As anyone who reads this blog knows, I’ve written many posts over the years about a fifteenth-century Vietnamese document known as the “Bình Ngô đại cáo” (The Great Proclamation on Pacifying the Ngô), or on issues related to that document.

While I still haven’t had the chance to research that period to the level of detail that I hope to find the time to do someday, nonetheless, what I do know about that period has long made it evident to me that the way in which the “Bình Ngô đại cáo” is usually depicted and explained today simply does not fit the historical context in which it was produced.

The “Bình Ngô đại cáo” is a text that was written by a scholar-official by the name of Nguyễn Trãi on behalf of a man by the name of Lê Lợi. It was issued, or proclaimed, in 1428.

Lê Lợi at that time had just come to power after leading a military campaign for many years against an occupying Ming Dynasty army.

It is for this reason that this document today is usually referred to as a “declaration of independence.”

Original Declaration of Independence

However, there are many problems with viewing that document in that way, and it is because of those many problems that I have long sought to try to figure out what that document was really saying.

In response to a recent post that I wrote, some readers engaged me in good discussions and pointed out some information that has enabled me to finally reach a kind of “breakthrough” in my thinking and to see how the various pieces of this puzzle fit together in a way that is not historically anachronistic like the “declaration of independence” interpretation is.

So in what follows, I will write a series of posts on this topic in an effort to look at this issue in a more comprehensive manner.

Finally, I would really like to thank the readers of this blog, and particularly Ruan Song, Nguyen Bac and Winston Phan (whoever you all are, as we have never actually met in person as far as I know) for your recent comments. I am very fortunate to have people “push back” at my ideas, and to provide counter-evidence in the process, as this ultimately helps me to sharpen my ideas and to gain a clearer understanding of the past. I am always grateful for intelligent and insightful critiques of my ideas.