*Two* Women to Know: The Trung Sisters

They established a nation and proclaimed their rule as easily as turning over their hands. It awakened all of us that we can be independent. — historian Le Van Huu

(Photo by Chi D. Nguyen)
Your word of the day: "queen regnant: a queen who reigns in her own right, as opposed to a queen who reigns with a husband or as the child of a previous monarch."

The Trung Sisters were queen regnants of Vietnam for three years, from 40 AD to 43 AD. Trung Trac and Trung Nhi had been born into a military household, where their father trained them in martial arts and battle strategy. When the elder sister's husband was executed by Chinese invaders in the third century, she partnered with her sister to launch a full-scale revolution (with elephants! and female warriors!) that drove the Chinese from Vietnam. As poet Dang Thanh Le wrote:

All the men bowed their heads in submission;
Only the two sisters proudly stood up to avenge the country.

Trac and Nhi established themselves as rulers of the newly-reclaimed empire, appointing 36 female generals (their elderly mother was one of them!) to guard their freedom. After three years, however, the Chinese reinvaded — and rather than face defeat, the Trung Sisters drowned themselves in the Duong River (though the Chinese claimed they were beheaded publicly as traitors, a warning to other aspiring queens regnant).

But the legend of the Trung Sisters persisted for coming centuries — Vietnamese soldiers still carried pictures of the sisters into battle, and Hai Bung Trung Day celebrated their status as national heroes. In Hanoi today, visitors pay homage at the "Two Sisters" pagoda, and an annual parade (with elephants!) honors the former queens regnant.

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