The Vietnamese advance to the south coincided with new challenges to the north. In 1407 the Chinese Ming dynasty, which had overthrown Mongol rule in 1368, occupied Vietnam. By 1428, however, resistance forces under rebel leader Le Loi had restored Vietnamese independence. Le Loi mounted the throne as the first emperor of the Le dynasty, which was to last for more than 300 years.
The new ruling house retained its vigor for more than 100 years, but internal rivalries weakened the dynasty in the 16th century. In 1527 General Mac Dang Dung deposed the Le monarch and made himself ruler. The Nguyen and Trinh families, Le nobles who supported reinstatement of the Le ruler, regained control of the country by 1592. By that time an ambitious Trinh noble, Trinh Kiem, had become dominant in the Le court and had granted a member of the Nguyen family a fiefdom in the south.
This effectively divided the state into two separate administrative regions, and a rivalry developed between the Trinh and Nguyen lords. The split of Vietnam into two squabbling regimes coincided with European interest in the region. In the 16th and 17th centuries European fleets visited Vietnam carrying traders who sought wealth and missionaries who were intent on converting Vietnamese and others in the region to Christianity. To seek advantage over their rivals, the European traders and missionaries sided with one or another of the Vietnamese states, further dividing the country. By the late 18th century, the Le dynasty was near collapse. With no powerful central government, feudal lords increasingly gained control of vast rice lands.
In 1773 three brothers from the village of Tay Son in central Vietnam launched a peasant rebellion against the corruption and misrule of the Nguyen court. In each village they captured, the Tay Son confiscated land from the wealthy and redistributed it to the poor.
By 1783 the Tay Son rebellion succeeded in overthrowing the Nguyen family in the south. The Tay Son brothers, as they were popularly called, then turned their forces against the Trinh government in the north. By 1789 the ablest of the brothers, Nguyen Hue (no relation to the Nguyen family that had controlled the south), gained control of the north and declared himself founder of a new dynasty. His death in 1792, however, left a power vacuum. Meanwhile, Nguyen Anh, the sole surviving heir of the Nguyen house in the south, had assembled a force to retake Vietnam. By 1789 his forces had recaptured most of the former Nguyen territory. They then moved north and in 1802 defeated the Tay Son armies. Nguyen Anh established a new Nguyen dynasty, with its capital at Hue in central Vietnam to symbolize the newly restored unity of the country. Encarta "Vietnam" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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