History Files
 

Please help the History Files

Contributed: 175

Target: 400

2023
Totals slider
2023

The History Files still needs your help. As a non-profit site, it is only able to support such a vast and ever-growing collection of information with your help, and this year your help is needed more than ever. Please make a donation so that we can continue to provide highly detailed historical research on a fully secure site. Your help really is appreciated.

Far East Kingdoms

South East Asia

 

Autonomous Nam Viet State (Trung Sisters) (Vietnam)
c.AD 40 - 43

The history of Early Vietnam included a largely mythical kingdom in the north of today's Vietnam by the name of Van Lang. This essentially provided a dynastic framework for the region's archaeological cultures until it was conquered in the third century BC. It was the small state of Annam which achieved this feat, but then it in turn was soon conquered during the five military campaigns of the Qin dynasty of China.

They took Annam in 207 BC, but too late to save their own rule. The Qin dynasty found itself being replaced by its implacable enemy, the Han, following a short but intensive civil war. Zhao Tuo, commander of the Qin conquests in the south, refused to be subjected to Han commands. Instead he combined the territories which were now under his command in what today is southern China and northern Vietnam, to create his own kingdom of Nam Viet.

Although diplomatic relations were established between Nam Viet and the Han, the latter eventually pursued their own objectives in the south. Emperor Wu Di of Han sent around 100,000 men to take the capital, Panyu, in 111 BC. The kingdom had fallen, despite some apparent guerrilla resistance, heralding the start of the 'First Chinese Domination of Vietnam'.

In the first century (AD 40) the Trưng sisters of northern Vietnam rebelled against Late Han domination. They were the daughters of a Lac lord of northern Vietnam, with the Lac lords having commanded local regions since the very earliest days of an organised state, theoretically under the mythical Hung kings. Trưng Trắc and Trưng Nhị led a popular movement which managed to end Chinese domination and establish an autonomous state. Its name is unknown, although it was one of several small regional states which emerged in this period, alongside Funan in the far south.

It took the Late Han three years to organise an appropriate response when they sent in General Ma Yuan, a descendant of the Late Zhao dynasty of Chinese kings. He defeated the sisters and their army in battle in AD 43 and both sisters were killed, either during the battle itself or shortly afterwards.

They are now regarded as Vietnamese national heroines. Their determination and apparently strong leadership qualities are cited by scholars of South-East Asian culture as testimony to the respected position and freedom of women in Vietnamese society, as compared to the male-dominated societies of China and India.

Traditional House, Vietnam

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from Vietnam: A New History, Christopher Goscha, from Early Mainland Southeast Asia, C Higham (River Books Co, 2014), from Southeast Asia: A Historical Encyclopaedia, from Angkor Wat to East Timor, Keat Gin Ooi (ABC-Clio, 2004), from From the Eastern Han through the Western Jin (AD 25-317), David R Knechtges (part of The Cambridge History of Chinese Literature, Vol 1, Stephen Owen (Ed), Cambridge University Press, 2010), from A Biographical Dictionary of Later Han to the Three Kingdoms (23-220 AD), Rafe de Crespigny (Handbook of Oriental Studies. Section 4 China, Vol 19, Brill, 2006), from The Cambridge History of China: Volume I: the Ch'in and Han Empires, 221 BC-AD 220, Denis Twitchett & Michael Loewe (Cambridge University Press, 1986), and from External Links: Encyclopaedia Britannica, and Vietnam (Countrystudies).)

AD 39 - 40

Trưng Trắc (Trung Trac), the elder of two sister, is the widow of Thi Sach, lord of Chau Dien (now in northern Vietnam). Thi Sash has been assassinated by a Late Zhao dynasty general for plotting with other lords to overthrow Chinese rule.

Map of Xin China c.AD 9-23
The map of China remained largely the same as it had been at the end of the Early Han period, with their conquests in northern Vietnam enduring and control of the north-western corridor towards Gaochang being expanded only a little (click or tap on map to view full sized)

Trưng Trắc assumes leadership of the movement and, alongside her sister, Trưng Nhị (Trung Nhi) and other members of the aristocracy, she marches on Lien Lau, forcing the Late Han Chinese commander to flee. Within a year the sisters and their allies hold sixty-five northern citadels across northern Vietnam and southern China, so they jointly proclaim themselves queens of a Vietnamese state.

40 - 43

Trưng Trắc

Female rebel ruler of the unnamed Nam Viet state. Killed.

40 - 43

Trưng Nhi

Sister and co-ruler. Killed.

43

General Ma Yuan, another descendant of the Late Zhao dynasty of Chinese kings, is sent against the rebellious Trưng sisters. They have few supplies and little peasant support so their forces are no match for the large Chinese army, despite it suffering between forty and fifty percent casualties to illness and malaise.

The Trung Sisters of Vietnam
The Trưng sisters of Chinese-dominated northern Vietnam rose up and overthrew the regional Chinese commander to establish their own short-lived state in the mid-first century AD

They are defeated in battle, at Lang Bac, close to today's Hanoi. The Trung sisters retreat to Hat Mon (today's Son Tay), where they are decisively beaten. Both sisters die, either during the battle or shortly afterwards, with one version being that they are unwilling to face defeat and probable capture so they commit suicide, drowning themselves at the juncture of the Day and Red rivers.

Another version states they they are captured and beheaded. Both could be true, with their discovered bodies being posthumously beheaded.

The Hai Ba ('Two Sisters') pagoda in Hanoi and the pagoda of Hat Mon, in the province of Son Tay, are later dedicated to the sisters (and today's Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) has a central avenue named after them). The 'Second Chinese Domination of Vietnam' begins.

Second Chinese Domination of Vietnam (Iron Age)
AD 43 - 544

The history (and prehistory) of Early Vietnam included a largely mythical kingdom in the north by the name of Van Lang. In the third century BC, the small state of Annam achieved temporary glory by conquering Van Lang. One generation later its replacement - Nam Viet - was set up by an errant Qin general by the name of Zhao Tuo. Nam Viet enjoyed nearly a century of independence until the Chinese returned under the Han to conquer the kingdom's capital of Panyu.

While the southern Cham states and Funan largely (but not exclusively when it came to the Cham people) remained outside of Chinese control, northern Vietnam endured the 'First Chinese Domination of Vietnam' between 111 BC and AD 40. Then the rebellion by the Trưng sisters of northern Vietnam swept out Late Han dynasty controls and set up an unnamed 'Autonomous State' for three years which covered northern Vietnam and areas of southern China. General Ma Yuan was sent against them, defeating them in two battles in AD 43 and retaking northern Vietnam. The 'Second Chinese Domination of Vietnam' began.

That domination was generally peaceful, despite a dedicated process of Sinicisation taking place. Initial repercussions for the Trung revolt involved Lac lords who remained disobedient being beheaded. Direct imperial government was imposed for the first time. The Cham people of Xianglin county (near today's Huế in coastal central Vietnam) revolted in AD 100, due to high taxes. The Cham plundered and burned down Late Han centres until the rebellion was put down in the same year. The leaders were executed, but Xianglin was granted a two-year taxation respite.

In AD 136 and 144 the Cham people launched two further rebellions which provoked mutinies in the imperial army. It appears that the governor of Jiaozhi tricked them into surrendering by means of offers of clemency. In AD 157 a local leader named Chu Đạt revolted with an army of four or five thousand behind him. The Chu Đạt Rebellion ended in a massacre, with perhaps half of the army being beheaded.

The Wuhu people under Liang Long revolted against the Han in AD 178, managing to spread their efforts across northern and central Vietnam and southern China. It took the Han until AD 181 to deal with the Wuhu Revolt. Liang Long was captured and beheaded, and his rebellion was suppressed. Another revolt, this time in AD 192 under Khu Liên, founded the independent central Vietnamese kingdom of Lâm Ấp. Funan also launched attacks.

Chinese rule remained secure so long as China itself was effectively being controlled by its own emperors. That domination was damaged by the 'Sixteen Kingdoms of the Five Barbarians' civil war period between AD 317-439, and then further by the 'Northern & Southern Dynasties' civil war period of AD 439-589. Only then were the Vietnamese people able to emerge from under the shadow of Chinese rule, in the form of an independent and restored Nam Viet state under the Early Li dynasty.

Traditional House, Vietnam

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from Vietnam: A New History, Christopher Goscha, from A Biographical Dictionary of Later Han to the Three Kingdoms (23-220 AD), Rafe de Crespigny (Handbook of Oriental Studies, Section 4 China, Vol 19, Brill, 2006), from Early Mainland Southeast Asia, C Higham (River Books Co, 2014), from Southeast Asia: A Historical Encyclopaedia, from Angkor Wat to East Timor, Keat Gin Ooi (ABC-Clio, 2004), from From the Eastern Han through the Western Jin (AD 25-317), David R Knechtges (part of The Cambridge History of Chinese Literature, Vol 1, Stephen Owen (Ed), Cambridge University Press, 2010), from The Cambridge History of China: Volume I: the Ch'in and Han Empires, 221 BC-AD 220, Denis Twitchett & Michael Loewe (Cambridge University Press, 1986), and from External Links: Encyclopaedia Britannica, and Vietnam (Countrystudies), and Vietnam from the 1st to the 10th centuries AD (Vietnam National Museum of History).)

 
Images and text copyright © all contributors mentioned on this page. An original king list page for the History Files.