Excavations on a 950-square-meter site uncovered several ironwood poles in the Cao Quy rice field, located in Vietnam’s Lien Khe Commune, Thuy Nguyen District.
Archaeologists said this is a large-scale, important finding relating to the Tran Dynasty’s famous Bach Dang Battle against an invasion by Mongolia’s Yuan Dynasty.
Well-known historian Le Van Lan noted the discovery might show that the 1288 battle was actually a three-phase operation instead of an isolated river battle as previously thought. “The first phase was the launch of soldiers to exhaust the enemies’ resources and strength. Phase two involved Vietnamese soldiers blocking the Mongolian fleet from taking a shortcut via creeks, forcing them to go to the Bach Dang River. Phase three was the historic Bang Dang Battle.”
The stakes found at the Cao Quy rice field could be instrumental in phase two.
The stakes are made of ironwood, teak and other species. Those found in Cao Quy are said to be much larger and demonstrate evenly sharpened trunks, unlike smaller and pointier ones found at Quang Yen Town in Quang Ninh Province, 15 kilometers away.
The stake yard in Quang Ninh was first discovered in 1953 when locals were building a dyke. It was officially recognized as one of Vietnam’s historic vestiges in 1998.
Commanded by the legendary General Tran Hung Dao (1226-1300), Vietnamese soldiers submerged the wooden poles in Bach Dang River prior to the fleet’s arrival, comprising 18,000 men and 400 vessels. Hidden during high tide, the stakes trapped the invaders when the tide receded, ensuring victory for Tran Hung Dao.
The landslide victory in Bach Dang River is considered the biggest naval battle in Vietnam’s history and a representative triumph in Vietnam’s fights against three invasions of the Mongolian empire.
Archaeologists had to dig 2.5 meters deep in order to study the stakes which have different lengths and diameters. The longest one is nearly 5 meters, while the widest one has a diameter of 0.5 meters. They are placed four to five meters apart.
The researchers have different theories about the threads found around the trunks. They were either attached to cattle that pulled the logs or used as link between logs.
The stakes were planted in the river under the command of General Tran Hung Dao more than 700 years ago. The river body has reduced in size because of alluvial deposits and human activities, placing the stakes in a rice field that is Cao Quy today.
The archaeologists have not yet determined how the stakes were planted because the excavated ones show equal footing.
According to Complete Annals of Dai Viet (Dai Viet Su Ky), General Tran Hung Dao covered the stakes with grass prior to the fight and faked a retreat which drew the enemy’s fleet into the stakes. The invaders, unaware of the high tide and the hidden stakes, ended up getting trapped in them. The invaders drowned or were killed by the General’s army. The Annals says that the river turned red with blood.
At a conference on the new discovery on Saturday, many researchers proposed the area on the Cao Quy rice field, where the stakes used in the legendary ‘Battle of Bach Dang’ were found, is recognized as “a special national heritage site” and possibly “a world’s heritage site”.