Siren spotting: the Trung sisters
I didn’t write this. It is excerpted directly from Women in World History site and authored by Lyn Reese and she says it better than I ever could:
In Vietnam women have always been at the forefront in resisting foreign domination. Two of the most popular heroines are the Trung sisters who led the first national uprising against the Chinese, who had conquered them, back in the year 40 A.D. The Vietnamese had been suffering under the harsh rule of a Chinese governor called To Dinh. Some feel that if the sisters had not resisted the Chinese when they did, there would be no Vietnamese nation today.
The sisters were daughters of a powerful lord. Trung Trac was the elder; Trung Nhi, her constant companion, the younger. They lived in a time when Vietnamese women enjoyed freedoms forbidden them in later centuries. For example, women could inherit property through their mother's line and become political leaders, judges, traders, and warriors.
Trung Trac was married to Thi Sach, another powerful lord. Chinese records note that Trac had a "brave and fearless disposition." It was she who mobilized the Vietnamese lords to rebel against the Chinese. Legend says that to gain the confidence of the people, the Trung sisters committed acts of bravery, such as killing a fearful people-eating tiger - and used the tiger's skin as paper to write a proclamation urging the people to follow them against the Chinese.
The Trungs gathered an army of 80,000 people to help drive the Chinese from their lands. From among those who came forward to fight the Chinese, the Trung sisters chose thirty-six women, including their mother. They trained them to be generals. Many names of leaders of the uprising recorded in temples dedicated to Trung Trac are women. These women led a people's army of 80,000 which drove the Chinese out of Viet Nam in 40 A.D. The Trung sisters, of whom Nhi proved to be the better warrior, liberated 65 fortresses.
After their victory, the people proclaimed Trung Trac to be their ruler. They renamed her "Trung Vuong" or the "She-king Trung." She established her royal court in Me-linh, an ancient political center in the Hong River plain. As queen she abolished the hated tribute taxes which had been imposed by the Chinese. She also attempted to restore a simpler form of government more in line with traditional Vietnamese values.
For the next three years the Trung sisters engaged in constant battles with the Chinese government in Vietnam. Out armed, their troops were badly defeated in 43 A.D. Rather than accept defeat, popular lore says that both Trung sisters chose the traditional Vietnamese way of maintaining honor - they committed suicide. Some stories say they drowned themselves in a river; others claim they disappeared into the clouds.
Although the Trung Sisters' revolt against the Chinese was 2000 years ago, their legacy remains. They represent Vietnam's independence. More than two sisters that gave their life up for their country, they are powerful symbols of Vietnamese resistance and freedom.
My mom and I came to the US when I was two and I grew up hearing stories of the Trung sisters. She talked about how we could trace our lineage directly back to the sisters, although now that I’m an adult, I have a sneaking suspicion that all Vietnamese women will say they can trace directly back to them! Still, it’s nice to think that I might have some ferocious genes somewhere in me!
I’m sure some of you have ferocious genes as well. We’d love to hear about it. Send us your story and we’ll post it so we can all celebrate the women in your history.