The Trưng sisters
(c. 12 - AD
and Before Christ are designations used to label or number years used with the Julian and Gregorian calendars....
43) were leaders who rebelled against Chinese
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...
rule for three years, and are regarded as national heroines of Vietnam
Vietnam – sometimes spelled Viet Nam , officially the Socialist Republic of Vietnam – is the easternmost country on the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia. It is bordered by China to the north, Laos to the northwest, Cambodia to the southwest, and the South China Sea –...
. Their names are Trưng Trắc
and Trưng Nhị
The sisters were born in Northern Vietnam, the dates of their birth are unknown, but Trưng Trắc was older than Trưng Nhị. The exact date of their death is also unknown but both died around AD 43.
Traditional Vietnamese account
The third book of Đại Việt Sử ký toàn thư
(大越史記全書 Complete Annals of Great Viet
), published in editions between 1272 and 1697, has the following to say about the Trưng Sisters:
Lê Văn Hưu (one of the historians editing the annals) wrote:
The Trưng sisters were born in a rural Vietnamese village, into a military
A military is an organization authorized by its greater society to use lethal force, usually including use of weapons, in defending its country by combating actual or perceived threats. The military may have additional functions of use to its greater society, such as advancing a political agenda e.g...
family. Their father was a prefect of Mê Linh , therefore the sisters grew up in a house well-versed in the martial arts. They also witnessed the cruel treatment of the Viets by their Chinese overlords. The Trưng sisters spent much time studying the art of warfare, as well as learning fighting skills.
When a neighbouring prefect came to visit Mê Linh, he brought with him his son, Thi Sách. Thi Sách met and fell in love with Trưng Trắc during the visit, and they were soon married.
With Chinese rule growing intolerably exacting, and the policy of forcible assimilation into the Chinese mold, Thi Sách made a stand against the Chinese. The Chinese responded by executing Thi Sách as a warning to all those who contemplated rebellion. His death spurred his wife to take up his cause and the flames of insurrection spread.
In AD 39
Year 39 was a common year starting on Thursday of the Julian calendar. At the time, it was known as the Year of the Consulship of Augustus and Corbulo...
, Trưng Trắc and Trưng Nhị, after successfully repelling a small Chinese unit from their village, assembled a large army
An army An army An army (from Latin arma "arms, weapons" via Old French armée, "armed" (feminine), in the broadest sense, is the land-based military of a nation or state. It may also include other branches of the military such as the air force via means of aviation corps...
consisting mostly of women. Within months, they had taken back many (about 65) citadels from the Chinese, and had liberated Nam Việt. They became queens
A queen regnant is a female monarch who reigns in her own right, in contrast to a queen consort, who is the wife of a reigning king. An empress regnant is a female monarch who reigns in her own right over an empire....
of the country, and managed to resist subsequent Chinese attacks on Nam Việt for over two years.
A revolution is a fundamental change in power or organizational structures that takes place in a relatively short period of time.Aristotle described two types of political revolution:...
was short lived however, as the Chinese gathered a huge expeditionary army to crush the native fighters. Legend has it that the Chinese army did this by going into battle unclothed. The enemy's brazenness so shamed the Vietnamese female warriors that they fled the battle scene, leaving the weakened forces easily defeated by the Chinese. Phung Thi Chinh
Phùng Thị Chính was a Vietnamese noblewoman who fought alongside the Trưng sisters in order to repel Han invaders from Vietnam in 43 CE. She was pregnant at the time, and was in charge of protecting the central flank. Legend says she gave birth on the front lines and carried her newborn in one arm...
, a pregnant noble lady, was the captain of a group of soldiers who were to protect the central flank of Nam Việt. She gave birth
Childbirth is the culmination of a human pregnancy or gestation period with the birth of one or more newborn infants from a woman's uterus...
on the front line
A front line is the farthest-most forward position of an armed force's personnel and equipment - generally in respect of maritime or land forces. Forward Line of Own Troops , or Forward Edge of Battle Area are technical terms used by all branches of the armed services...
, and with her baby in one arm, and a sword in the other, continued to fight the battle.
Despite the many heroic efforts, the Trưng sisters realised that they had been defeated and that to fight further would mean death at the hands of the Chinese. Therefore to protect their honour
Honour or honor is an abstract concept entailing a perceived quality of worthiness and respectability that affects both the social standing and the self-evaluation of an individual or corporate body such as a family, school, regiment or nation...
, and to elude ridicule, the two queens committed suicide
Suicide is the act of intentionally causing one's own death. Suicide is often committed out of despair or attributed to some underlying mental disorder, such as depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, alcoholism, or drug abuse...
by drowning themselves in the Hát River in AD 43
Year 43 was a common year starting on Tuesday of the Julian calendar. At the time, it was known as the Year of the Consulship of Caesar and Vitellius...
. Some of their loyal
Loyalty is faithfulness or a devotion to a person, country, group, or cause There are many aspects to...
soldiers continued to fight to the death, whilst others committed suicide (including Phung Thi Chinh, who also took her newborn baby's life). There is a story of one woman who would randomly charge through Chinese camps, screaming and slaying random men. Finally, after killing many more, she committed suicide in the hope of returning to her respected commanders.
Traditional Chinese account
The Chinese traditional historical accounts on the Trưng sisters are remarkably brief. They are found in two different chapters of Hou Han Shu, the history for the Eastern Han Dynasty, against which the Trưng sisters had carried out their uprising.
Chapter eighty six of Hou Han Shu
, entitled Biographies of the Southern and the Southwestern Barbarians,
[The use of the word ]
barbarians is historical, and is translated as used in the original Chinese texts.
has this short description:
- In the 16th year of Jianwu , Jiaozhi
Tonkin , also spelled Tongkin, Tonquin or Tongking, is the northernmost part of Vietnam, south of China's Yunnan and Guangxi Provinces, east of northern Laos, and west of the Gulf of Tonkin. Locally, it is known as Bắc Kỳ, meaning "Northern Region"...
(Giao Chỉ) [modern northern Vietnam and extreme western Guangdong
Guangdong is a province on the South China Sea coast of the People's Republic of China. The province was previously often written with the alternative English name Kwangtung Province...
and western Guangxi
Guangxi, formerly romanized Kwangsi, is a province of southern China along its border with Vietnam. In 1958, it became the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region of the People's Republic of China, a region with special privileges created specifically for the Zhuang people.Guangxi's location, in...
] women Zhēng Cè (Trưng Trắc) and Zhēng Èr (Trưng Nhị) rebelled and attacked the commandery capital. Zhēng Cè was the daughter of the sheriff of Miling (Mê Linh; 麊泠) County, and she married a man named Shi Suo (Thi Sách; 詩索) from ....(Chu Diên)
[Shi's home is rendered 朱? (Zhu ?), where ? is a character that is not in Unicode] She was a ferocious warrior. Su Ding (蘇定), the governor of Jiaozhi Commandery, curbed her with laws. Cè became angry and rebelled. The barbarian towns of Jiuzhen, Rinan, and Hepu Commanderies all joined her, and she captured sixty five cities and claimed to be queen. The governors of Jiaozhi Province and the commanderies could only defend themselves. Emperor Guangwu
Unicode is a computing industry standard for the consistent encoding, representation and handling of text expressed in most of the world's writing systems...
and therefore unavailable online.
Emperor Guangwu , born Liu Xiu, was an emperor of the Chinese Han Dynasty, restorer of the dynasty in AD 25 and thus founder of the Later Han or Eastern Han...
therefore ordered the Changsha, Hepu, and Jiaozhi Commanderies to prepare wagons and boats, to repair the roads and bridges, to open the mountain passes, and to save food supplies. In the 18th year 42, he sent Ma Yuan the General Fupuo and Duan Zhi (段志) the General Lochuan to lead ten odd thousands of men from Changsha, Guiyang, Linling, and Cangwu Commanderies against them. In the summer of the next year 43, Ma recaptured Jiaozhi and killed Zhēng Cè, Zhēng Èr, and others in battle, and the rest scattered. He also attacked Du Yang (都陽), a rebel of the Jiuzhen Commandery, and Du surrendered and was moved, along with some 300 of his followers to Lingling Commandery. The border regions were thus pacified.
Chapter twenty four, the biographies of Ma and some of his notable male descendants, had a parallel description that also added that Ma was able to impress the locals by creating irrigation networks to help the people and also by simplifying and clarifying the Han
The Han Dynasty was the second imperial dynasty of China, preceded by the Qin Dynasty and succeeded by the Three Kingdoms . It was founded by the rebel leader Liu Bang, known posthumously as Emperor Gaozu of Han. It was briefly interrupted by the Xin Dynasty of the former regent Wang Mang...
laws, and was able to get the people to follow Han's laws.
The traditional Chinese account therefore does not indicate abuse of the Vietnamese population by the Chinese officials. It implicitly disavows the traditional Vietnamese accounts of massive cruelty and of the Chinese official killing Trưng Trắc's husband. There is no indication in the Chinese account that the Trưng sisters committed suicide, or that other followers followed example and did so, or that the Chinese army fought naked to win the battle. Indeed, Ma, known in Chinese history for his strict military discipline, is not believed by the Chinese to have carried out cruel or unusual tactics. That account is in contrast to the Vietnamese.
The Trưng Sisters are highly revered in Vietnam, as they led the first resistance movement against the occupying Chinese after 247 years of domination. Many temples are dedicated to them, and a yearly holiday, occurring in February, to commemorate their deaths is observed by many Vietnamese. A district in Hanoi
Hanoi , is the capital of Vietnam and the country's second largest city. Its population in 2009 was estimated at 2.6 million for urban districts, 6.5 million for the metropolitan jurisdiction. From 1010 until 1802, it was the most important political centre of Vietnam...
called the Hai Ba Trung district is named after them. In addition, numerous large streets in major cities and many schools are named after them. They are often depicted riding on elephants into battle.
The stories of the Trưng sisters and of another famous woman warrior, Triệu Thị Trinh
Triệu Thị Trinh was a Vietnamese female warrior in 3rd century AD Vietnam who managed, for a time, to successfully resist the Kingdom of Wu during their occupation of Vietnam...
, are cited by some historians as hints that Vietnamese society before Sinicization
Sinicization, Sinicisation or Sinification, is the linguistic assimilation or cultural assimilation of terms and concepts of the language and culture of China...
was a matriarchal one, where there are no obstacles for women in assuming leadership roles.