|The Father of Viet-Nam,
H.I.M. Emperor Gia Long
| Known as "The Great Conqueror", Emperor Gia Long was the founding king of the Imperial Nguyen Dynasty as the Father of modern-day Viet-Nam. He was born in 1761 as Prince Nguyen-Phuc Anh, from the family that ruled the south of Viet-Nam under the Le monarchy. However, the country at this time was divided and the Le Emperor had little power and was unable to stop the rivalry between the Mac, Trinh, and Nguyen families. The civil wars came to a head under the Tay Son rebellion which was led by two brothers who deposed the Le Emperor and attacked everyone who stood between them and their goal of establishing a rival dynasty. The Nguyen suffered greatly at the hands of the Tay Son who murdered the Lord and his entire family until only one nephew remained, the Prince Nguyen-Phuc Anh.
Although they tried to hunt down Nguyen-Phuc Anh as well, he always managed to escape and stay one step ahead of his enemies. It seemed to many that Nguyen-Phuc Anh enjoyed the protection of the Divine. The people began to look upon the Nguyen lord as their savior. Although the Tay Son regime had instituted some beneficient progressive reforms, they were much better at war than at government and the national leadership was incompetent. The people also viewed the Tay Son as usurpers and still recognized the Le Emperor in exile in China as the rightful ruler of Viet-Nam. To aleviate this situation they appealed to Nguyen-Phuc Anh for help.
Many other nations were sympathetic to the suffering of Nguyen-Phuc Anh. The King of Thailand had given him sanctuary in his country and in 1787 a treaty was negotiated with France. However, the French were too concerned with problems in their own country and never delivered the assistance they had promised. Instead, Prince Nguyen-Phuc Anh organized an army of vollunteers as well as a modern and powerful navy to begin his campaign to reunify Viet-Nam. Through a long series of battles, and with the help of many talented lieutenants Nguyen-Phuc Anh was eventually successful, ending the rule of the Tay Son, reuniting the nation and claiming the Mandate of Heaven.
During this long struggle the last Le Emperor had died in China without any heirs to succeed him. Without a legitimate government to restore Nguyen-Phuc Anh founded the new government of the Nguyen Dynasty and was crowned Emperor Gia Long in 1802. He took his reigning name from the ancient names for Ha-Noi and Saigon, showing that for the first time in centuries the country was firmly united from north to south as one people. He moved the capitol to the city of Hue in central Viet-Nam to illustrate the point that the south was not ruling the north and the north was not ruling the south, but that all Viet-Nam was united from the center as a single great nation. In fact, it was Emperor Gia Long who gave the country the name Nam-Viet or Vietnam that we know today.
All of Vietnam's powerful neighbors recognized the new Nguyen Dynasty and peaceful relations were reopened with China to ensure the safety of the country. A new national administration was built to reach across the entire country. Freedom of religion was allowed and good relations were promoted with France, though the Emperor was careful not too allow foreign influence to grow too large in his country. He was the first Vietnamese nationalist, and it is this which will always be remembered as the greatest accomplishment of Emperor Gia Long. It was he who united Viet-Nam and gave them their sense of nationalism and cultural pride which allowed them to survive and triumph over many hardships in the future.