76 years ago today in 1945, Vietnam declared its independence from French colonial rule. The country, which had been ruled by France since the late 1800s, marked the day as a moment that is celebrated as a national holiday. Of course, Vietnam had a rocky road ahead, but the moment harkens back to the ancient legends of the country’s sovereignty. 

The Trung sisters are immortalized in Vietnam as the warrior queens who pushed back Chinese encroachment during the Han Dynasty in 111 B.C. The sisters, and their temporary success in driving out the invaders, is worth noting. In Han China under Emperor Guangwu, strict hierarchical and patriarchal rules separated people according to gender and social class, keeping women and peasants on the lowest level of the totem pole.

The Trung sisters are immortalized in Vietnam as the warrior queens who pushed back Chinese encroachment during the Han Dynasty in 111 B.C.

In Giao Chi, the northern Vietnam provence that sisters Trung Trac and Trung Nhi called home, there was a different story. Sure, social classes separated the rich and the poor (as they still do in the modern era), but women enjoyed more equality in life. They were allowed to own property and maintain jobs as traders, merchants, and warriors, positions that exclusively belonged to men in Han China. 

[Image description: The Hai Ba Temple in Hanoi, dedicated to the Trung sisters.] Via chickhistory.org
[Image description: The Hai Ba Temple in Hanoi, dedicated to the Trung sisters.] Via chickhistory.org
So when the Chinese invaded Vietnam to the south and imposed their harsh rules, women had something to say. 

The Trung rebellion gathered steam when Trung Trac, the oldest of the sisters born to a wealthy nobleman, married Thi Sach, another aristocrat in their social circles. The marriage did not last. Thi Sach, who was an outspoken protestor of the Chinese tribute tax that crippled already-struggling peasants, was swiftly executed. 

Trung Trac never forgot. While the Chinese turned their backs on the Vietnamese widow, who they likely suspected to retreat into mourning, she was busy gathering noblemen and peasants along the Red River Delta with the help of her sister. By 40 A.C., Trung Trac had built an army from 65 settlements and Yue tribes from along the coastline, making them 80,000 strong. Much of the army were women, people whose rights had been stripped away by the invaders from the north. 


Soon, the army marched on Lien Lau, ousted its Chinese commander, and liberated the ancient kingdom of Nanyue. By that same year, the Trung sisters and their women generals effectively drove the Chinese out of northern Vietnam. 

But the work didn’t stop there. 

At the royal court of Me-linh, a political hub along the Hong River plain, the people declared Trung Trac their liberator. She was then called Trung Vuong, meaning “She-king Trung.” In Trung Trac’s court, she and her advisors reformed the government, which had been corrupted by Chinese influence. One of the first things she abolished was the hated tribute tax, the law that had gotten her husband killed. In addition to rebuilding the economy, property and employment rights were returned to the women. 

[Image description: Hai Ba Festival celebrations.] Via offroadvietnam.com
[Image description: Hai Ba Festival celebrations.] Via offroadvietnam.com
However, Trung Trac’s success was short-lived. In 43 A.D., the Chinese made a come-back under General Ma Yuan. For all of Trung Tac’s fiery fighting spirit, she and her army of women were simply outnumbered and undersupplied. In a decisive battle at Lang Bac, in present-day Hanoi, the Trung sisters were defeated, retreated to Hat Mon (today Son Tay), and threw themselves into the Red Rivers. 

Legend has it that they didn’t die; they simply disappeared into the clouds. 


Today, the Trung sisters symbolize Vietnamese independence. Every January, the Hai Ba Trung Day Festival commemorates the Trung sisters’ legacy, which parades a fake, decorated elephant through the streets of Hanoi, reenacting the way Trung Trac allegedly chased out her enemies on the back of the animal.

Legend has it that they didn’t die; they simply disappeared into the clouds.

The Hai Ba “Two Sisters” pagoda in Hanoi, which sees the heart of the festival every year, is dedicated to them. Today on Vietnamese Independence Day, the Trung sisters’ story, although short in victory, is a pivotal moment both in Vietnamese folklore and history, paving the way for a fighting spirit rooted in the country’s national pride.

To learn more about the Trung sisters, their lives, and their legacy, read The Trung Sisters Revisited by Nghia M. Vo and Nguyen Ngoc Bich.

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  • Laurie Melchionne

    Laurie Melchionne is the editor in chief at The Argo, Stockton University's independent student newspaper. Laurie majors in Literature with a double minor in Journalism and Digital Literacy/Multimedia Design. With a concentration in creative writing, Laurie loves all things editorial and communications, and believes in people sharing their voices through the written word.

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