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Why was Ly Thuong Kiet determined to bring troops to attack the Song land?

Before the provocation and preparation of invasion by the Song, the court of Dai Viet listened attentively and prepared many measures to prevent it. In an era where communication is limited, it is not easy to verify the enemy’s intentions to find countermeasures, but must be based on an intelligence and timely information foundation.

Why was Ly Thuong Kiet determined to bring troops to attack the Song land?  - Photo 1.

At that time, King Ly Nhan Tong was still young, the responsibility of running the country was in the hands of Queen Mother Lan Linh Nhan and Thai Lieutenant Ly Thuong Kiet. Although Ly Thuong Kiet is the most famous person of the time and also one of the most outstanding figures in Vietnamese history, his outstanding talent is military, not an economic one. As for Linh Nhan, the empress dowager is a smart and visionary person. Previously, when she was Ỷ Lan Nguyen Phi under Ly Thanh Tong’s reign, she was famous for her talent in governing the country and the people.

But in fact, that merit, in addition to Ỷ Lan’s talent, also had the effective help of a character whose talent was also ranked among the top in Dai Viet at that time, that was Thai monk Ly Dao Thanh. He was an old god who held the position of Thai monk during the reign of King Ly Thanh Tong, famous for his economic and financial skills, often assigned by the king to take care of the government when the king was busy fighting. The prestige of Ly Dao Thanh is very great. The book Kham Dinh Viet Su Thong Giam Cuong Muc of the Nguyen Dynasty commented: “Dao Thanh is an outspoken person, every time he makes a presentation, he will always talk about the benefits or harms of folklore. For any mandarin who was a sage, he kept them all. Life at that time respected him very much.”

During the throne change and power dispute early in the reign of King Ly Nhan Tong, Ly Dao Thanh sided with the empress Dowager Thuong Duong because of Confucian ethics. The Thai monk made many moves against the empress dowager Linh Nhan. So, after Empress Dowager Linh Nhan won the power struggle, she tried to remove Ly Dao Thanh from the government by sending to guard the border. Right in 1073, Ly Dao Thanh was demoted to the position of Ta spy doctor, Tri Chau Nghe An. At that time, although the territory of Dai Viet had extended to Ma Linh (Quang Tri), the area considered to be the central continent was still only the Red River Delta. Nghe An is still a remote border area. In addition to Ly Dao Thanh, many old gods on the side of Empress Dowager Thuong Duong were also retired or demoted. The fact that Ly Dao Thanh was demoted made the Dai Viet court’s internal affairs seriously turbulent.

Although brutal and full of intrigue in the power dispute, after all, Empress Dowager Linh Nhan is not so unethical. Although she tried to get rid of the opposing old gods, she always avoided killing like many politicians do, only moving away or retired, demoted, isolated. Under her management, Dai Viet continued to develop steadily. History books and folk anecdotes say that later on, Linh Nhan repented for killing the Queen Mother Thuong Duong and 72 maids, so she built many pagodas and towers. preaching and spending a lot of money to redeem the poor girls who were sold as slaves.

Although this repentance is meaningless to the dead, it should also be noted. In 1074, before the threat of foreign invasion from Tong and Chiem Thanh was evident, Empress Dowager Linh Nhan summoned Ly Dao Thanh to return to the capital and ordained Thai deputy Binh as a military leader. This title was the position of Prime Minister in the Ly Dynasty, leading the mandarin ranks, in charge of all internal affairs (except for the army). This is an action that is both practical, choosing the right person for the right job and conciliatory of the Empress Dowager Linh Nhan. In addition, she also came down to pay tribute to the old gods who were against the will of the past. Linh Nhan’s reconciliation move was reciprocated by Ly Dao Thanh. He wholeheartedly supported the new king. So, the powerful trio including Queen Dowager Lan Linh Nhan, Thai Lieutenant Ly Thuong Kiet, and Thai deputy Ly Dao Thanh agreed to support the little king Ly Nhan Tong. Thanks to this important reconciliation, the great national unity bloc has been firmly consolidated in the face of great challenges.

The situation on the northern border is getting worse and worse. The mandarins of the Song state tried their best to use money and words to seduce the chiefs in the Dai Viet border to follow the Song. In 1073, the chieftain of An Tinh Chau (in present-day Bac Can) named Nung Thien My listened to the temptation of Tri Chau Tham Khoi of the Song state, and brought 6,000 people to follow the Song. Shen Khoi again recruited the chief Liu Ji in the province of Quang Nguyen, a man holding a strong military force and holding an important position. In 1073, Liu Ji almost joined the Song state, but King Song Than Tong did not dare to accept it.

The reason is because the Song wanted to fight our country but still could not prepare the force, and got into trouble in the northern border with the Liao state, the Song – Tho Phan war was not over yet. King Song knew that Luu Ky was Dai Viet’s observer in the border region, holding an important position. Receiving Luu Ky is like declaring war on Dai Viet. Shen Khoi acted too openly, so he was dismissed from his post by King Song. Liu Di took over as the Guangxi Chief of Staff. King Song covered Dai Viet’s eyes by removing the warlike mandarin but replacing it with another belligerent mandarin.

In 1073, Dai Viet could not clearly identify the aggression of the Song. The Dai Viet court still sent diplomatic letters complaining about the interruption of trade to the Song king, but the Song border officials did not bother to deliver the letters. Liu Di still built warships, confiscated merchant ships into the navy, banned the people of the two countries from trading. From 1073 to 1075, there were many news and speculations about the Song’s intention to attack Dai Viet. Especially the southern Song strongholds actively recruited and trained soldiers. Some Song people, Tu Ba Truong, secretly wrote letters to King Ly Nhan Tong denouncing the intention of invasion, inciting the Dai Viet army to fight first and ask for internal action. These things made the Dai Viet side feel more and more aware. more clearly about the approaching war.

Dai Viet has reinforced its army near the border as a precaution. In early 1075, the Dai Viet court sent someone across the sea to deliver a letter to the Song king (because the border mandarins on land did not deliver the letter, so they had to go around the sea to deliver the letter) demanding the return of Nung Thien My and the anti-Vietnamese people. According to the Song, the Song king did not answer. Our side continued to send a few more letters, but Liu Di did not want to move the letter, and he even tried to seduce the people in the border area. With such data and intelligence, the Dai side. Viet had no doubt about Song’s plot to invade.

Realizing the intentions of the Song state, Thai lieutenant Ly Thuong Kiet reported to the court: “Sitting still and waiting for the enemy is not as good as bringing troops forward to block the enemy’s spearhead”. His statement received the approval of the king and the courtiers. In 1075, right after patrolling the southern border against the return of Champa, Ly Thuong Kiet immediately began to prepare for the Northern expedition. Ly Thuong Kiet took the position of Grand Marshal, commanded the army to prepare a large-scale preemptive attack on the interior of the Song country. At that time, the total standing army of the Song state was about 100,000 troops, while the standing army of Dai Viet had about 70,000 troops. In a cornered position, the Dai Viet army under Ly Nhan Tong’s reign was about to do something that most Song people could hardly have imagined: A small country dared to actively attack a populous empire with a strong leadership. The territory was dozens of times larger and the standing army was ten times larger.

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