“All the male heroes bowed their heads in submission;
Only the two sisters proudly stood up to avenge the country.”
– 15th century Poem
In 39 A.D. Vietnamese women had more freedom than others around the world: they could inherit property, become political leaders, judges, traders, and warriors.
These rights would later be taken away from them under Chinese reign.
This is the story of the two women who led the first national uprising against the Chinese.
They were freedom fighters. They fought for their country and bowed their heads to no one.
They were called the Trung Sisters.
Trung Trac, the older sister, was known for her brave and fearless disposition. Trung Nhi, the younger sister, was the more skilled fighter in combat and battle.
Growing up, the sisters studied the art of warfare and developed their fighting skills. They were smart, brave, and fearless.
By the time the Trung sisters were born, Vietnam was already under the control of the Chinese Han Dynasty. China’s reign was mostly ignored, until 40 A.D. when their hold on the country began to feel oppressive.
Trung Trac’s husband was the first to launch a protest against the Chinese after their tax increases have gone too far. He was executed by the Chinese. They wanted to set an example for what would happen to anyone else if they even began to think about rebellion.
Instead of going into seclusion and mourning her husband’s death, Trung Trac decided to continue what her husband started and rebel against the Chinese.
Trung Trac and Trung Nhi raised an army of 80,000 fighters and sought to unite their people and drive the Chinese away from Vietnam. Legend says that to rally the people they committed acts of bravery like killing a feared people-eating tiger and writing on the tiger’s skin to urge the people to follow them against the Chinese.
This was the first national uprising against foreign rule. Some say that if it wasn’t for this uprising, perhaps there would be no Vietnamese nation today.
The Trung sisters rode into battle with their forces upon the backs of elephants, and within a few months their forces overtook more than 65 citadels from Chinese control.
They successfully drove the Chinese out of the country in 40 AD. Trung Trac declared herself queen. Trung Nhi was her regent.
Together and over the next three years the sisters aimed to rebuild the country, starting with abolishing the Han tax and working to restore a traditional Vietnamese government.
But the Chinese were not going to let this slide. They continued to attack over the next three years while the Trung Sisters constantly fought back and engaged in battle to defend the freedom of their country.
In 43 A.D. the Han organized a huge expeditionary army of 10,000 men under the leadership of General Ma Yuan to crush the rebellion. The sisters forces were outnumbered and they were defeated in battle in 43 A.D.
There are conflicting accounts as to how this story ends. The Chinese historical accounts state that the Trung sisters were killed in battle by General Ma Yuan who beheaded them and then sent their heads back to the Han capital.
The Vietnamese historical accounts state that the Trung sisters took their own lives by jumping into the river. Taking their own lives was considered the more honorable way of accepting defeat.
Thousands of years later and the Trung Sisters are still remembered and celebrated to this day. Their legacy remains a symbol of Vietnamese independence and freedom.
“Trung Trac, Trung Nhi are women, with a single cry led the prefectures of Cuu Chan, Nhat Nam, Hop Pho, and 65 strongholds heed their call. They established a nation and proclaimed their rule as easily as their turning over their hands. It awakened all of us that we can be independent.”
– Le Van Huu, Complete Annals of Dai Viet, 1479
Know Your History to Make History
In the final days of our Kickstarter campaign, we’re telling the stories of historical badass women. These are the stories that should be in our history books – but aren’t.
If you look into the past you will see that history was made when women banded together, built their strength, fought for what they believed in, and bowed their heads to no one. Just like the Trung Sisters.
This is the change we’re building in the world and this is why you need to support Spitfire Athlete on Kickstarter today.
We’re building a community of women who are strong, empowered, and the queens of their own lives. Join our community and support the growth of this initiative by backing us on Kickstarter today.