Trưng Trắc

Photo of the Trưng sisters riding elephants, artist from Dong Ho. Image Credit: WikiCommons.

By Johanna Strong

Trưng Trắc was born in around 12AD into a military family headed by the Lac Lord of Me-linh. She grew up with her sister Trung Nhi in the Giao Chi region of northern Vietnam and was trained in the military arts. Since 111BCE, Vietnam had been under the control of the Chinese Han dynasty, but this was about to change.

Legend has it that Trưng Trắc’s husband Thi Sach was assassinated in 39AD on the order of the Chinese governor of Giao Chi, inspiring Trưng Trắc and her sister Trưng Nhị to rebel against the Chinese authorities in Vietnam. Historians, however, argue that it is more likely that the Trưng sisters were generally frustrated with Chinese rule and it was this anger which spurred their actions. They organised an army – composed mostly of women – and rose up against the Chinese regime, eventually securing Vietnamese independence from China for the first time in 150 years.

They proclaimed themselves queens and established their new capital at Me-linh, setting up a government more in keeping with traditional Vietnamese values. By 43AD, though, China had retaken control of Vietnam and the Trưng sisters were dead, likely at the hands of their opposers, but legend says that they drowned themselves in the Hat-Giang River rather than surrendering.

The Trưng sisters are remembered to this day in Vietnam and are officially commemorated each year on Hai Ba Trưng Day (literally: Two Trưng Sisters Day). The Hai Ba pagoda at Hanoi and a pagoda at Hat Mon are dedicated to the sisters, the Temple of Ha-Loi is a tribute to them, and a Ho Chi Minh City avenue is named after them. To this day, they continue to be an inspiration for Vietnamese independence and are icons of Vietnamese female rule.

Recommended Reading

Catherine Lee, “World-Changing Women: The Trung Sisters,” OpenLearn (2015)

Emma Marriott, Long Live the Queens: Mighty, Magnificent and Bloody Marvellous Monarchs History’s Forgotten (London: HarperCollins Publishers, 2019)

Mark Pryor, “Hai Ba Trung, 39-43A.D.,” King’s College History Department (2001)

T. Fleischmann, “Vietnamese Rebels: The Trưng Sisters and Triệu Thị Trinh,” Salem Press Encyclopedia of Literature (2019)

“Trung Sisters: Vietnamese Rebel Leaders,” Britannica (2016)

%d bloggers like this: