The Trung sisters are famous in Vietnam for their brave stand against the occupying Chinese nearly 2000 years ago.
Trung Trac and Trung Nhi were sisters, daughters of a powerful military ruler. Unlike many neighbouring countries of the time, women in Vietnam could work, becoming judges or soldiers, and were allowed to inherit property and land. This opened a world of opportunity to the young sisters. As girls growing up they were really into martial arts and when they grew into young women their lessons extended to the art of warfare, which they learnt from their dad. These sisters were strong, brave and not to be messed with!
At this time in history Vietnam was occupied by the Chinese, who made the people pay unfair taxes, destroyed their traditional ways of life and generally made life miserable for the Vietnamese. TrungTrac and Trung Nhi grew up under this cruel rule and learned to hate the Chinese.
When she was a woman Trung Trac fell in love with, and married, a local man called Thi Sách. Thi felt just as strong about the Chinese and wanted to overthrow them. When he decided to make a stand against them, the Chinese overlords executed him.
This act only fuelled Trung Trac’s fury against the Chinese, she united with her sister and they drew together an army. She declared to them that:
“Foremost, I will avenge my country,
Second, I will restore the Hung lineage,
Third, I will avenge the death of my husband,
Lastly, I vow that these goals will be accomplished.”
According to some legends the sisters killed a tiger that was eating the locals, to show their skills and inspire confidence. They gathered together a people’s army 80,000 strong, many of whom were also women. They appointed 36 female generals to help them lead their army (including their mum!) Then they set out to thwart the Chinese, riding upon elephants (as you do!)
The sisters liberated their own village before leading their army throughout the country. In total they forced the Chinese out of 65 cities. Once the Chinese were successfully defeated Trung Trac and Trung Nhi declared themselves queens. Various historical accounts of the sibling queens descibe them as ‘brave and fearless’, ‘strong and intelligent’.
As rulers they abolished the taxes which were crippling their people and sought to restore many of the Vietnamese traditions the Chinese had eradicated. They continued to lead their army against the Chinese who wanted back what they had lost.
The sisters were renamed ‘Trung Vuong’ or ‘She-king Trung.’ and for three years they ruled. During this time the Chinese built up their armies and in AD43 they attacked with a force too big for the sisters to defeat.
Despite their eventual loss against the Chinese, the story of the Trung sister’s brave stand for independance and freedom inspired the Vietmamese people for years to come. Vietnam wasn’t to be freed from Chinese rule for another 1000 years, yet as the centuries rolled on, Trung Trac and Trung Nhi became symbols of the Vietnamese resistance.
Today in Vietman the sisters are remembered in temples and monuments and have been declared ‘national warriors’ by the country’s government. Each year there is an annual holiday called Hai Ba Trung day, to commemorate their brave struggle.
A 15th Century poem immortalised the sisters in these two lines:
“All the male heroes bowed their heads in submission;
Only the two sisters proudly stood up to avenge the country.”
Find out more…
Listen to this podcast from Stuff You Missed in History Class about the Trung Sisters.
This video gives a nice synopsis of the Trung Sisters’ lives: