King Ly Thai To set up a milestone in the history of Thang Long

1,000 years of Thang Long – Hanoi begin with the wise and strategic decision to move the capital by the first king of Ly Dynasty, Thai To Ly Cong Uan. The strategic vision in choosing the place for the capital remains the same values for almost 1,000 years, making Ly Thai To the brightest king among talented kings in feudal history of the country.


King Ly Thai To

Ly Cong Uan was born in 974, in Co Phap Village (now in Dinh Bang, Tu Son, Bac Ninh, well-known with Ly Bat De temple which worships 8 kings of Ly Dynasty). According to the legend, Ly Cong Uan was orphaned and adopted by Monk Ly Khanh Van.

About the biography of Ly Cong Uan, the legend says that his father was a hired worker in Tieu Son Pagoda in Bac Ninh Province. During working here, he fell in love with a female and made her pregnant. Being expelled from the pagoda, the couple tramped to a forest. The wife stayed and took a rest, whereas the husband sought for some drinking water in a well in the middle of the forest. Unfortunately, the husband fell into the well and died. After waiting for a long time, the wife started to go and find her husband. Then she saw the well filled with soil in the shape of an eight petal flower. Becoming exhausted after mourning for a while, she tried to seek refuge and luckily she found Ung Tam Pagoda (now Dan’s Pagoda) nearby. Then, she was rescued by the monk of the pagoda.

About Monk Khanh Van of Ung Tam Pagoda, the night before, he dreamed about an omen by the Dragon Deity: “Tomorrow, clean the pagoda, the King will come”. He was surprised and suspicious, but he still asked novice monks to clean the pagoda. They waited from dawn to dusk and saw a miserable pregnant woman came and spent the night at the pagoda. After listening to the woman’s story, the Monk allowed her to stay in the pagoda until she gave birth. A few months later, in a windy night, the attic of the house where the woman stayed, radiated brilliant light and aroma pervaded. Surprisingly, the Monk and the pagoda female assistant walked to the house, found out that the woman had given birth to a bright, good-looking baby with four words on his hands, i.e. “Son ha xa tac” (meaning the country). The woman died shortly after giving birth. Then, it started thundering, lightning and raining continuously. Feeling sympathetic to the orphaned baby, Monk Khanh Van adopted and named him Ly Cong Uan. When Cong Uan was at the school age, Monk Khanh Van sent him to the Pagoda of Monk Van Hanh and asked Monk Van Hanh to teach him.


Another legend says that Ly Cong Uan’s mother was Pham Thi Nga, a Duong Loi villager in Bac Ninh. One day, Nga went to a pagoda to worship Buddha. At noon, she slept beneath a tree and dreamed that a god came and copulated with her. She woke up and got pregnant. Then she gave birth to a son, named Ly Cong Uan. When Cong Uan was 3 years old, Nga brought him to a pagoda and offered for adoption to Monk Khanh Van. The next part of this legend is the same as the previous legend.

Ly Cong Uan was intelligent and was highly spoken by Monk Van Hanh: “He is not an ordinary people. After growing up, he can solve all the difficulties and become a lord in the country.”

Later, when King Le Dai Hanh consulted Monk Van Hanh about all affairs in the court, he recommended Ly Cong Uan to the King. After becoming a mandarin, Ly Cong Uan was good at planning strategies and trusted by King Le Dai Hanh. Under Early Le’s Reign, Ly Cong Uan was ordained to Commander in Chief. Later, when King Le Dai Hanh died, the throne was passed to the 3rd prince Le Long Viet or King Le Trung Tong. After taking the throne for 3 days, Le Trung Tong was murdered by his brother Le Long Dinh, known as Ngoa Trieu. At that time, all the mandarins feared and shunned; only Ly Cong Uan hugged King Trung Tong and cried. Long Dinh commended him as a loyal mandarin and allowed him to keep the position of Commander in Chief.

Due to debauched behaviour, Ngoa Trieu was seriously illed and died at the age of 24. Meanwhile, Prince Sa, the son of Long Dinh, was too young. The country was facing many hardships due to the power struggle and deprivation of King Ngoa Trieu. All the mandarins nominated Ly Cong Uan to the throne with the desire that the country will be peaceful, and prosperous. As a loyal and frank person, Ly Cong Uan denied the request of his men many times. For the sake of the country, Queen Duong Van Nga (the queen of King Le Dai Hanh) had to put the royal robe on Ly Cong Uan. Untill then, Ly Cong Uan accepted to the throne and founded Ly Dynasty. That was in 1009.

After taking over the throne, Ly Thai To found out that Hoa Lu land was narrow and surrounded by mountains, which was not worthy of the capital of an independent nation; it was more difficult to build a prosperous country. The King thought of moving the capital. Considering all the places in the country, Ly Thai To realized that only Dai La was the most appropriateplace to setting up the capital. Then he composed the well-known Capital-Moving Decree to consult all mandarins. The King and mandarins agreed to move the capital from Hoa Lu to Dai La.

In the fall of 1010, the boats of the King moored off the dock of Dai La Citadel. At that moment, according to legend, the King saw a golden dragon flying up. Then he changed the name Dai La to Thang Long.

After establishing the capital in Thang Long, Ly Cong Uan renamed ancient Hoa Lu capital to Trang An District, his homeland Co Phap to Thien Duc District, divided the country into 24 provinces and called Hoan Chau and Ai Chau as camps.

The country under King Ly Thai To’s reign was very peaceful. The people were hard-working and became more prosperous.

Ly Thai To reigned for 19 years and died at the age of 55.

Ly Dynasty included 8 generations (not counting King Ly Chieu Hoang who lost the throne to the Tran); therefore, the folk considers the 8 petal flower-shaped land on his father grave as a portent that the Ly would reign the country with 8 generations. At Ly Bat De Temple (in Dinh Bang, Tu Son, Bac Ninh) the people still worship only 8 kings.

Ly Thai To reigned from 1010 to 1028, took the title of Thuan Thien. In 1028, when Ly Thai To passed away, he was called Thần vũ King (Powerful King). Ly Thai To’s coffin was buried in Tho Lang.


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