And so it was, hidden in the mists of the jungles, within the dark dank caves of the mountainous region of Mê Linh that Trưng Trắc and her sister, Trưng Nhị, along with an entire regiment of rebels began their year-long preparation to go up against General Tô Định.
To understand the scope of what the sisters were dealing with, the geography has to be clearly drawn and delineated. Mê Linh, where the sisters were born is actually present day Trường Sa city of Hồ Nam region (Changsha, Hunan, China). To this day, the Chinese have no idea what the name Changsha means or what the origin of that name comes from, but all they have to do is ask the Vietnamese. We know what that name means because it is Vietnamese in origin.
It is also here, in Mê Linh that the earliest versions of the Tao Te Ching were found—but that’s another story for another day. Today, I want to focus on the Trưng sisters.
Although it might have been romantic to draw a picture of an entire rebel army going up against a cruel General and his high-handed militia due to the death of their king, that was not the driving factor behind the uprising. in this case, it was not about the death of Dương Thi. Oh no. A single human life, royal though he may be, would not have been enough to propel an entire region of rebels to join the Trưng sisters’ cause.
It was actually General Tô Định’s blood that the rebels wanted. Everywhere he went, the Han oppression fell on the people in wave after wave of frontal attack. Given free reign to do as he pleased by the Emperor of China, Tô Định went mad, fueled by his lust for power and glory. His methods to subjugate the Viet people and assimilate them into the folds of the Han empire were barbaric and unbearable to the point that people were seeking out the twin sisters to join the revolution.
Surprisingly enough, the ranks began to swell with women from all ranks and classes, eager and determined to join the cause of the rebels.
Many of them were widows whose husbands had fallen under the sword of Tô Định and his men. Many more were victims of raped and torture by the militia.
Young and old alike, they found the sisters and asked to join the rebellion. The sisters, who were very well-versed with martial arts and weaponry, took them in and trained them all in various methods of weapons combat as well as hand-to-hand combat and basic martial arts.
It took a year, but they were finally ready.
In the early spring of 40AD, the Trưng sisters led the ragtag rebel group out of hiding, towards the border of their mother’s land, Mê Linh,
As soon as the rebel group came into view of Tô Định’s men, the Trưng sisters let out a wild cry and began waving their gold flags to start the fight.
Everywhere Tô Định’s men could see, there were women with weapons, charging at them left and right, like crazed animals. It was highly organized and it was lethal. Tô Định’s men did not know what hit them. Not only were the foot soldiers women, but so were the generals and the commanding officers. The female fighting battalion was a force to be reckoned with. Some of the women were even pregnant, but that did not stop them from cutting down Tô Định’s men like butter.
Nothing stopped them.
It wasn’t long before Tô Định’s forces were whittled down to almost nothing. Town after town, village after village, kingdom after kingdom, the Trưng sisters moved their forces forward, regaining 65 citadels that had been under the dominion of Tô Định for so many years.
As the sisters moved forward, they gained more and more followers and sympathetic supporters. It seemed they could not lose. Within a month, Tô Định had been defeated, his corpse, among many others, lie rotting on the battlefield.
Never in the history of ancient Asia had there been such brave and powerful women, willing and able to defeat an entire Han Chinese force from the north. The people loved them and everywhere they went, gold flags were flown and their names were sung. The people called them Vua Bà, or women monarchs and for three years, the sisters reigned over the entire region of Hồ Nam (Hunan) all the way down to the edge of present-day north Vietnam.
Of course, within these three years, the Han from the north were not sitting idly by. They had one last card to play—and play them they did.
(…to be continued)
Thuỷ Kinh Chú. Lệ Đạo Nguyên
Lục Độ Tập Kinh. Lê Mạnh Thát
Hậu hán Thư. Lưu Long