Do[ chỉ Thăng Long] there is Tan Vien mountain, there is Lo Nhi river [tức sông Hồng], high mountains, deep rivers, wide flat land. Since ancient times, the emperors opened the foundation to build the country, there is no way not to take the soil as a place of deep roots and strong roots. Let’s follow the previous thing: then the Nguyen army was killed, the Chiem enemy had to surrender… Please think again, to make it stable for the country. An Ton’s land is narrow and remote, in the beginning and the end of the country, suitable for chaos but not for rule. Even if it is based on a difficult situation, there is an old saying: The core is in virtue, not in danger”. Even Pham Cu Luan, who is Quy Ly’s confidant, also advises against it. But despite everything, Ho Quy Ly still moved the capital.

Also in 1397, Ho Quy Ly ordered to re-determine the local mechanism “Lo takes care of the government, the government takes care of the province, and the Chau looks after the district. The civil status, rice money, prison proceedings are all done together in the books of a road, at the end of the year they are reported to the lobby for proof and examination. Responsibilities at all levels were linked from top to bottom, making the management of the court easier. During the dictatorship period until usurping the Tran Dynasty, Ho Quy Ly repeatedly changed the administration in the localities, in order to make the central court’s rule smooth, and to limit the situation of local settlements. .

To divide the power of the aristocracy, Ho Quy Ly issued a policy of “limited land”: “The king and the head princess have unlimited fields; For the population, the number of fields is 10 acres. If a person has a lot of money, if he is guilty, he can take the field as he wants to atone for his sins. Excess fields must be donated to the state.Ho Quy Ly ordered the official to redo the land book very carefully. Fields that are overdue for registration but have not yet been declared or planted with the owner’s name on the field will be confiscated. The policy of limiting land was actually a land reform aimed at acquiring more public fields for the state, reducing the number of private fields, and limiting the power of large landowners.

Another policy to rein in the old aristocracy was the policy of “slavery”: “Depending on the level of merit, there are different amounts, the remaining must be donated, each person is paid 5 yuan. Those who deserve to have servants must present a will for three generations. Foreign slaves do not follow this rule.” The term slavery was not at all a policy to free the slaves, but just a political trick of Ho Quy Ly targeting the old aristocracy. The policies of land tenure and serfdom had the advantage that it almost immediately knocked down the economic and social foundation of the remnants of the old dynasty, helping the Ho Dynasty quickly stabilize the country and avoid dangers potential civil war. Its flip side is that it has touched the basic interest groups of Dai Viet society at the time, making the Ho family lose the support of the elites who hold the wealth, also the prestigious class. , the most powerful in the country.

In general, it can be said that Ho Quy Ly is a bold reformer and has progressive ideas compared to the times. However, because in the situation of dynastic transfer requiring unusual measures, Ho Quy Ly took many hasty and even wrong steps. These things have deepened the gap between the court and the people, the most harmful is that it caused a great crisis of trust in society. Lack of trust, the strength of the country also declines before the storms ahead.

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