The Trung Sisters
The Trung sisters, Trung Nhi and Trung Trac (circa 12 AD – 43 AD), are the national heroines of Vietnam, who led an independence movement and launched an uprising in 40 AD against Chinese domination of their country. They succeeded in breaking the Chinese yoke and establishing an independent Vietnamese state, which they ruled for three years.
Vietnam had been groaning under Chinese domination for about a century by the time the Trung sisters were born. Trung Trac, the older sister, was married to a Vietnamese nobleman who resisted Chinese hegemony, and objected to the ham-handedness of a particularly oppressive Chinese governor. For his troubles, he was executed by the Chinese as a warning to other would-be rebels.
The execution led his widow to rally and organize other Vietnamese nobles to resist the Chinese. With the help of her sister Trung Nhi, Trung Trac launched a rebellion in the Red River Delta, near modern Hanoi, and from there, the revolt quickly spread up and down the long Vietnamese coast. After generations of living under foreign domination, the Vietnamese were ready to rebel, and the uprising became wildly popular.
Unique among armed rebellions, the Trung sisters’ armies were made mostly of women. With those predominately female armies, the rebel siblings seized numerous Chinese forts and citadels, chasing out or defeating their garrisons. Within a few months, Chinese authority in Vietnam was broken, the Chinese had been chased out of the country, and Trung Trac was proclaimed queen.
The sisters led Vietnamese armies against the Chinese, and despite being greatly outnumbered, the siblings managed to keep the invaders out for three years. Eventually, however, the Chinese concentrated an overwhelming force to recapture Vietnam, and in 43 AD, the Trung sisters were finally defeated in battle. Captured, they were decapitated by the Chinese, who then went on to reassert their control over Vietnam.
Although their independent state proved short-lived, the Trung sisters did succeed in planting the seeds of Vietnamese national identity. Conventional wisdom in Vietnam has it that if the Trung sisters had not rebelled and fought against the Chinese, Vietnam would have been wholly absorbed and dissolved into China, and there would be no Vietnamese nation today.