As a land famous for its resilience and indomitability in keeping national independence, Vietnam has a long history of 4000 years with many times fighting foreign invaders, especially the expansion of the Northern invaders. In particular, the Trung sisters' rebellion is mentioned as one of the most glorious victories, defeating the Southern Han army, and paving the way for the later uprisings to gain independence and freedom for this nation.
I - Who are the Trung sisters of Vietnam?
Due to the very ancient history and the lack of documents, the information about these national heroines of Vietnam is extremely rare and has many versions, causing much controversy. According to research by historians, the Trung sisters of Vietnam are twin sisters, namely Trung Trac and Trung Nhi, believed to have been born on August 1, 14 AD and died in March 43 AD. They are said to be the daughters of Lac Lord - the head of the tribe of Me Linh District (present-day Hanoi Capital), of the Hung Vuong lineage.
The two women lost their father at a young age but were raised and cared for by their mother. The mother taught the Trung sisters about mulberry growing and silkworm rearing. In particular, she also nurtured the patriotism of the two sisters, directing them to improve their health and exercise martial arts. At the age of 19, Trung Trac married Thi Sach, son of Lac Lord of Chu Dien District (present-day Ha Tay Province).
Trung sisters art in Dong Ho style - Source: Dam Sen
According to historical records, these two women are known as the leaders of the uprising against the colonial government of the Eastern Han Dynasty - the first time ever the Vietnamese people stood up for their independence and pride. Trung Trac claimed to be the Empress, establishing the country with the capital in Me Linh District, and “Dai Viet su ky toan thu” (Complete Annals of Dai Viet) considered her a king with the title of Trung Nu Vuong.
II - An overview of the Trung sisters' rebellion
1 - Historical background
At the beginning of the first century, Vietnam was under the domination of the Han Dynasty, who imposed heavy taxes and assimilation policy, forcing Vietnameses to change their customs, clothes, and rituals to follow the Hans. In particular, chosen as Governor of Giao Chi District in the year 34, To Dinh was a brutal and greedy man who greatly increased labor and taxes. A great reason leading to the Trung sisters' rebellion is the great clash of culture, religion, and economy which made the conflict between the Vietnamese and the Han dynasty's ruling regime increasingly acute. As three of those who intended to stand up against the Han Dynasty, Hai Ba Trung and Thi Sach trained the insurgent army, united the Lac Lords, and prepared the army for the uprising. Amid all that, Thi Sach was captured and killed by To Dinh in hope to destroy the uprising, but Vietnam Trung sisters only became more and more determined to regain independence and take personal revenge.
In most historical studies, Thi Sach is believed to have been killed by the To Dinh around 39 - 40 AD, acting as the starting point of the uprising. But some versions have recorded that Thi Sach accompanied Hai Ba Trung in the battle before sacrificing himself with his wife. In any case, historians assert that the rebellion still broke out because the main reason leading to it was patriotism and opposition to the strict policies and harsh exploitation of the Eastern Han Dynasty.
2 - Development of the Trung sisters' rebellion
Picture of the rebellion - Source: Luoc Su Toc Viet
After a period of preparation, in March 40 AD, Trung Trac and Trung Nhi officially launched an uprising against the Eastern Han Dynasty, with the response of armies and people everywhere. The rebellion can be divided into 2 main stages:
1st stage: 40 AD
At the Hat River (Hat Mon Commune, Ha Tay province, now Hanoi City), the Trung sisters rode elephants and raised their flag of rebellion, quickly taking control of Me Linh District. After that, the insurgent army moved down to capture Co Loa (now Dong Anh District, Hanoi City) and the center of the colonial government - Luy Lau (Thuan Thanh District, Bac Ninh Province). Suffering from a sudden hit, the Han army did not dare to resist and only worried about escaping, while the governor To Dinh left the citadel and fled back to China. The Trung sisters’ rebellion was completely successful.
2nd stage: 42 AD
The Han Dynasty decided to send 20,000 elite troops, 2,000 boats and many civil servants under the leadership of Ma Vien, who divided his army into two troops that met at Lang Bac. After receiving the news, Trung Trac and Trung Nhi brought insurgents from Me Linh District to fight the enemy, holding on to Co Loa and Me Linh. However, Ma Vien continued to pursue, forcing Hai Ba Trung' army to retreat to Cam Khe (now in Ba Vi District, Hanoi). In March 43 AD, both the sisters committed suicide by jumping into the Hat River to preserve their dignity, according to Vietnamese legend.
3 - Result of the Trung sisters' rebellion
The rebellion won the first victory in AD 40 but they lost their fight against the Han army after the reinforcements in 42 AD. The reign of Hai Ba Trung of Vietnam lasted just over three years but the resistance still continued until November, 43 AD before it was completely destroyed. In addition to many people being killed, more than 300 Vietnamese generals were captured and exiled to China. The protectorate ended as direct rule began, with the Han placing mandarins to rule at the district level. From here, Vietnam was again under the control of the Han Dynasty, starting the Second era of Northern domination.
4 - Historical significance of the Trung sisters' rebellion
Source: Phu nu online
This was the first Vietnamese uprising against Chinese rule in 1,000 years of Northern domination, considered a landmark for the next ones to break out. Even if only for a very short time, Vietnam's independence was restored, opening a new page in history.
The Trung sisters' rebellion is considered by historians to be an awakening of this country's national spirit, denying the power of the Northern dynasties. It reflected patriotism, the sense of independence and national sovereignty, the will to fight, and the determination to win of the Vietnamese people.
This uprising of Hai Ba Trung also affirmed the great role, strength, and resilience of Vietnamese women, against the sexism of the ancient Han empire. This is considered a fierce confrontation in terms of culture, lifestyle, and way of thinking of the two sides - Viet and Han.
III - Temple of the Trung sisters today
1 - Learning about the Temple
Many places have established temples to commemorate the heroic sacrifice of Hai Ba Trung, but the most famous one is the temple in Me Linh District, Hanoi City. Also known as Ha Loi Temple, it is located in Ha Loi Village, Me Linh Commune, about 25km Northwest of the center of Hanoi Capital.
Hai Ba Trung temple in Hanoi - Source: Redsvn
According to the documents of the management board of the relic site, right after the Trung sisters of Vietnam died, the people of Me Linh built a temple on the very place where Hai Ba Trung was born to show their gratitude. After going through many restorations and embellishments, Hai Ba Trung Temple has a top scale among the national monuments, worthy of the sisters’ great merits for the Vietnamese people. It was ranked as a national relic in 1980 and as a special national historical relic on December 9, 2013.
Coming to the complex, besides learning about history and culture, you can also immerse yourself in the fresh nature and admire traditional architectural works. There are sites such as Me Linh ancient citadel, Temple Gate, Hai Ba Trung temple, the Trung sisters’ parents temple, temples for female and male generals… In front of Hai Ba Trung Temple, there are a pair of stone elephants kneeling in front of each other and a stone incense burner. The rows of pillars have a diameter of 35cm, carved with the shape of the word “Tho” (living a long life), flowers, and leaves.
2 - Festival at Hai Ba Trung Temple
Every year at the Hai Ba Trung temple in Me Linh, there are many festivals held to commemorate special milestones in the Trung sisters’ life such as their death (March 8 lunar month) and their birthday (August 1 lunar month). In particular, to celebrate the rebellion, from the 4th to the 10th day of the first lunar month is the time of the biggest festival of the Temple.
The main festival is held from the 6th to the 10th of the Lunar January, but the villagers soon began to wash and change clothes for the statues of Vua Ba (literal “Woman Kings”). Every Trung sisters festival must have a palanquin procession, but the most unique feature of Hai Ba Trung Temple in Me Linh is the palanquin handover ceremony. The solemn ceremony took place at the communal house of Ha Loi Village, where the Trung sisters' statues were brought from the temple. In the palanquin procession, there are 2 elephants, 2 horses, several teams of young men and women wearing different colors of clothes, carrying different tools and performing different tasks such as carrying the palanquins.
Hai Ba Trung temple’s festival - Source: Do Hoang Y
On the morning of the 6th, at the main festival, the villagers carry the Trung sisters’ palanquin statues in the reverse order compared to the day they go to the communal house. From the 7th to the 10th day of the first lunar month, it is a ceremony to visit the six female generals, pray for happiness, salute to the army, and give thanks to the ancestors. This is also the time when you can experience many folk games including Vietnamese swinging, human chess, chess, cock fighting, wrestling, and so on.
Although the Hai Ba Trung's rebellion only brought independence to Vietnam in a short time, it carried great significance, symbolizing the patriotism and strong will of this nation. The Trung sisters are two famous heroines, forever remembered and proud by the Vietnamese people.