The Cham-Đại Việt War of 1471, also known as the Cham-Vietnamese War, was a military expedition launched by monarch Lê Thánh Tông of Đại Việt under the Lê dynasty and is widely regarded as the event that marked the downfall of Champa.
The Vietnamese forces attacked and ransacked the kingdom’s largest city-state, Vijaya, and defeated the Cham army, bringing the kingdom of Champa to an end.
The Cham and the Vietnamese had a long history of conflict. In the course of their wars, peace often paired with economic exhaustion, recovering their economies just to go to war again. When fighting resumed in 1471, the Champa kingdom found itself weakened and isolated. It had experienced numerous civil wars and, at one point, had five different rulers. Because of their earlier attack on Angkor, the Khmers ignored the Cham’s request for assistance when Đại Việt invaded.
The Cham also requested Ming China intervene and help bring the Vietnamese back in line by force and demarcate the border between Champa and Vietnam. China, however, only verbally rebuked the Vietnamese for its incursion as the Ming Chinese sought to preserve trades and border security rather than continuing expansions, which the Vietnamese ignored, and proceeded with their attack and plan to destroy their rival.
The Vietnamese then carried out their campaign. On 28 November 1470, Le Thanh Tong formally launched his attack. A 100,000-strong Vietnamese naval expedition set out that day, followed by another Vietnamese army consisting of 150,000 men on 08 December.
The Vietnamese army was reorganised to copy the Chinese army – by then the most powerful army in Asia, armed with gunpowder weapons. Lê Thánh Tông raised a 300,000-strong army and significantly outnumbered the 100,000-strong Cham army. This came at a massive financial cost since it drained the Vietnamese treasury of 1,000 gold liang a day. The Vietnamese forces used cannons and bombarded the city, blast a breach prior to storming the city.
Aftermath and Legacy
Cham representatives told the Ming Empire that Annam destroyed their country. The Chinese Ming Dynasty records contain the extent of the Vietnamese destruction wrought on Champa. The Vietnamese enslaved several thousand Chams and forced assimilation into Vietnamese culture onto Chams. The number included 50 members of the royal family. The Chams informed the Ming that they continued to fight against the Vietnamese occupation of their land, which had been turned into the 13th province of Đại Việt.
The Champa kingdom was destroyed by the invasion, leaving small rump state which lasted until 1832, when emperor Minh Mang initiated the final conquest of the remnants of Champa. The Vietnamese ceramics trade was severely affected due to impact suffered by the Cham merchants after the invasion. The Ming scholar Wu Pu (吳樸) recommended that to help stop the Vietnamese, Ming should help resuscitate the Champa Kingdom. The Ming dynasty however did not look for it, due to inner security concerns within China, and this was finally forgotten.
The Ming Empire sent a censor, Ch’en Chun, to Champa in 1474 to install the Champa King, but his entry was blocked by Vietnamese soldiers who had taken over Champa. He proceeded to Malacca instead and its ruler sent back tribute to the Ming dynasty. Malacca sent envoys again in 1481 to inform the Ming that while going back to Malacca in 1469 from a trip to China, the Vietnamese attacked them, castrating the young and enslaving them. The Malaccans reported that Đại Việt was in control of Champa and sought to conquer Malacca, but the Malaccans did not fight back due to a lack of permission from the Ming to engage in war. The Ming Emperor scolded them, ordering the Malaccans to strike back with violent force if the Vietnamese attacked.
Only a small Cham kingdom remained in the south but this did not persist. Around 162,000 Cham remain in Vietnam today.
After the war, Champa was no longer an economic and political power in the region because the kingdom was reduced to autonomous regions subordinate to Vietnam, which allowed Vietnamese governors collect taxes each year. The Vietnamese navy took control over the South China Sea trade routes, established Hoi An in central Vietnam as the trade city and freely exported Vietnamese ceramic products to Southeast and East Asia. The Le Vietnamese court also extended their rule and influence to the Paracel islands and Mekong Delta. More ethnic Vietnamese people moved south and settled on conquered Champa lands, and the government prohibited intermarriage between Vietnamese and Chams.
By the end of 1400s, Vietnam emerged as the strongest state in Southeast Asia, a position they would hold until the rise of First Toungoo Empire a century later. However, Vietnam remained independence and free of Burmese influence, thus expanding influence uninterrupted until 19th century’s French colonisation.