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Nguyen Phuc Anh: from fugitive to emperor of a united Vietnam

Started by bgriff99, October 31, 2015, 11:23:36 PM

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When the Tayson Rebellion began in 1773, it was within and directed against the Dang Trong kingdom in central Vietnam, founded in 1558 and ruled by the Nguyen family.   Trinh warlords in control of the Le Dynasty (Tonkin) opportunistically also attacked the Nguyens from the north (big mistake).   In any case Dang Trong ceased to exist in 1777.   

One of its princes was Nguyen Phuc Anh.   In 1780, at age 18, he realized he was the legitimate Nguyen king, and took a reign title of Gia Hung.   He was driven out of Vietnam to Siam in 1783, but came back in 1788 to carry on the fight.   His coins were issued beginning in 1796, and are the only issue of the kingdom to use their own names on the coins.   The top character's writing is abbreviated.   Crossed swords?

These two pieces are of mostly zinc.    There are none of copper alloy.   Barker's 86.1, his first listing, is denser (2.69g) although smaller.   Gordian at Zeno did an XRF on it and came up with 88% lead, 7% tin, 3% zinc, the rest bismuth.    Weights and diameters of mine are under the scans of each, which are to scale.

The Tayson rebels then went on to defeat the Le dynasty in the north, taking Hue and Hanoi, and repulsing a Chinese army as well.   The tide turned when the main Tayson leader died suddenly, passing the throne to his 11 year old son.   Nguyen Phuc Anh was victorious in 1802 (with help from France...uh-oh), and became emperor of all Vietnam, a swath that had never been under single rule before.   He made Cambodia a vassal state.   His new reign title was Gia Long (same Gia, for comparison.)   The coins were of bronze or brass and much larger.   The two reign titles roughly translate into "great endeavor" and "great prosperity".


Gia Long was noted for his strict Confucian rule.   He was a great admirer of the Ching, and fused their two reign titles at the time he was consolidating control (CHIA Ching and Chien LUNG), in fact copying the initial composition of his cash from a Chekiang piece of about 1768.

Furthermore, he also emulated the Shan Lung (which had just ended in 1801) in creating a new form of the character 'Long'.    It uses the same military word 'Kan'.    Kan is a double primitive.   That is, it is a pictogram of two different things:   a shield stiffener, and a great pestle made of three logs, for two men to wield over a stone pit to crush burnt lime, bone, or roasted ore.   It formerly did but no longer means a shield, or close combat.   It also meant to crush with relentless force.   On Gia Long's first cash it replaces the word meaning "descends from heaven".    But it is composed on its side, as if laid down.   Thus the peace is what brings prosperity.    He himself had fought for 20 years.

(The relentless crushing has in the last 120 years suffered the same fate as the once invincible Ching:   in that sense 'kan' now means to resist something stupidly, to be obstreperous.   The pestle meaning has devolved to mean only a log, or stem of any plant.)


Not so long ago, I brainstormed with one of our members on what makes armies win. I advanced leadership, technology and morale (but not size of army) as key determinants. The story of Nguyen Phuc Anh looks like a story of leadership, probably influencing morale. As long as the victorious Quang Trung lived, the Tay Son were invincible. When he died, the spell was broken and the youthful energy and righteousness of Nguyen Anh gave him a chance. When grabbed it, he became invincible before the Tay Son. In East Asia, this is expressed as the mandate of heaven, though that has a non-military meaning also.

I find the story of the character at least as interesting. Symbols became characters and characters are subsequently used to become symbols. There is a picture behind the symbol. A warrior will raise his shield in defence before an attacking enemy. However, the shield can be used offensively, trying to unbalance the enemy by pushing him with the shield. If this is successful and the enemy falls, the shield can be used to crush the enemy. Maybe that's how Nguyen Anh saw his remarkable campaign against the Tay Son.

A great thread with remarkable coins.

An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.


Thank you, Peter.   I've just found out the large brass coin is supposed to be issued in the following reign as a value 9 cash.   Strange valuation.   The character is still there.