Lady Triệu

Background: My informant is a Vietnamese college student. Their parents immigrated to the United States from Vietnam when their parents were around 20, for religious and other reasons. My informant’s identity and worldview is largely shaped by their Vietnamese culture and immigrant upbringing. One of my informant’s main life goals is to one day move back to Vietnam and be in their homeland. My informant is interested in studying decolonization and has done so in college. Thus, this story about Vietnamese decolonization is especially important to them, although they did express that they are not certain about how this history of Vietnam being colonized affects their identity.

Context: Context: This conversation was recorded on a zoom meeting that we had on a Monday evening. My informant is a friend of mine, and the conversation occurred in both of our rooms. The purpose of the call was specifically so that I could gather folklore from my informant, and they were aware about that as well. After our call, some other people joined the zoom call and the atmosphere was generally friendly.

Main Piece:

For most of our existence as a country(Vietnam), we’ve been colonized, and mostly by China. So we have a lot of like … we have stories about warrior people who fight and like try to rebel against China, meaning that and a lot of these stories are usually women. Because apparently Vietnam used to be a matriarchy or something so a lot of our stories usually involve women fighting against China. 

Here’s this woman. Her name is Lady Triệu. Orphan woman. But she lives with her brother and his family. And her sister in law was kind of horrible to her. And so she killed her sister in law and runs away to the mountains and like starts mountain training. And her brother tries to convince her to come down and that sort of thing but she doesn’t because because she wants to train and so she enlists in the army. 

So sometime between like the mountains and her listing she gets married has baby or at least one baby.

And like in all the depictions of her. It’s like she’s a fierce woman with long boobs. And when she goes into battle she throws her boobs over her shoulders.

Me: So like, just for, like, so I can categorize this. Like do people actually think this happened?

Think of it more like like the story of Hercules where it may happen, but a lot of the stuff is exaggerated, all the time.

Thoughts: Thoughts: This was interesting to me because I was previously unaware of Vietnam being colonized by China. The first time I heard of this story was in friendly conversation and we made light of the fact that the woman is primarily characterized as having long boobs. This was obviously sexualized in our discussion and I wonder if that feature had the same context when it was told throughout history. Lady Triệu also plays into the tendency of warrior leaders in uprising who tend to become historical legends or folk heroes.