The Trưng Sisters and the First Great Rebellion
First Century (40-43A.D.)
One of the glorious events in Vietnam’s history is the great revolution led by the Trưng Sisters in the first century against the Han Dynasty of China. In the early periods of Chinese domination, the Trưng Sisters managed to bring independence to the people of the Việt origin for a brief moment in time. Though their reign was short-lived, their contributions to the Vietnamese tradition will be remembered for many years to come.
The sisters of Trưng were born in the province of Mê Linh, they were the daughters of a Vietnamese lord and are well educated in the arts of literature and war. The elder sister goes by the name of Trưng Trắc and the younger goes by the name of Trưng Nhị. The sisters lived in an era when Vietnam was under the rule of the Han Dynasty. After the Triệu Dynasty of Vietnam was defeated by the Han in 111B.C., the Chinese Empire annexed and incorporated all of Nam-Việt (Vietnam) as part of its territory.
The story of the Trưng Sisters begins with the murder of Trưng Trắc’s husband, Thi Sách. He was one of the few individuals to stand up to the Han Dynasty’s cruel and oppressive treatment against the people of Nam-Việt. As a result, the Chinese executed Thi Sách as a way to intimidate and further demoralize the Vietnamese people. As Thi Sách’s wife, Trưng Trắc’ swore to avenge the death of her husband and free the people of Nam-Việt from their sadistic oppressors.
With the help of her younger sister, Nhị, Trưng Trắc established a small militia within her village. This small group of fighters later grew into a revolutionary force that spread thoughout all of Nam-Việt. Thousands of men and women from all over the southern regions showed their deepest support for the new freedom fighters. Under the leadership of Trưng Trắc and Trưng Nhị, the people of Nam-Việt liberated the country, driving out the Han invaders in the year 40A.D. With the Chinese gone, the Trưng Sisters declared themselves the Queens of Nam-Việt and established a new Vietnamese Kingdom directly south of China.
This period of independence would only last for a short time however. The Chinese were shamed in defeat and were determined to redeem themselves. To avoid a second humiliation, the Chinese sent a massive expeditionary army into Nam-Việt under the fierce leadership of General Ma Yuan. The kingdom of Nam-Việt fought the returning invaders courageously, though they were strongly outnumbered. In the end, the independent kingdom was overpowered by the massive military might of the invading Han forces. As a result, the kingdom of Nam-Việt fell back into the hands of the Han Dynasty in 43A.D.
The soldiers of Nam-Việt all gave their lives, now the Trưng Sisters were prepared to do the same. Trưng Trắc and Trưng Nhị refused to be captured by the enemy and surrendering was not an option. So with the Han army steadily approaching the Sisters of Trưng at the river of Hát, Trắc and Nhị leaped into the waters, out of the reach of the Han soldiers. By taking their own lives, the Trưng Sisters preserved their pride and honour, and defying the Chinese once again.
Even though the Trưng Sisters’ rebellion only lasted for three short years, the significance of their actions reverberated in the hearts of the Việt people. This heroic fight would be a guiding light for future generations of the Vietnamese freedom movement, giving hope to the fighters in their darkest hours. Even today, the Trưng Sisters are revered and loved as the first liberators of the Vietnamese people. In Vietnam, many temples and shrines are built to honour these bright and courageous women.