Pham Ngu Lao – A Famous General of Tran Dynasty

Pham Ngu Lao (1255 – 1320) was born in Phu Ung commune, An Thi district, Hung Yen province. He was famous for his strength and excellent in martial arts since he was a small. Aslo, he was an excellent general, who was trusted by Tran Quoc Tuan (Tran Hung Dao). He had great merits in both resistance wars against Mongol invaders of our nation and protection of Southwest border of the country (in 1285 and 1288).

Tran Hung Dao used to describe the meeting between him and Tran Hung Dao as followed: “On that day, Hung Dao Vuong and his entourage were on the way to the royal capital. There was a man sitting by the side of the road and weaving a basket. When the vanguards approached to clear the way, he continued sitting calmly as if he had not noticed anyone. When they used their lances to stab his thigh, he continued sitting without stirring. Seeing that, Hung Dao Vuong stopped and asked him a question, he then answered that he was thinking of a sentence in a military manual, so he did not notice anything. Knowing that he was a talented man, Hung Dao Vuong let him sit with him in his palanquin and left for the royal capital. Since then, he became a special guest of Hung Dao Vuong, and thanks to his talent, he was allowed to marry Hung Dao Vuong’s adopted daughter. He also recommended Pham Ngu Lao to the royal court. In the two resistance wars against the Nguyen invaders (1285-1288), Pham Ngu Lao made many contributions.
Under the reign of King Tran Nhan Tong, General Pham Ngu Lao was in charge of the right back army. Under the reign of An Tong King (in 1924), he followed Thuong Hoang to fight Ai Lao troops in the Dao Long River. He took the position of Kim Nghiem Chief General in 1298 and Than Ve General in 1299. In 1301, he defeated the Ai Lao troops in Muong Lai and was promoted to Than Ve Chief General. In the reign of Minh Tong King, in 1318, Chiem Thanh army invaded the country; he led the army to defeat the enemy. He died in 1320 at the age of 66. The King ordered a five-day recess of court to mourn over him.
Pham Ngu Lao was an excellent general, and he behaved with his solders very kindly. Moreover, he enjoyed reading very much. He also liked reciting poems. When he died, he was titled of a good genius. A temple of his worship was set up to replace his own house. He had a famous poem:

Practicing lance-dancing throughout the longevity of the country
The army was strong enough to swallow the Buffalo star
As a man, I have not completed my position and fame
I am ashamed when listening to the story of Vu Hau

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