In the year 43 BC, Vietnam came under the rule of Han dynasty China. The occupation was to last for the next several hundred years with the Chinese campaigning to "civilize & assimilate" the native Vietnamese. Though China occupied Vietnam for hundreds of years, the Vietnamese didn't just sit quietly and obediently bow to the invaders, as there were several organized rebellions over the years. One of these rebellions was lead by the legendary Vietnamese hero, Triệu Thị Trinh.
The name Triệu Thị Trinh has a few sounds that don't exist in English, it's likely you can come close though by pronouncing it as "Jeu Tea Gin/Chin". It can be translated into Chinese as, Zhao Shi Zheng and in Korean as "Cho/Jo Sa Jung. She was also known as Lady Trieu (Bà Triệu) & Trieu Au.
Trieu was born into a wealthy family, in a small village in northern Vietnam. Trieu is believed to have lived some time during the 3rd century AD. She was orphaned when she was a toddler and was raised by an older brother. At the time Vietnam was under the control of the Eastern Wu Dynasty of China, which ruled with an iron fist. In 226, the Wu decided to demote and execute the local Vietnamese rulers, who were members of the Shih dynasty. In the uprising that followed, the Chinese killed over 10,000 Vietnamese. This incident was just the latest in centuries of anti-Chinese rebellions, like the one the Trung sisters had led nearly 200 years previously.
When Trieu was only 19 or 20 she decided raise an army of her own and go to war against the Chinese oppressors. According to Vietnamese legend, her brother tried to dissuade her from pursuing the life of a warrior, saying she should get married instead. In reply she said, "I want to ride the storm, tread the dangerous waves, win back the fatherland and destroy the yoke of slavery. I don't want to bow down my head, working as a simple housewife." Other sources say Lady Trieu was forced to flee the mountains where she lived after she murdered her abusive sister-in-law. In some versions, her brother led the original rebellion but Lady Trieu showed such ferocity and determination in battle, she was promoted to head of the rebel army.
Lady Trieu led her troops through Cu-Phong district to engage the Chinese and over the next two years, defeated the Wu in over 30 battles. Chinese records from the time describe a serious rebellion that broke out in Vietnam but fail to mention it was led by a woman. This is likely due to China's devotion to the Confucian belief system, which emphasized women's inferiority; making the defeat by a female commander all the more humiliating.
Due to the high possibility of suffering humiliation, the Wu emperor, Taizu, decreed that Bà Triệu's rebellion must be stamped out once & for all, in 248 AD. He sent reinforcements to the Vietnamese frontier & gave permission for bribes to be given to Vietnamese who wouldn't side with the rebels. After several months, Bà Triệu was defeated. In some accounts she was killed in the final battle of the rebellion but others say she committed suicide by jumping into a river, like the Trung Sisters had before. She was also only in her early 20's when she died.
After her death Trieu passed into legend and became an "immortal hero". Over the centuries she has acquired a series of superhero-esque traits. In Vietnamese folklore she was both stunningly beautiful and terrifying to look upon; she was 9 feet tall with a voice as loud & clear as a temple bell. And she rode an elephant into battle, wearing golden armour. Dr. Craig Lockard has theorized that Lady Trieu became this superhuman figure, after Vietnam accepted Chinese Confucian teachings, which portrayed women as vastly inferior to men. Prior to the Chinese conquest, Vietnamese women held much more of an equal social status. To compensate for this Trieu became a goddess rather than a mortal woman.
YOU ARE READING
From Naotara li and Mulan to Eleanor of Aquitaine and Boudicca. Strong women throughout history who fought for the countries, families and beliefs; that made a stand against those who threatened to destroy them. They took charge when no else would.