08 January 2007

Le Dynasty

My maiden name, Le, has no coat of arms because it is of Asian origin; instead, the family name has a dynastic dragon (the one above is from the Ly Dynasty, as I could find no image of one from my own family name). I descend from the Le dynasty, one of the several great dynasties of Viet Nam that governed free from Chinese rule from 944 onwards. The early Le dynasty reigned from 980 to 1009, and the late Le dynasty, ruling over the Golden Age of Viet Nam, reigned for more than three centuries, from 1428 to 1776 (our fall from power coinciding, interestingly enough, with the American Revolution). The greatest ruler of the later Le Dynasty was Le Thanh Tong (1460-97), who venerated Confucius, and tried to live a moral life. He was considered a noble and virtuous king. This was, of course, before the Catholic faith had arrived to the country's shores. The Jesuits did not begin their missionary work in earnest until the arrival in the 1620s of Alexandre de Rhodes, considered the pioneer in romanizing the Vietnamese language. In 1700, there were only forty-five Vietnamese priests.

As to Le Thanh tong, according to this entry
His rule was one of the high points in the history of Vietnam and was referred to as the time of a "Flood of Virtue" (Hong Đức). He instituted a wide range of government reforms, legal reforms, and land reforms. He restarted the examination system for selecting men for important government positions. He reduced the power of the noble families and reduced the degree of corruption in the government.
Interestingly enough, he halted all building of Buddhist and Taoist temples, instead erecting temples of Confucian literature. He also implemented a new legal system in which women were granted greater status in society, and daughters were granted equal inheritance rights with sons (shockingly progressive for that time).

The Nguyen Dynasty, the last to rule Viet Nam, has its own order: The Imperial Order of the Dragon of Annam, a dynastic property bestowed by the French government in 1886 (which at this time occupied Indochina). The Vietnamese Constitutional Monarchist League seeks the end of communist rule and restoration of the Nguyen Dynasty. I heartily support its aims.