The Trưng sisters (Vietnamese: Hai Bà Trưng, literally “Two Ladies [named] Trưng”, c. AD 12 – c. AD 43) were Vietnamese military leaders who ruled for three years after rebelling in AD 40 against the first Chinese domination of Vietnam. They are regarded as national heroines of Vietnam. Their names were Trưng Trắc (徵側) and Trưng Nhị (徵貳).
One reason for the defeat is desertion by rebels because they did not believe they could win under a woman’s leadership. The fact that women were in charge was blamed as a reason for the defeat by historical Vietnamese texts in which the historians ridiculed and mocked men because they did nothing while “mere girls”, whom they viewed with revulsion, took up the banner of revolt. The historical poem containing the phrase “mere girls”, which related the revolt of the Trung Sisters while the men did nothing, was not intended to praise women nor view war as women’s work, as it has been wrongly interpreted. And though the popular saying “When the enemy is at the gate, the woman goes out fighting” has been cited as evidence of women’s stature, the actual phrase in Vietnamese is “Giặc đến nhà, đàn bà cũng đánh” (When the enemy troops came to the house, the woman also went to fight the enemy), which means that fighting in war is inappropriate for women and that it is only when the situation is so desperate that war has spread to their home that women should enter the war.