Literature commemorates the Trung sisters

Trung Trac and Trung Nhi were women; they gave one shout and all the prefectures of Cuu-chan, Nhat-nam, and Ho-p'u, along with sixty-five strongholds beyond the passes, responded to them, and, establishing the nation, they proclaimed themselves queens as easily as turning over their hands, which shows that our land of Viet was able to establish a royal tradition. What a pity that, for a thousand years after this, the men of our land bowed their heads, folded their arms, and served the northerners; how shameful this is in comparison with the two Trung sisters, who were women!
Ah, it is enough to make one want to die!
Historian Le Van Huu, 13th century

All the male heroes bowed their heads in submission;
Only the two sisters proudly stood up to avenge the country.
A 15th century poem

Trung Trac, angry with the tyrannical Han governor, raising her hand and giving a shout, all but united and restored our country. Her heroic courage was not limited to her lifetime achievements of establishing the nation and proclaiming herself queen, but after her death she also resisted misfortune, for, in times of flood or drought, prayers to her spirit have never gone un-answered. And it is the same with her younger sister. Because they had both the virtue of scholars and the temperament of warriors, there are no greater spirits in all of heaven and earth. Should not all great heroes nurture an attitude of upright hauteur such as they had?
Historian Ngo Si Lien, 15th century.

The Han emperor was extremely furious:
This insignificant speck of a Giao-chi!
And it was not even a man,
But a mere girl who wielded the skill of a hero!
A 17th century poem

The imperial court was far away; local officials were greedy and oppressive. At that time the country of one hundred sons was the country of the women of Lord To. The ladies used the female arts against their irreconcilable foe; skirts and hairpins sang of patriotic righteousness, uttered a solemn oath at the inner door of the ladies quarters, expelled the governor, and seized the capital-the territories from Cuu-chan to Ho-p'u again saw the light of day. Were they not grand heroines?

From antiquity, women have played a conspiratorial role. For example, Empress Lu of Han and Empress Wu of T'ang were able to command China with loud threatening noises, like wind and thunder, but the rightful heirs of the one great heritage of the everlasting First Emperor [Ch'in Shih Huang Ti] were cheated, taken advantage of, treated contemptibly, and ridden roughshod over by women using deception and intimidation, who, in the end, were simply criminals, "gone forever."

On the other hand, our two ladies brought forward an army of all the people, and, establishing a royal court that settled affairs in the territories of sixty-five strongholds, shook their skirts over the Hundred Yiieh. In the south, they were proclaimed sovereign lords, in the same class as Martial Emperor Trieu [Chao T'o] and Southern Emperor Ly [Ly Bi], inspiring later generations to call them queens. Still, they did not follow the advice of others. They died at the defeat of Cam-khe in the spirit of uprightness and in purity of mind, towering in the midst of the vast universe, bringing men to their feet sighing afectionately over their memory. Were those hens that crowed at dawn during Han and T'ang even worthy of being the hibiscus-capped, green-gowned attendants of our two Trung ladies?

Today, their temple is at An-hat in Phuc-loc. The temple hall is majestic and well cared for. People enter with dignity and depart with reverence. On festival days for welcoming the spirits, the local people perform in battle array with elephants and horses; their bearing is truly frightening. An-lang and Ha-loi also observe ceremonial sacrifices to the spirits of the Trung ladies, using imperially appointed implements. The ancestral images in these places are magnificent. Travelers passing by these shrines stop and visit. Literary men and poets, coming and going like the shuttle of a loom, spontaneously intone the theme [of their heroism]; thus, the two immortal ladies will never die.

Now, in these days, there are the Chaste Widow of Trao-nha and the Pure Wife of Ty-ba who are unanimously acclaimed for their uprightness and for whom the whole nation laments! It was the same kind of resolute appeal that pushed out the borders of the Trung queens' territory. It cannot be denied that this appeal, beginning in Me-linh, swallowed Chu-dien, echoed through Nhat-nam, and cleared accounts at Lang-bac; was not this an aiffair of "lifting the heavens and pulling up the earth"?
Scholar Cao Huy Dieu, 1715.

A woman proudly led a young nation;
Even the Han emperor heard of it and was terrified.
A 19th century poem

"cloud of hair, snow-white shoulders, fragrant breath, skin of ivory ... a smile more joyous than a blossoming flower," leading her army against the Chinese...
unknown author

Lii Chia refused treasonous bribes;
Trung Trac raised her shield to resist oppressors.
The Sung poet and calligrapher, Huang T'ing-chien (1054-1105), celebrating the exploits of heroes on the southern fron-tier, compared Trung Trac with Lii Chia, who resisted Han Wu Ti's armies in the name of Nan Yiieh in III B.C.

The greatness of the two women from Me-linh, and of all the brave people of the year 40, was in their realization that thousands of ancient customs and habits carried the soul of the nation; they thereupon arrived at a time when a question fraught with responsibility was placed before an the people and before history; was this life of the people, together with independence and freedom, worth defending with flesh and blood? People of the four directions, from the territories of the old Hung kings, seizing their weapons and standing up as one, answered-answered for themselves and for all later generations.

In the end, the uprising failed. Ancient Viet civilization was destroyed. But this was a "death that did not become death," as history eventually saw. Even if the ancient Viet people had not risen up in the year 40, Dong-son culture still would not have survived, whether by enticement or coercion. It would have faded and fallen into ruin by degrees. At the same time, the memory of the Hung kings and the idea of a common Viet people would have melted away. But Dong-son culture poured itself out in the towering, flaming tongue of a courageous struggle. Along with resentment, the memory of this was deeply engraved in the feelings of the people. That is the secret of a miraculous phenomenon not easy to see in history: though oppressed by a foreign country for a thousand years, the will that "we are we" among our people was not something that could be shaken loose.
Archeologist Pham Huy Thong, 1975.


Literature in Vietnamese