Fields Corner event recalls Vietnam’s ‘Tru’ng Queens’

Participants in the ceremony said a prayer for the Tru’ng Queens during the commemoration as Khang Nguyen (right) played the drum. Daniel Lam/Vinna Media photos

Several Dorchester-based Vietnamese American organizations are tapping into the rich, though often obscure, history of Vietnam to keep their culture alive and to inspire the nation’s women of today.

On March 17, several organizations, including Boston Little Saigon and Vietnamese American Community of Massachusetts, banded together to host the annual Tru’ng Queens Vietnamese Women’s Day at 50 Park St. in Dorchester. While the event has been celebrated before, this was the first time so many young people took an interest in it as it was combined with the American Women’s History Month celebrations, evoking a synergy they hope will continue to grow.

“The Tru’ng Queens are powerful women in Vietnam’s history and that’s why we tied it to Women’s Day and honor them because they were a big and major part of Vietnamese history,” said Tina Vo, of Boston Little Saigon. “Even I didn’t know what Tru’ng Queens were until I planned this event. I heard a lot about them from the community and it’s so important to recognize that history in Vietnam and mark women’s history month here, too.”

Muoi Trần and Liên Nguyễn, participants in the Rainbow Adult Day Care center on Dorchester Avenue, re-enacted the parts of the Tru’ng Queens during a reinvigorated commemoration on March 17.

Khang Nguyen, president of the Vietnamese American Community of Massachusetts, said the Queens were a powerful example for women in history.

“It’s very, very important for the Vietnamese people especially because later on they made it a day to honor women,” he said. “The next few years I will push more of the young generation to get in and learn the history of Vietnam and its culture. The old generation will step back, and I will step back in an advisory role. And they can keep it going.”

The Tru’ng Queens – the sisters Tru’ng Trac and Tru’ng Nhi – lived in ancient Vietnam and are celebrated as the culture’s ultimate heroes and symbols of power for women there and in the diaspora, according to a history read at the event by Nguyen.

Born in a rural village into a military family where their father was a governmental leader, they are said to have lived from 12 BC to AD 43 during a time when the Chinese had invaded Vietnam and were forcing its people to assimilate to their culture. A leader named Thi Sach stood up to the invaders and was executed as an example to others. However, his wife continued the fight and resistance spread.

The Tru’ng sisters were celebrated for fighting off a Chinese army in their village and then assembling and leading a large army of mostly women to continue the fight beyond. Within months of forming that army, they reclaimed land from the Chinese and liberated Vietnam.

For that, they become the Tru’ng Queens, and ruled over a free Vietnam for three years. However, the Chinese returned with a massive army and confronted the sisters, who, instead of surrendering, jumped to the deaths into the Hat River.

“The Tru’ng sisters were more than two sisters who gave their life up for their country; they are powerful symbols of Vietnamese resistance and freedom,” the history asserted.

The 23-year-old Vo said her group has intentionally reached into the past to attract younger people. “Every year we have this celebration, but many don’t know what it is all about,” she said. “It was interesting because my goal is to bring the younger generation into this event. … I really hope this will bring a spark to the younger generation to learn about events in Vietnam and its history.

Nguyen said, “I am the second generation in the US, and I know Vietnam and I know history, but I’m in my 50s. Tina is the third generation. Most of them were born here. They love the community but had no chance to learn about Vietnam. The Queens were very impressive historical figures, and the idea is to have them inspire the new generation. This was a very great event (on March 17), and a lot of people came.”

The event featured two women from Dorchester’s Rainbow Adult Day Care Center reenacting the roles of the Tru’ng sisters - Muoi Trần and Liên Nguyễn. Performances included Binh Dinh Academy for martial arts, S.T.A.R. group for traditional dance, and the Cultural Empowerment Organization for children’s traditional dance.

“There were a lot of the older folks that came as well and I think they really enjoyed it because not often do they get to see this event celebrated and experienced in Boston,” said Vo.

Nguyen and Vo said they will be holding a similar ceremony on April 21 at 50 Park St. to commemorate the Hung Kings ceremony, the leaders credited with founding Vietnam. They hope it will have the same effect as the Tru’ng Queens in sparking a look into history by the new generation and honoring men in the neighborhood.

Subscribe to the Dorchester Reporter