Triệu Đà

Zhao Tuo

Triệu Đà
King of Nanyue (Nam Việt)

A statue of Zhào Tuō
King of Nanyue
Reign 203 BC-137 BC
Successor Zhao Mo (Triệu Mạt)
Posthumous name
Emperor Wu 武帝
Chinese: 開天體道聖武神哲皇帝
Vietnamese: Khai Thiên Thể Đạo Thánh Vũ Thần Triết Hoàng Đế
House Zhao Dynasty
Born ca. 240 BC
Died 137 BC (aged 103)
Burial Guangzhou

Zhao Tuo (Chinese: ; Mandarin Pinyin: Zhào Tuó; Jyutping: Jiu⁶ Tō⁴, Vietnamese: Triệu Đà), was the founder of the kingdom of Nanyue. Tuo was a Chinese military commander who gained independence upon the collapse of the Qin Dynasty. Nanyue included northern Vietnam and parts of southern China. His capital was in Panyu, modern Guangzhou, China. His ruling circle included both ethnic Chinese and native Baiyue, and he encouraged intermarriage and assimilation.[1] In Vietnamese, he is referred to as Triệu Đà, and the dynasty he founded is called the Triệu Dynasty (Chinese: 赵朝). In traditional Vietnamese history, he was considered the emperor of Vietnam. However, modern Vietnamese historians regarded him as a foreign invader who invaded Vietnam in 207 BC.[2]


Early life

Zhao was born around 240 BC in Zhending, which is in the modern province of Hebei in northern China. At that time, the region was part of the state of Zhao. The state of Zhao was defeated and absorbed by the state of Qin () in 222 BC, whereupon Zhao Tuo became a citizen of the state of Qin. He later served in a Qin expeditionary force that moved to the south. In 206 BC, Zhao Tuo defeated the Au Lac kingdom of An Dương Vương and merged it with Guangdong and Guangxi under his command during the time of Qin.

Creation of Nanyue

At the end of the Qin Dynasty, Zhao took control of a region comprising modern-day Guangdong and Guangxi. Zhao Tuo built up his power and took over the territory, partially through alliances with native Yue nobility and chieftains. The Qin Governor of Canton advisted Zhao to found his own independent Kingdom, since the area was remote and there were many Chinese settlers in the area.[3] He then declared himself the King of Nanyue ("Southern Yue"). His capital was at Panyu (Chinese: ; Jyutping: Pun¹yü⁴), on the site of modern Guangzhou.

For a long time, Nanyue was at war with the state of Changsha to the north, the warlike Minyue state to the east; and the Southwestern Yi (西南夷) state to the west, which did not adopt Han ways. Also, within the Nanyue territory there were rebellions from the Western Ou (Chinese: 西甌; pinyin: Xīōu) and Lạc Việt (Chinese: 駱越; pinyin: Luòyuè) tribes. In theory, the largest threat to Zhao came from the Han Dynasty, which claimed the territory of Nanyue; however at the time the Han "was in no position to challenge"[4] his rule.

From tensions to peace and stability

In 196 BC, an envoy from the Han Empire gave Zhao Tuo a seal representing him the king of Nanyue.[5] On this occasion, Zhao Tuo squatted and wore his hair in a bun, in the Yue manner.[5] Early in his reign, Emperor Gaozu of Han gave three commanderies () to Prince of Changsha Wu Rui (長沙王吳芮), and appointed Yao Wuyu, Marquis of Haiyang (海陽侯徭無餘) and Zhi, Prince of Nanhai (南海王織). Emperor Gaozu also put an army in Changsha state to watch over the Nanyue kingdom, which made Zhao Tuo worried about the sudden attack. Zhao Tuo took opportunity on trading and imported things in large amounts from the Central Plains (中原). Zhao Tuo also gave tribute to central authority. After Gaozu died, Emperor Hui of Han (汉惠帝) ascended the throne, continuing his predecessor's treaty obligations to Nanyue.

Empress Lü raising tensions

After seven years of the reign of Emperor Hui, Empress Dowager Lü came to power. In the later days of her reign, in 183 BCE, she suddenly declared trade restrictions upon the Han with other states, this included useful products such as iron tools and horses to Nanyue territory. Wu Rui, the King of Changsha however and the only non-Liu king in Han territory, was treated well by the Empress—Gao Zu had removed all non-Liu kings except Wu Rui since his state was not strong enough compared to Wu's, and the empress wanted to appoint Lü kings. The blockade had a great impact on the Nanyue economy since Nanyue needs iron plow tools. However his people were unhappy about the decision of blockade.

Zhao Tuo faulted the Prince of Changsha for the blockade, sending messengers to the capital of Chang'an to ask for releasing the blockade. But Prince of Changsha Wu Rui sent the messengers into prison in Chang'an. With the help of Wu Rui's advice, Empress Dowager Lü killed Zhao Tuo's relatives in the Central Plains and destroyed Zhao Tuo's ancestral tomb. Zhao Tuo realized that political approach would no longer succeed.

In response, Zhao Tuo declared himself Martial Emperor of Nanyue (Chinese: 南越武帝; Jyutping: Nām⁴yūd⁶ Mou⁵-Dei³) in 183 BC. He sacked Wu Rui's Changsha country to the North, prompting a counterattack from the Empress of China, but most of her army died from disease on their way to Nanyue. This military conflict did not stop until the Empress of China died. As the victor, Zhao Tuo extended his territory by conquering towns near the boundary with Han's domains. He also established relationships with Minyue, Xi'ou (西甌), and Luoyue. The war almost wiped out the trading relations between the Central Plains and Nanyue.

Back as vassal and death

In 179 BC, Emperor Wen of Han ascended the throne. The new Emperor abolished some cruel punishments made by the Qin Dynasty. Zhao Tuo communicated with the Emperor that if he removed the two generals from Changsha and restored his relatives in Zhending, he would make peace with Han. Emperor Wen responded positively, repairing the tombs of Zhao's ancestors, finding a survived member of Zhao family and moving the Han's army out of Changsha. Afterwards, Zhao Tuo revoked his title of emperor. Nanyue became a vassal state of the Han again, although Zhao Tou has retained the autonomy of his Kingdom and was referred to emperor throughout Nanyue until he died in 137 BC at age 103.



  • Taylor, Keith Weller. (1983). 0520074173. Retrieved 7 August 2013.

See also

Zhao Tuo
Born: 230 BC Died: 137 BC
Preceded by
An Dương Vương
as king of Âu Lạc
King of Northern Vietnam
203 BC – 137 BC
Succeeded by
Zhao Mo
as king of Nanyue
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