The Early Lê dynasty (Vietnamese: Nhà Tiền Lê; Hán Nôm: 家前黎; pronounced [ɲâː tjə̂n le]) or the House of Lê was a Vietnamese Buddhist royal family that ruled the kingdom of Đại Cồ Việt, now Vietnam, from 980 to 1009, following the Đinh dynasty and being succeeded by the Lý dynasty. It comprised the reigns of three emperors.
After the assassination of the emperor, Đinh Tiên Hoàng, and the emperor’s first son, Đinh Liễn, the third son of the emperor, Đinh Phế Đế, assumed the throne at aged six with the regent Lê Hoàn. During the regency of Lê Hoàn, members of the royal court skeptical of Lê Hoàn’s loyalty to the true emperor, such as the Duke of Định Nguyễn Bặc and General Đinh Điền, led an army to the imperial palace in an attempted coup. The failure of the undertaking caused those two figures to be executed. In 980, the Song dynasty of China under Emperor Taizong ordered a Chinese army to invade Đại Cồ Việt. Because the young emperor was unable to lead the country to against the invader, the mandarins of the royal court discussed with Empress Dương Vân Nga about enthroning the most trusted general and regent, Lê Hoàn. Most of them voted in the affirmative to this proposal; consequently, the empress dethroned her own son and gave the crown to Lê Hoàn. He accepted the emperorship, establishing a new dynasty named the Early Lê dynasty. Lê Hoàn is often referred to with the posthumous name Lê Đại Hành.
Following war threats from Song China, Lê Đại Hành made preparations for war while the Song forces advanced toward Đại Cồ Việt. Later at the Battle of Bạch Đằng River, Lê Đại Hành’s forces, under the command of General Phạm Cự Lượng, were successful at halting the overland advance of the Song forces, although they incurred some losses. Seeking peace, Lê Đại Hành sent emissaries to negotiate for peace; thus the annual show of homage and offerings to the Celestial Emperor of China were resumed as a means to appease the Song dynasty.
In 982, Lê Đại Hành began expeditions to Champa, a nation south of Đại Cồ Việt. Lê Đại Hành’s army met the combined forces of Champa, Chenla and Abbasid Mercenaries in Đồ Bàn, (Quảng Nam province today) and be able to defeated all of them. Champa king Paramesvaravarman I had been beheaded and Champa capital of Indrapura was sacked by the Vietnamese. The new king of Champa agreed to be a vassal state of Đại Cồ Việt in 983.
Some domestic achievements of Lê Đại Hành include constructing new monuments and galvanizing agricultural and handicraft production in order to make economic progress. Many spiritual etiquettes were developed, and Lê Đại Hành’s government was the model for that of the succeeding dynasty. Lê Đại Hành died in 1005 at the age of 65 and after 25 years of rule. In his will, Lê Đại Hành gave the throne to his youngest son, Lê Long Việt.
Out of his many princes, Lê Hoàn appointed his first prince Lê Long Thâu as the crown prince in the early years of his rule. Thâu died in 1000, and Lê Hoàn was forced to choose another crown prince. The fifth prince Duke of Khai Minh, Lê Long Đĩnh, nominated himself as crown prince. According to the Đại Việt sử ký toàn thư, Lê Hoàn viewed him as the favourable to become the next emperor, but royal court mandarins suggested him not to do it because they viewed other candidates as more viable. Lê Hoàn followed the advice and chose his older brother Lê Long Việ, the duke of Nam Phong. In 1005, Lê Hoàn died after reigning for 24 years at Trường Xuân Palace. After the death, there was a succession dispute between the princes Lê Long Đĩnh, Lê Long Tích, and Lê Long Kính and crown prince Lê Long Việt, preventing a government to take control over the entire country for eight months. In the winter of 1005, Lê Long Tích was defeated by crown prince Lê Long Việt. He fled to Thạch Hà province, now Hà Tĩnh Province, and ordered the massacre of the locals there. After a few months, Lê Long Việt was able to proclaim himself emperor Lê Trung Tông but was assassinated after ruling for three days by Lê Long Đĩnh, who replaced him as emperor.