Buffalo Boy Who Became King.
Bo Linh, founder of the Dinh dynasty, is one of the greatest kings of Vietnamese
history. He is the namesake of a major street in almost every Vietnamese city.
We all are familiar with a popular song celebrating this national hero,
particularly popular among Vietnamese children because of his precocity in
matters of warfare and leadership (“Dinh Bo Linh nho hoi minh con nien
thieu,lay lau lay lau lam co quen minh giup nuoc..”.) Legend has it that in
his childhood, while tending the water buffaloes, he used blossoming reeds (“lau”)
as pennants in mock combats organized among the village children. He later
defeated the twelve feudal lords within a year and was proclaimed as the King of
Ten Thousand Victories (“Van Thang Vuong”).
In 968, he
ascended to the throne as Tien Hoang De and built his capital city in Hoa Lu.
reign (968-979), important administrative, military and legal measures were
taken to put order to a recently divided and poorly organized country. In 979,
he was assassinated by Do Thich .
The following excerpt is from Keith Weller Taylor, in The Birth of Vietnam, University of California Press, 1983, pp 275-276.
Bo Linh’s father, Dinh Cong Tru, had served both Duong Dinh
Nghe and Ngo Quyen as governor on the Cham border in the south. According
to Chinese records, Bo Linh succeeded his father as governor of Hoan and from
this base eventually united all the Vietnamese lands.”
historians recorded several stories about Dinh Bo Linh . These stories are to
some extent hagiographical, so, while the general circumstances described in
them may be authentic, many details are later elaborations.”
Linh was born in Hoa Lu, in a narrow valley running into the Hong River plain
from the south, some thirty miles from the sea. He lived with his mother, a
concubine of Dinh Cong Tru, beside the temple of a mountain spirit. His father
was absent and so, apparently were all other able-bodied men.”
was recorded that the village children were responsible for tending the water
buffaloes and that Bo Linh was recognized as their leader. The youngsters liked
to play at imperial ritual and paraded about with Bo Linh in the role of
emperor. On holidays, Bo Linh often led his followers against the youth of
neighboring villages and always won the fray. His followers competed in
gathering firewood and providing personal services for him.” Seeing this, and
feeling proud of it, Bo Linh’s mother cooked a pig and laid a feast.
of this impressed the old men of the village, who took counsel together:” This
boy’s behavior is extraordinary; he will be able to benefit his generation and
bring peace to his people. If we do not support him now, we will certainly
regret it later. “Consequently the village acknowledged him as a leader and
built him a palisade. Only a younger brother of his father refused to follow him
and established a separate palisade.”
Linh led a band against his uncle but was repulsed. As Bo Linh fled, a bridge
collapsed, and he fell in the mud. His uncle rushed up, intending to stab him,
but was astonished to see yellow dragons appear and hover over the boy in
protection. Realizing that Bo Linh possessed supernatural qualities, the uncle
story describes a village society in the absence of authority. As Chinese
hegemony faded and the men were absorbed in urgent struggle against its
resurgence, village life was left open to the ambitions of a buffalo boy.”
by Hien V. Ho, 7-15-01)