Emperor Le Thanh Tong
         One of the greatest Vietnamese monarchs of all time, it was during the reign of Emperor Le Thanh Tong that Viet Nam reached its peak of wealth, power and prestige. He was the fourth emperor of the Later Le Dynasty and ascended the throne when he was 19-years-old. The government organization which he established has been the basis of every Vietnamese administration until the Communist revolution. He established six ministries to be responsible for certain areas. These were 1) Rites 2) War 3) Justice 4) Interior 5) Public Works and 6) Finance. He also made the mandarin civil service more fair and open, with position going to those of merit rather than those of high-standing and gave them greater power over local areas, further centralizing power and limiting the influence of the wealthy aristocrats.
          During the reign of Le Thanh Tong, Vietnam really began to act like a great power and the most significant nation in Southeast Asia. He ordered a census taken of the population, a land survey which came up with the first complete map of Vietnam and patronized the famous Ngo Si Lien to write a national history. He was always a great patron of learning and would hold national poetry writing competitions in which he himself would participate. He also further established Confucianism, more so than Buddhism, as the foundation of the empire. This led to probably his most remarkable work.
         Possibly his most significant contribution to future generations of Vietnamese was Le Thanh Tong's new legal system the Hong Duc code. On the whole, it was based on the traditional principles of fairness and good behavior taught in China and elsewhere by the followers of Confucius. However, the Hong Duc was also uniquely Vietnamese in many ways, such as the legal rights of women in areas of divorce and land ownership.
          Le Thanh Tong also worked to improve the situation of the farmers, which has always been a problematic area for Vietnamese governments. The dikes were inspected and improved, expansion of agriculture promoted and efforts were made to stop so much land from falling into the hands of such a small number of elite landlords. Le Thanh Tong enacted severe penalties on any noble who took over communal lands held by the peasant farmers. All of this made Le Thanh Tong beloved by the common people.
          However, just as much as he was loved by the Vietnamese, he was feared by their enemies. Le Thanh Tong reformed and strengthened the Vietnamese military and after a series of border skirmishes, in 1470 he sent his troops south to invade the kingdom of Champa. The campaign was a great success for Le arms. The Cham capital city of Vijaya was taken and remaining resistance all but collapsed. Northern provinces of the kingdom were taken by the Vietnamese, the area which is today Quang Nam, and Le Thanh Tong had the area settled by military colonies (don dien) and kept the rest of Champa as a vassal state under the Vietnamese Emperor. Smaller wars of expansion against Laos were also successful in enlarging the Dai Viet Empire.
          After all of these great accomplishments, and a reign of 37 years, Emperor Le Thanh Tong died in 1497 at the age of 56. He was succeeded by his son Le Hien Tong.
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