Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Story of the betel leaf and the areca nut

There were two twin brothers of the Cao family. Their names were Tan for the eldest brother, and Lang for the youngest one.

They got schooling with a Taoist named Chu Chu who lived with his eighteen-year old daughter. He then married her to Tan, and the young couple lived their conjugal life happily.

But, Lang found out that his brother treated him less intimately since he got married. In fact, Lang left the house wandering around the country. He reached a larger river and couldn't cross it.

Not even a small boat was in the vicinity to transport him to the other side of the river. He was so sad that he kept on weeping till death and was transformed into a lime-stone lying by the river side.

Troubled by the long absence of his brother, Tan went out to look for him. When he reached the riverside he sat on the lime-stone and died by exhaustion and weariness. He was transformed into an areca tree.

The young woman in turn was upset by the long absence of her husband and got out for a search. She reached the same place where the areca tree had grown, leaned against the tree and died, transformed into a plant with large piquant leaves climbing on the areca tree. Hearing of this tragic love story, local inhabitants in the area set up a temple to their memory.

One day, King Hung went by the site and gained knowledge of this story from local people. He ordered his men to take and ground together a leaf of betel, an areca nut and a piece of lime. A juice as red as human blood was squeezed out from the melange. He tasted the juice and found it delicious. Then he recommended the use of betel chewed along with areca nut and lime at every marital ceremony. From this time on, chewing betel became a custom for Vietnamese, and very often they began their conversation with a quid of betel.

Thach Sanh - Ly Thong - Vietnamese legends

Long time ago there was a kind and old but childless couple. They had to cut wood in the forest for rice. God felt moved then sent his crown prince to them so the old woman was pregnant for years. After the husband died, she gave birth a son.
The child was named Thach Sanh and became parentless some years later. He lived lonely in a shabby cottage under the old Banyan tree. He owned nothing except a hammer inherited from the father. When he was able to use the hammer, he was taught all kinds of kungfu and magic power by angles from heaven.
Once day there was an alcohol seller called Ly Thong passed by. He saw Thach Sanh carrying a heavy load of firewood. He knew there would be considerable benefits if he could persuade the young man to live under his roof. He did it. Thach Sanh was pleased and hoped that he would never be alone again.

At that time there was a man - eating ogress. No one could kill the evil so people had to make it a temple and offer it a man annually.
Unfortunately, once day it was Ly Thong's turn to come to the evil's temple. He and his mother thought that the only way to keep his destiny is to ask his adopted brother for help. This evening when Thach Sanh came home he was offered a big meal then asked for nothing but just simply guarding the temple for a night. The kind fellow accepted.
At mid-night when Thach Sanh was having half-closed eyes from sleepiness in the temple, the ogress appeared and was about to catch him with its sharp claws. Without humming and hawing he fought back bravely with the hammer handed down from his father and finally split the rival into parts and took its head and golden bow and arrows back. Hearing the voice of Thach Sanh in the front door Ly Thong and his mother were so afraid because they thought that it was only the soul of the victim coming back to revenge. Thach Sanh got into the house and told them what had happened and once again he was told that the ogress he had killed was the king's. The fellow was so frightened and was advised to return to the old cottage while Ly Thong brought the evil's head to the court for award and was conferred as a duke.

The king at that time had a graceful and nubile princess, many neighboring princes who wanted to ask for her hand. Once day when walking in the royal garden, she was caught by a huge eagle. Luckily Thach Sanh saw the eagle when it was flying by the Banyan tree with the claws carrying a young lady so he shot the eagle a golden arrow and traced to its cave by the bloody mark on the surface.

At this time Ly Thong was in the charge to find the princess, he didn't know what to do but came to see Thach Sanh for another help. Thach Sanh was once again honestly told Ly Thong what he had done and then took him as well as his escorts to the eagle's cave. He crept into the cave by a string, had a drastic fight with the evil eagle and finally saved the princess. He tightened her with the string and made a signal for the escorts to pull the princess out of the den.

After that the cave became darker and darker, he knew that its mouth was filled so he got deeper in the cave to find the exit. On the way to be out of the cave he saved the sea king's son who was captured by the eagle long ago. He was invited to visit his palace in the sea and offered treasures before he came back to the land but he only suggested for a guitar and a small pot.

Because of being defeated by Thach Sanh, souls of the ogress and the evil eagle were roaming and accidentally they met each other once day. They stole the king's gold and hid it in their enemy's cottage to accuse him of theft.

Thach Sanh was thrown in jail for long. Once day he began playing the guitar to kill sadness, actually melodies from the guitar resounded to the king's palace, the princess who was so sad after being saved life by an unknown young man that she lived without smiling or saying began speaking and smiling happily. Thach Sanh after that was invited to the court. There he retold to all the court what had happened to him and how he had saved the princess's life. Everything was made clear then. Thach Sanh was asked to judge lives of Ly Thong and his mother. However, they were freed to return to their hometown for Thach Sanh's kindness but they both were killed by thunderer on the way home and turned to Dor-beetles.

The wedding of Thach Sanh and the princess was celebrated so magnificent that made all the princes of the neighboring countries who had failed for asking the princess's hand. They rose army of 18 countries for war. Thach Sanh asked the king for going to the battle where he did not fight but play the guitar and made the enthusiasm of princes' army damped by melodious sounds. They all put off their amours and gave up. Thach Sanh offered all the princes and their army a meal but brought out a small pot of cooked rice only. They felt strange when they found that it was impossible for them to eat all the cooked rice in the small pot. The pot was filled again and again whenever cooked rice was taken out. After that they showed their deep gratitude to Thach Sanh and returned to their countries.

The king had no son so he ceded the throne to Thach Sanh.