Trieu Thi Trinh, the Vietnamese Joan of Arc

Lady Trieu Thi Trinh
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In the year 43, Vietnam came under the rule of the Chinese Han dynasty. This foreign domination was to last for hundreds of years, with the Chinese campaigning to “civilize” and assimilate the native people. Though the Chinese ruled Vietnam for hundreds of years, their rule was not accepted by the Vietnamese and there were many organized rebellions over the years. One of these rebellions was led by a legendary Vietnamese hero known as Triệu Thị Trinh.

The name Triệu Thị Trinh has a few sounds that don’t exist in English. You can probably get pretty close by pronouncing it as “Jeu Tea Gin/Chin”. It can also be translated into Chinese as Zhao Shi Zheng and in Korean Cho/Jo Sa Jung. (Thank you to Sa for commenting with a better transliteration.)

Trieu Thi Trinh, also called Lady Trieu (Bà Triệu) or Triệu Ẩu (趙嫗), was born in a small village in Vietnam. She was orphaned as a toddler and lived with her brother.

Lady Trieu saw the way her people were oppressed by the Chinese and could not take it. Trieu ran to the countryside and set up an army base, training a thousand rebels to fight against the Chinese. When her brother tried to discourage her, Trieu famously said:

“I will not resign myself to the lot of women who bow their heads and become concubines. I wish to ride the tempest, tame the waves, kill the sharks. I have no desire to take abuse.”

Before the age of 21, Lady Trieu successfully fought over 30 battles against the Chinese with her rebel army. According to legend she was over 9 feet tall, with a voice which sounded like a temple bell, and rode into battle on an elephant, wearing golden armor and carrying a sword in each hand. The Chinese were said to be afraid of her fierce gaze, and said it would be easier to fight a tiger than to face Lady Trieu in battle.

Lady Trieu, fighting with her small rebel army against the huge occupying Chinese forces, could not last in her success. In 248 CE, the Chinese finally won against Lady Trieu. It’s said that she despaired so much at the loss that she committed suicide by throwing herself into a river.

Even after her death, she inspired her people to fight against the Chinese. For centuries she was said to have appeared in the dreams of Vietnamese revolutionaries offering support and guidance.

Today, Lady Trieu is a national hero in Vietnam. A national holiday honors her bravery, and many streets are named after her in Vietnamese cities.

Image of Trieu Thi Trinh courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

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About KeriLynn Engel

KeriLynn Engel is a Connecticut freelance writer, professional blogger for hire, and author of Amazing Women In History: 20 inspiring stories of women the history books left out.

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    • says

      Hi Sa, thanks so much for your comment. I don’t speak Vietnamese at all; I arrived at the approximation by reading a bit about Vietnamese phonology on Wikipedia. From what I read, Vietnamese has many sounds that just don’t exist at all in English, so it’s hard to come up with any approximation that would be comprehensible to the average English-speaker. Maybe you can suggest an alternative? Thanks for reading :)

  1. WIllow says

    as a Vietnamese I was very surprised and truly appricate that someone would take so much effort and trouble to put up this beautiful articles with lots of details, references and all to honour women as well as a Vietnamese heroine

    thank you for your hardwork, I truly appreciate your blog :D

    please do consider to put up some social media options so it would make it easier to share your articles and blogs :D

    • says

      Thanks so much, Willow! I really appreciate you taking the time to comment & share your suggestion. I’m planning a website redesign very soon that’ll have more prominent social media sharing options. Check back in the next few weeks! :D

  2. Lan from Paris says

    Thank you so much for this short but concise page on one of Vietnam’s Greatest Women. She had always been a historic figure-head, role model, heroine for Vietnamese people. Like the Trung Sisters before her time, they were women who took up arms to defend their land, their livelihood without fear of the invading Chinese army ten-thousand-fold stronger than theirs some 2000 years ago.
    More than ever, Vietnam of today needs figureheads like them to stop China’s expansionism in South-East Asia and beyond. Where are the Lady Trung Trac, Lady Trung Nhi, Lady Triêuof today when Vietnam is in danger of becoming another Tibet !?!!
    Vietnamese women are known to be strong-willed and brave, was it due to the fact that at the beginning of time the Viet people were of a matriarcal society, traces of which can still be found today in some ethnic mountain tribes in Southern China, where the original Viet (Yue) were living before the Han moved South around 300 BC, pushing the Viet further South. The Han brought Confucianism with them and eliminated matriarchy.
    Personally, I would like to see Matriarchy brought back everywhere!!!

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