QUEEN Y LAN (1044-1117)


Đền GhÍnh, Hưng YÍn

Y Lan wasnít the Queenís name. Her true name was vaguely known: Le Khiet Nuong? Or Le Thi Yen Loan?

Her father was Le Cong Thiet.

Her mother was Vu Thi Tinh.

Y Lan was born in 1044 in Tho Loi village (later renamed SiÍu Loai), Bac Ninh province, into an ordinary family.

King Ly Thanh Ton (1023- 1072 King: 1054- 1072) was childless when he was 40 years old. In 1063 he went to a pagoda in Bac Ninh to pray for a son to succeed to the throne. Arriving in Tho Loi village the King was welcome by the villagers except for a beautiful lady leaning against a magnolia tree.

She didnít pay attention to the Kingís presence in Tho Loi. Attracted by her beauty and her extraordinary behavior, King Ly Thanh Ton decided to recruit her as a Royal Concubine. He called her Y Lan meaning the lady leaning against the magnolia tree (Y: to lean; to stand. Lan: magnolia tree).

In 1066 Y Lan gave birth to Prince Ly Can Duc, who was considered the crown prince. King Ly Thanh Ton announced the general amnesty to celebrate Prince Can Ducís birth.

In 1068 Y Lan gave birth to a second prince, Minh Nhan. Y Lan ranked 2nd after Queen Duong, who was sterile. King Ly Thanh Ton loved her very much. She was young, beautiful, intelligent and dynamic. She put an end to the Kingís worries about his childlessness. She helped the King solve national affairs smoothly.

In 1069 King Ly Thanh Ton commanded the Viet troops to launch attacks on Champa in the South. Y Lan replaced King Ly Thanh Ton to take care of national affairs with Chancellor Ly Dao Thanhís assistance. The military campaign commanded by King Ly Thanh Ton wasnít successful in Champa. The Viet troops were ordered to leave Champa. Arriving in Cu Lien (Tien Lu, Hung Yen province) the King heard the folks praising Queen Y Lanís good management of the national affairs. King Ly Thanh Ton felt ashamed. He ordered the Viet troops to head to the South to resume attacks on Champa. This time Champa failed to resist the Viet troops. Cham King Jaya Rudravarman III (Che Cu- King: 1061- 1074) and 50,000 Cham soldiers were captured by the Viet troops. Champa ceded Dia Ly, Ma Linh and Bo Chinh districts to Dai Viet in exchange for King Jaya Rudravarman IIIís freedom. Those districts are in present Quang Binh and Quang Tri provinces.

In 1072 King Ly Thanh Ton died. Prince Ly Can Duc was enthroned when he was six years old. It was King Ly Nhan Ton (1066- 1128- King: 1072- 1128). Ly Dao Thanh ( ?- 1081) was Regent. Queen Duong was Queen Mother. She had the right to discuss national affairs behind the curtain but Y Lan didnít. Jealous of Queen Duongís power and prestige Y Lan pressured the infant King to imprison Queen Duong and her 72 servants. It seems General Ly Thuong Kiet (1019- 1105) supported her while Ly Dao Thanh disagreed with her. It was said Queen Duong and 72 servants were buried alive on the burial day of King Ly Thanh Ton. Protesting this cruel punishment Chancellor Ly Dao Thanh was demoted to Chief of Nghe An province. Shortly after this demotion his power was restored by Y Lan. This proved Y Lanís flexibility, intelligence and lucidity.

With the active assistance of Chancellor Ly Dao Thanh and General Ly Thuong Kiet, Y Lan had brilliant accomplishments during her regency and involvement in the national affairs:

- In 1075 Ly Thuong Kiet and Nung Ton Dan commanded the Viet troops to attack Yongzhou (Ung Chau-present Nanning <Nam Ninh>), Qinzhou (Kham Chau), and Lanzhou (Liem Chau),Guangxi province (Quang Tay) to prevent the Chinese troops from invading Dai Viet.

- In 1075 Dai Viet organized its first doctoral contest. Educational development was tied to the expansion of Confucianism under the Ly dynasty of which the founder was strongly supported by the Buddhist Church.

- In 1076, under the reign of Emperor Shenzong (<Tong> Than Ton 1067- 1085) of the Northern Song dynasty, the Chinese troops invaded Dai Viet but they were defeated by General Ly Thuong Kiet.

- Construction of the Co Xa Dike along the Red River to prevent the capital from flooding.

- Y Lan liberated the female slaves and married them to the widowers.

- She banned the killing of water buffaloes. Those people, who violated this order, were severely punished for killing water buffaloes was destroying the agricultural economy.

Queen Y Lan was a devoted Buddhist follower. She built many Buddhist temples throughout Dai Viet. She was called ĎBodhisattva Guan Yiní (Quan Am Bo Tat).


There are some similarities between Queen Y Lan (1044- 1117) of the Ly dynasty and Empress Dowager Ci Xi (Tu Hi- 1835- 1908) of the Qing dynasty:

a. They both were in widowhood in their twenties. Y Lan was 28 years old when King Ly Thanh Ton died in1072 (1072- 1044: 28). Ci Xi was in widowhood at the age of 26 when Emperor Xianfeng (Ham Phong) died in 1861 (1861- 1835: 26).

b. They both were beautiful, intelligent, authoritarian and cruel. Queen Y Lan had more accomplishments and less scandals than Empress Dowager Ci Xi. Y Lan was involved in national affairs in 45 years (1072- 1117); Ci Xi in 47 years (1861- 1908). Y Lan was creative and lucid (1) while Ci Xi was conservative and short- sighted. She showed herself a capable leader bringing peace, order, and prosperity to Dai Viet.

c. They both died at the age of 73 (Y Lan: 1117- 1044= 73; Ci Xi: 1908- 1835=73).

d. They both were devoted Buddhist followers and were called by their people Bodhisattva Guan Yin (Quan Am Bo Tat).

e. They both were from ordinary families.

Queen Y Lan died in 1117 in Thang Long. She was buried in Tho Lang, Thien Duc prefecture (present Tien Son district), Bac Ninh province.






(1) Chancellor Ly Dao Thanh disagreed with Queen Y Lan about imprisoning and harming Queen Duong and 72 servants. He was demoted to become Chief of Nghe An province. Shortly after this demotion his power was restored. Queen Y Lan did know she couldnít succeed without the assistance of Chancellor Ly Dao Thanh and General Ly Thuong Kiet, who were two great pillars of the kingdom.


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