So I have been researching heroic women in Asian history, and I must say, I am extremely impressed at the record of Asian women who defied traditional conventions and fought against a society which was very patriarchal. One such woman is  Trieu Thi Trinh, also called Lady Trieu (Ba Trieu), who is considered as the Joan of Arc of Vietnam, led a rebellion against the Chinese in the year 43. Orphaned as a toddler, Lady Trieu lived with her brother in a small village in Vietnam.

At the time, Vietnam was ruled by the Han Chinese and 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, and Lady Trieu led one of them.

Feeling frustrated that her people were being oppressed by the Chinese, Lady Trieu set up an army base in the countryside and trained a thousand rebels who were ready to fight and defend their people and country. Lady Trieu’s brother was against his sister doing this and tried to discourage her. But this had no bearing, and Lady Trieu, strong headed and determined continued her work to provide freedom an empowerment for the Vietnamese people. A famous quote which Lady Trieu said to her brother, really encapsulates the sheer brute strength and passion she had to save Vietnam:

“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.”

And can you believe, that before she even turned 21, Lady Trieu successfully fought 30 battles with her rebel army against the Han Chinese, and legend has it that she stood 9 feet tall (again this is legend) and that her voice was loud, strong and showed sheer determination. She rode an elephant into battle, wore gold armour and had a sword in each hand as she charged into the fight of her life.

History states that in 248 CE, the Chinese won over Lady Trieu and her rebel army, and this caused her depression to the point that she did not see the point of living and committed suicide by throwing herself into the river. But the memory of Lady Trieu remains and has inspired many Vietnamese heroes to fight against the Chinese after her death. And today she is still touted as a national hero and a savior of Vietnam, with public holiday honoring her bravery and sacrifice.

For a woman in that time, to rise above an oppressed, brutal and patriarchal society is pretty goddamn amazing and to lead a rebel army who had many successive wins is absolutely inspiring and her memory will continue to inspire generations of Vietnamese globally.