Vietnamese people worshipped Tran Hung Dao nee Tran Quoc Tuan as Saint Tran. The name of the greatest dignified hero was Tran Quoc Tuan, a son of An Sinh Vuong Tran Lieu. Tran Lieu had a personal conflict with King Tran Thai Tong and National Advisor Tran Thu Do. Tran Lieu used to tell his offspring to take revenge for him by taking over the throne. Tran Quoc Tuan only nodded his head to please his father but at the bottom of his heart he knew it was not right.
When he was just born, a brilliant and prepossessing handsome child, a prophet told his royal family that this child would be a great man who would accomplish big achievements so unimaginably unrivalled that his name would be well known all over the country.
In his childhood, Tran Quoc Tuan was an intelligent student with a profound knowledge. He learned all old books from “Tu Thu, Ngu Kinh”, “Bach Gia Chu Tu” to “Luc Thao Tam Luoc”, and he didn’t miss any subject.
He was a courageous man who had disguised himself as a venerable monk to enter the enemy’s quarters in order to get a better insight of the enemy’s power. When he was talking to the enemy general in Chinese, an enemy soldier injured him in the head and made it bleeding by an iron arrow but the color of his face was still unchanged as nothing had happened. He always place “Dai Viet” (the Great Vietnam) i.e. his country above his personal matters.
Previously, there had been a disharmony between General Tran Quang Khai and himself but one day Tran Hung Dao solved it by warmly welcoming General Tran Quang Khai to his home, and by having General Tran Quang Khai bathed in a perfumed water. Since that day, both generals stood side by side in a united effort to fight against the Mongolian invasions.
When he was appointed the General-of-the-Army, Tran Quoc Tuan was named respectfully as Tran Hung Dao. He once asked his sons and his generals about the revengeful words of his late father. All agreed with him to do nothing except Hung Nhuong Vuong Tran Quoc Tang, one of his sons.
He drew his sword intentionally to kill Quoc Tang but his generals begged him not to. Since that day, Quoc Tang was not permitted to attend any meeting if his father presided over it. Tran Quoc Tuan left his words that Quoc Tang was only permitted to enter the funeral ceremony for his father when the lid of the coffin was closed.
He led his Dai Viet army to glorious victories. After completely defeating the aggressive Mongolian troops, Tran Hung Dao retreated to Van Kiep to live humbly as a hermit.
But, sometimes Tran Hung Dao was summoned to the capital to help solve important national and military affairs. Or, at times, the King himself paid a visit to Tran Hung Dao’s home at Van Kiep to consult with him. Even when the greatest hero Tran Hung Dao, or Saint Tran was dying, the King Tran was at his bedside to ask him for the last time how to keep the country safe and away from northern invasions.
When Tran Hung Dao or Saint Tran passed away, he was presented and decorated with the most honorable combined titles of all times from the Tran dynasty: “Long Cong, Thinh Duc, Vu Liet Hong Huan, Thai Su Thuong Phu, Thuong Quoc Cong, Binh Bac Dai Nguyen Súy, Nhan Vo Hung Dao Dai Vuong” (The Greatest General-of-the-Army for Northern Pacification, The National Highest Duke and King’s father, The Top-Echelon Mandarin, The Most Glorious & Dignified, The General of the Greatest Battle Workmanship & Ethics, and Hung Dao Dai Vuong King).
Annually, on the 20th of the eight month in accordance with lunar calendar, people from all over the country poured out of their homes to Kiep Bac shrine in Chi Linh District, Hai Duong province, North Vietnam, and/or to Tuc Mac shrine in Nam Dinh province to commemorate the great achievements of the Great Magnificent Hero Tran Hung Dao; and also to pay tribute to the Greatest Dignified Hero of the country.
GREAT ACHIEVEMENTS AND CONTRIBUTIONS OF SAINT TRAN HUNG DAO
The greatest achievements of Saint Tran Hung Dao nee Tran Quoc Tuan were the three big victories of the Tran dynasty over the aggressive and ferocious Mongolian invasions in the 13th century.
The First Victory (1281):
Hearing that King Tran Thai Tong was dying in Vietnam, the Mongolian Emperor ordered his State Affairs Minister Sai Thung to Dai Viet to summon the new King Tran to Mongolia. The disrespectful manners and attitudes of the Mongolian envoy and his entourage had infuriated King Tran and the people. For this reason, King Tran Nhan Tong refused to pay a visit to Mongolia as ordered by the Mongolian Emperor. That straight refusal of the Tran dynasty was one of the main reasons for the Mongolian Emperor’s intention to conquer Dai Viet later.
On the other hand, to calm down the Mongolian Emperor, King Tran Nhan Tong sent a State delegation led by Tran Di Ai to Mongolian court but the Mongolian Emperor was displeased. Subsequently, he dispatched Mongolian supervisors to Dai Viet to administer all of our districts and counties. King Tran Nhan Tong sent these Mongolian supervisors back to China, and this action really upset Mongolian Emperor who immediately crowned Tran Di Ai as King An Nam and ordered Sai Thung to escort Tran Di Ai back to Vietnam to be King of Dai Viet.
King Tran then assigned Tran Hung Dao to be the General-of-the-Army to move infantry and naval units to the frontier to protect the country. After moving his army through the Nam Quan post, Sai Thung and his troops were attacked and sufferred high casualty in an ambush. Sai Thung lost one of his eyes by an arrow, he then fled to China, and Tran Di Ai was arrested and escorted back to the kingdom. Tran Di Ai was then demoted to the rank of a soldier.
The Second Time (1285)
The Mongolian Emperor was so upset at seeing one-eyed Sai Thung’s fleeing back to China that he assigned his son Thoat Hoan to be Tran Nam Vuong King to conquer Dai Viet. Thoat Hoan divided his army into two groups. The first group commanded by General Toa Do would move south by the sea, sailing down to Nghe An, then moved north on land to attack the Dai Viet army; while the second army commanded by Thoat Hoan moving south from Lang Son province as the second attacking arrow. At the beginning, the Mongolians won several battles, and Dai Viet’s troops had to withdraw from those battles to avoid big casualties. Thoat Hoan moved successfully south and captured capital Thang Long (The Ascending Dragon Capital), King Tran was evacuated farther south to Thanh Hoa.
Afterwards, our Dai Viet’s troops mustered all of their strengths to fight back and eventually won the two main battles. The first main battle was the Ham Tu where General Tran Nhat Duat led his army to the final victory, killing innumerous enemies. The second victory was at Chuong Duong battle, under the command of General Tran Quang Khai, our army wiped out the Mongolians and drow them out of the capital. Thang Long capital representing the kingdom was regained, and this fact had strongly heightened the spirits of the Dai Viet’s soldiers.
The two final battles that ended the war were Tay Ket and Van Kiep, these two battles were directly commanded by General-of-the-Army Tran Hung Dao. In Tay Ket battle, General Toa Do was beheaded, and tens of thousands of enemy soldiers including big quantities of boats and weapons were captured and confiscated.
Hearing of the bad news of Tay Ket battle, the Mongolian commander-in-chief Thoat Hoan planned to escape to China. Hung Dao Vuong deployed multiple units all the way to the border to set up places to ambush Thoat Hoan’s army while Hung Dao Vuong himself commanded the majority of the army to chase after Thoat Hoan. As for Thoat Hoan, on his way running back to China, his troops fell into an ambush and Hung Dao Vuong’s army smashed Thoat Hoan’s troops easily. Mongolian General Thoat Hoan had to crawl into in a long brass pipe to hide himself so as to survive. His soldiers had to carry this brass pipe all the way north to China to save his life.
The Third Time (1287)
Two years later, in the spring of the year of the Pig Dinh Hoi, the Mongolian Emperor issued a decree to conquer Dai Viet one more time to take revenge for the Mongolian’s failure two years before. Thoat Hoan was again assigned Commander-in-Chief, and this time he led generals A Bat Xich, Lo ba Xich, O Ma Nhi, Phan Tiep and the traitor Tran Ich Tac to Vietnam to be An Nam Quoc Vuong King.
Similar to the battles two years before, at the beginning, our troops had to withdraw from the border areas moving south to Thang Long to protect the capital. Thoat Hoan’s army moved near Thang Long capital and launched fierce attacks on Thang Long but all attempts failed. Finally Thoat Hoan had to move back to areas in Van Kiep, Chi linh and Pha Lai...
Two battles later were the most decisive. The first was Van Don wherein General Tran Khanh Du was successful in destroying and taking possession of all of the food supplies transported by Mongolian General Truong Van Ho. The second decisive battle was at Bach Dang river which was put under the command of Tran Hung Dao. Hearing of all of the food supplies destroyed, Thoat Hoan’s soldiers were dispirited and all just wanted to go back home.
Thoat Hoan himself also had no heart for fighting. For this reason, he ordered General O Ma Nhi to prepare a retreat by the sea. Hung Dao Vuong applied the same method devised by the great General Ngo Quyen who had defeated the Chinese in the tenth century in the Bach Dang river. Hung Dao Vuong ordered his soldiers to plant sharped pointed pikes in the bed of Bach Dang river, then lured the enemy’s boats to that river bed to destroy them. It happened as planned, the enemy’s boats were broken into pieces by the sharped pointed pikes, all Mongolian generals O Ma Nhi, Phan Tiep, Co Ngoc, Tich Le were captured. On the other hand, Thoat Hoan’s troops moving on land were ambushed and inflicted with heavy casualties.
The King Tran, his officers and mandarins, and the people entered Thang Long capital to celebrate blissfully the victories in a three-day party named Thai Binh Dien Yen (Peace Festival).
Mongolia was a country north of China. The Mongolians at that time were barbarious, warlike, clever on horseback and in using bows and arrows, and gifted in combat. When Genghis Khan was ruling Mongolia, Monglian horses had trampled many countries from Asia to Europe. Mongolia had occupied the entire mid-Asia, Persia and the countries in the north east of Europe.
Mongolia occupied the northern countries of Tay Ha, Kim and conquered Korea. China was a vast country, but China also fell, and the small Dai Ly country in the south was also occupied by the Mongolians and was later obliterated.
However, the Mongolians who were sons and nephews of Genghis Khan were completely defeated for three times by the Tran dynasty. It’s the unbreakable spirit, the solidarity and the unity of the Vietnamese people that played the indispensable role in breaking all invasions from the North. Hero Tran Hung Dao or Saint Tran was the best shining symbol of that unbreakabke spirit, the solidarity and the unity of Vietnamese people.