Queen of Me Linh
The Tr?ng sisters ride elephants into battle in this ?ông H? style painting.
|Vietnamese||Hai Bà Tr?ng|
|Literal meaning||Two ladies Tr?ng|
|Common languages||Old Chinese|
o Collapse of Western Han Dynasty
o Governor of Jiaozhi murdered Tr?ng Tr?c's husband
o Eastern Han dynasty reconquer Vietnam
|Today part of|| Vietnam|
The Tr?ng sisters (Vietnamese: Hai Bà Tr?ng, literally "Two Ladies [named] Tr?ng", c. AD 12 - c. AD 43) were Vietnamese military leaders who ruled for three years after rebelling in AD 40 against the first Chinese domination of Vietnam. They are regarded as national heroines of Vietnam. Their names were Tr?ng Tr?c (??) and Tr?ng Nh? (??).
The sisters were born in Giao Chi, in rural Northern Vietnam, a commandery of the Han dynasty (and in modern Northern Vietnam). The dates of their births are unknown, but Tr?ng Tr?c was older than Tr?ng Nh?. The exact dates of their deaths are also unknown but both died around AD 43 after a battle against an army led by Ma Yuan.
The Tr?ng sisters were highly educated under the watchful eyes of their father; they excelled in both literature and martial arts. Both were in line to inherit their father's land and titles.
The former Qin commander Zhao Tuo (Vietnamese: Tri?u ?à) conquered Âu L?c, renamed the country Nanyue (Nam Vi?t) and established the Tri?u dynasty.Emperor Wu of Han dispatched soldiers against Nanyue and the kingdom was annexed in 111 BC during the ensuing Han-Nanyue War. Nine commanderies were established to administer the region, three of which are located in modern-day northern Vietnam. Revolts against the Han began in AD 40 led by the Tr?ng sisters.
The primary historical source for the sisters is the 5th century Book of the Later Han compiled by historian Fan Ye, which covers the history of the Han Dynasty from 6 to AD 189. The secondary source, but the primary popular source, is the i Vi?t s? ký toàn th? (Complete Annals of Dai Viet) compiled by Ngô S? Liên under the order of the Emperor Lê Thánh Tông and finished in 1479.
The Chinese traditional historical accounts on the Tr?ng sisters are remarkably brief. They are found in two different chapters of the Book of the Later Han, the history for the Eastern Han Dynasty, against which the Tr?ng sisters had carried out their uprising.
Chapter eighty-six of the Book of the Later Han, entitled Biographies of the Southern and the Southwestern Barbarians,[Note 1] has this short description:
In the 16th year of Jianwu , Jiaozhi (Giao Ch?) [modern northern Vietnam and extreme western Guangdong and western Guangxi] women Zh?ng Cè (Tr?ng Tr?c) and Zh?ng Èr (Tr?ng Nh?) rebelled and attacked the commandery capital. Zh?ng Cè was the daughter of the sheriff of Mê Linh (??; Miling) County, and she married a man named Shi Suo (Thi Sách; ) from ....(Chu Diên) [Note 2] She was a ferocious warrior. Su Ding (), the grand administrator of Jiaozhi Commandery, curbed her with laws. Cè became angry and rebelled. The barbarian towns of Jiuzhen (C?u Chân), Rinan (Nh?t Nam), and Hepu (H?p Ph?) 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 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 Fubo and Duan Zhi () 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 Zh?ng Cè, Zh?ng Èr, and others in battle, and the rest scattered. He also attacked Du Yang (), 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 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 Tr?ng Tr?c's husband. There is no indication in the Chinese account that the Tr?ng sisters committed suicide, or that other followers followed their example. 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.
|"||Queen Tr?ng (? Zh?ng) reigned for three years. The queen was strong and intelligent. She expelled Tô nh ( S? Dìng) and established a kingdom as the queen, but as a female ruler could not accomplish the rebuilding of the state. Her taboo name was Tr?c (? Cè), and her family name was Tr?ng, but was originally L?c. She was the daughter of General L?c from Mê Linh from Phong Châu, and she was the wife of Thi Sách (, Chinese Sh? Su?) from Chu Diên County. Thi Sách was the son of General L?c's doctor, and they arranged the marriage. (The work Cng m?c t?p lãm [Gangmu Jilan] erroneously indicated that his family name was L?c.) Her capital was Mê Linh. [...]
Her first year was Canh Tí [AD 40, Gengzi]. (It was the 16th year of Han Dynasty's Jianwu era). In the spring, the second month, the governor of Wangku Commandery, Tô nh, punished her under the law, and she also hated nh for having killed her husband. She, therefore, along with her sister Nh?, rose and captured the commandery capital. nh was forced to flee. Nam H?i, C?u Chân, Nh?t Nam, and H?p Ph? all rose in response to her. She was able to take over 65 cities and declare herself Queen. Thereafter, she began to use the family name of Tr?ng.
Her second year was Tân S?u [AD 41, Xinchou]. (It was the 17th year of Han Dynasty's Jianwu era). In the spring, the second month, there was a solar eclipse, and the moon was dark. The Han saw that as Lady Tr?ng had declared herself queen and captured cities, causing much distress in the border commanderies. It thus ordered Trng Sa, H?p Ph?, and our Giao Châu to prepare wagons and boats, repair the bridges and the roads, dredge the rivers, and store food supplies. It commissioned Mã Vi?n (Ma Yuan) as the General Fupo and Liu Long the Marquess of Fule as his assistant in order to invade.
Her third year was Nhâm D?n [AD 43, Renyin]. (It was the 18th year of Han Dynasty's Jianwu era). In the spring, the first month, Mã followed the coastline and entered Sui Mountain. He went for over a thousand li and reached Lãng B?c (west of Tây Nhai in La Thành was named Lãng B?c) He battled with the queen, who saw that the enemy's army was large. She considered her own army to be ill-trained and feared that it could not stand. Therefore, she withdrew to Jin (?) River. (Jin River was referred to in history as Jin (?) River.) Her followers also thought that the queen was a woman and could not be victorious, and therefore scattered. Her kingdom therefore ended.
Lê V?n H?u (one of the historians editing the Annals) wrote:
|"||Tr?ng Tr?c, Tr?ng Nh? are women, with a single cry led the prefectures of C?u Chân, Nh?t Nam, H?p Ph?, 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. Unfortunately, between the fall of the Tri?u Dynasty and the rise of the Ngô Dynasty, in the span of more than one thousand years, men of this land only bowed their heads and accepted the fate of servitude to the people from the North (Chinese).
The reign of Tr?ng N? Vng [Tr?ng Queens], started in the year of Canh Tý and ended in Nhâm D?n, for a total of 3 years (40-42).
The Tr?ng sisters were born in a rural Vietnamese village, into a military 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 Tr?ng 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 Tr?ng Tr?c during the visit, and they were soon married.
With Chinese rule growing extremely exacting, and the policy of forcible cultural assimilation into the Chinese mould during the Southward expansion of the Han dynasty, 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 40, Tr?ng Tr?c and Tr?ng Nh?, after successfully repelling a small Chinese unit from their village, assembled a large army consisting mostly of women. Within months, they had taken many (about 65) citadels from the Chinese, and had liberated Nanyue. They became queens regnant of Nanyue and managed to resist subsequent Han attacks on the country for over three years.
Their reign was short-lived, however, as the Chinese gathered a huge expeditionary army under the veteran general Ma Yuan to suppress the rebellion. The Tr?ng sisters were defeated in battle in 43 AD. Different accounts regarding the fate of the sisters are recorded in Vietnamese and Chinese sources. The i Vi?t s? lc reports that the sisters were killed by Ma Yuan. According to the Tr?n Th? Pháp and i Vi?t s? ký toàn th?, the sisters died during the fighting after they were deserted by their fellow rebels. The Book of the Later Han states that they were decapitated by Ma Yuan, who sent their heads back to the Han capital. There are also legendary accounts claiming that the sisters fell sick, vanished in the sky, or took their own lives by jumping into a river and drowning. According to one legendary account, when finally overwhelmed by Han China's armies, the sisters threw themselves into the Hat Giang River in order to avoid capture. They then turned into statues. These eventually washed ashore and were placed in Hanoi's Hai Ba Trung Temple for worship.
According to legend, Phùng Th? Chính, a pregnant captain of a group of soldiers who were to protect the center of Nanyue, gave birth on the front line. With her baby in one arm she ended the child's life and continued to fight in the war. She later committed suicide along with the Tr?ng sisters.
According to another another oral tradition, the army led by the Tr?ng sisters was defeated when the Chinese troops decided to fight naked, causing the mostly female army to disperse in embarrassment.
The Tr?ng 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 in February to commemorate their deaths is observed by many Vietnamese. A central district in Hanoi called the Hai Bà Tr?ng District is named after them, as are numerous large streets in major cities and many schools.
The stories of the Tr?ng Sisters and of another famous woman warrior, Lady Tri?u, are cited by some historians[by whom?] as hints that Vietnamese society before sinicization was a matriarchal one, where there are no obstacles for women in assuming leadership roles.
Even though the Tr?ng Sisters' revolt against the Chinese was almost 2000 years ago, its legacy in Vietnam remains. The two sisters are considered to be a national symbol in Vietnam. They represent Vietnam's independence. They are often depicted as two women riding two giant war elephants. Many times, they are seen leading their followers into battle against the Chinese. The Tr?ng sisters were more than two sisters that gave their life up for their country, they are powerful symbols of Vietnamese resistance and freedom.
Temples to the Tr?ng Sisters or "Hai Bà Tr?ng Temples" are found from as early as the end of the Third Chinese domination of Vietnam. The best known Hai Bà Tr?ng Temple is in Hanoi near Hoàn Ki?m Lake. Other Hai Bà Tr?ng temples are found in Mê Linh District (V?nh Phúc Province), Phúc Th? District (Hà Tây Province) and Hoàng Hoa Thám Street, Bình Th?nh District, Ho Chi Minh City.
One reason for the defeat is desertion by rebels because they did not believe they could win under a woman's leadership. The fact that women were in charge was blamed as a reason for the defeat by historical Vietnamese texts in which the historians ridiculed and mocked men because they did nothing while "mere girls", whom they viewed with revulsion, took up the banner of revolt. The historical poem containing the phrase "mere girls", which related the revolt of the Trung Sisters while the men did nothing, was not intended to praise women nor view war as women's work, as it has been wrongly interpreted. And though the popular saying "When the enemy is at the gate, the woman goes out fighting" has been cited as evidence of women's stature, the actual phrase in Vietnamese is "Gi?c n nhà, ?àn bà c?ng ?ánh" (When the enemy troops came to the house, the woman also went to fight the enemy), which means that fighting in war is inappropriate for women and that it is only when the situation is so desperate that war has spread to their home that women should enter the war.