Local Rule of Đại Việt under the Lý Dynasty: Evolution of a Charter Polity after the Tang-Song Transition in East Asia

In: Asian Review of World Histories
Momoki ShiroOsaka

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Empirical research into Đại Việt before the 14th century has made little progress since the 1990s. To improve this situation, I here examine how the Lý dynasty (1009-1226), the first long-lasting dynasty of Đại Việt, established stable local ruleafter the “Tang-Song Transition” in China that changed the entire picture of East Asia (including both Southeast and Northeast Asia). This paper focuses on two issues. First are the local administrative units and their governors. The nature of both higher units like lộ (circuits), phủ and châu (provinces), and basic units like hương and giáp (districts?) will be examined. Second, I examine non-institutional channels of local rule by the imperial family. By combining such administrative and non-administrative means, the Lý central court enforced a considerably stable local rule for two centuries. Finally, I attempt some preliminary comparisons with the local rule of Goryeo (918-1392) in the Korean peninsula, a polity that shared many features with Đại Việt in the process of localization of the Tang and Song models. I hope this approach of viewing small empires from the standpoint not of their “goal” (modern states) but of their “start” (charter polities), will enrich the discussion of East Asian small empires.

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