Thursday, 12 May 2011

The legend of Sword Lake

It was the beginning of 14th century when our country was under the domination of the Chinese Ming dynasty. They took everything and considered residents as grasses. Everyone wanted to against them and brought the independence back to the homeland. Many insurgent armies were born but there was no success. People still kept revolting against their wicked rulers.

In Thanh Hóa province, there was a fisherman named Lê Thận. One night, while he was fishing, he found his fishnet was very heavy. The man was very glad and thought he would have many fishes to sell soon. He hauled the net, singing with joy. However, when he looked into the net, there was nothing but an iron bar which was old and rust. Angrily, the man threw it away and kept working. However, whenever he hauled the net, he only received the same iron bar. Moving to other places, trying to catch some fishes but the man still had nothing but the iron bar in his net. Wondering why it was so incredible, the man picked it up, took it near to the fire and realized that was an old blade without hilt. He brought it into his hut and forgot it.

After that, he joined in Lê Lợi’s insurgent army, who he did not have any relation but he admired a lot. Lê Lợi was a great leader but his army was still weak. They were trying to strengthen themselves to against Ming army. Many people supported them and joined the insurgent army. Lê Thận was very excited and he was not afraid of danger. One day, Lê Lợi and some people visited Lê Thận. He sat in the hut, talking with the owner. In the darkness of the evening, he suddenly saw something shining in a corner of the hut. He asked Lê Thận so the owner told him about the strange blade. Curiously, Lê Lợi went to pick the old blade up and saw there were some characters on the blade that said “The Will of Heaven”. Everybody was surprised but they still did not think that it would be a magic sword blade.

After that, Lê Lợi and his followers lost in a battle with Ming army. They had to run into a forest to hide. Le Loi climbed on an old banyan tree to hide himself. When his enemies went away, Lê Lợi looked around to find his companions. He suddenly saw a weird light on a branch near to him. He thought it might be fireflies but looked at it again, he was not sure. He got closer to look at it and realized that was a hilt. There were some germs inlaid in it that were shining. He remembered of the old blade at Lê Thận’s hut so he brought the hilt with him.

When Lê Lợi met others, he told them about the hilt. Lê Thận gave the blade. How amazing! The hilt and the blade fit perfectly. People were very glad. Lê Thận knelt down, brought the sword above his head and said happily: “My Lord, Gods mean to entrust the important mission for you. We are willing to give our hearts, our lives to go with you and this magic sword to save our country.” Other people also knelt down and showed their will to die for their beloved country freedom.

After that, Lê Lợi’s insurgent army grew quickly. The magic sword gave them more strength to against the invader. They started to get win. People in every place in the country helped them to fight against Ming army. Finally, in 1427 Lê Lợi’s army won a glorious victory that force Ming army to leave our country. Our country was once again free from Chinese rule. People lived in peace.

Lê Lợi ascended the throne in 1428. One year after that, while Lê Lợi was on his dragon boat rowing around Lục Thủy lake (Green Water lake), a giant golden tortoise came toward him. Lê Lợi told his servants to slow down. The King felt the magic sword shaking. The golden tortoise was not afraid of people, rose up his head and came closer to the boat. The tortoise bowed to the King and said “Now the peace has been come back to the country. Please give the sword back to Long Quân, my Lord!” Lê Lợi respectfully gave the magic sword to the tortoise. The tortoise took the sword and dived into the water. When the tortoise and the sword had disappeared, people still saw something shining under the green water.

From that time, the lake has been named Hồ Gươm (Sword Lake) or Hồ Hoàn Kiếm (Restored Sword Lake). It is a holy place of Hanoi, of Vietnam.


Chu Dong tu and Princess Tien Dung

The third King Hung Vuong had a beautiful daughter named Tien-Dung (Divine Beauty), who, although of fairy-like loveliness, was endowed with a whimsical nature. Despite her father's entreaties, she rejected every offer of marriage, preferring, as she said, to remain single in order to satisfy her passion for visiting the many beautiful sites of her father's kingdom, known as Van Lang. As the king loved his daughter tenderly, he tried to please her in every way possible, even placing at her disposal a number of vessels including the royal barge, so that she could navigate the rivers of the realm.

At that time, in the village of Chu Xa (Hung Yen province), lived Chu Cu-Van and his son Chu Dong-Tu (Marsh Boy). They were poor fishermen whose home had been ruined by fire. They had lost all their clothing except a single loincloth, which they took turns wearing. When Chu Cu-Van fell seriously ill and felt death approaching, he called his son to the side of his mat.

"After my death," he said, "keep this loincloth for thyself."

But Chu Dong-Tu was a pious son and could not let his old father be buried without shroud. He attended the funeral in borrowed clothes and then found himself without a garment of any kind. The poor young fisherman was obliged to do his fishing at night. During the day he would attempt to sell his catch to the people in the boats passing along the river, remaining immersed in the water up to his waist. One day, Princess Tien Dung, then in her twentieth year, accompanied by a brilliant suite, happened to approach the very place where Chu Dong-Tu was standing in the water. When the young fisherman heard the sound of gongs and bells and perceived the wonderful array of parasols and banners, he became frightened and took cover behind some bulrushes. Then he quickly dug a hole in the sand and covered himself so completely that only his nose was exposed.

Taking a liking to the picturesque surroundings, the princess expressed a desire to bathe there. A tent was set up on the shore. The princess entered, disrobed, and began to pour water over her head and shoulders. As the water trickled to the ground, it washed away some of the sand, exposing Chu Dong-Tu in all his nakedness.

"Who are you?" asked the princess. "What are you doing here?"

"Your Royal Highness," replied the frightened youth, not daring to raise his eyes, "I am only a poor fisherman. Having no garment with which to clothe myself, I was forced to hide in the sand at the approach of the royal barge. Will you not pardon my error?"

Princess Tien Dung dressed in haste and threw a remnant of cloth to the young man so that he could cover himself. Then she questioned him in great detail about his past life. Hardship had not marred Chu Dong-Tu's handsome features, and the princess was not displeased with his demeanor. After some deliberation, she reached a decision.

"I had not expected to marry," she said with a sigh, "but Heaven has ordained this meeting. I cannot oppose Heaven's Will." She immediately ordered all her officers and ladies to come forward. When they had assembled, she told them of the extraordinary adventure that had just befallen her. Then she announced that it was her intention to marry the young man.
"But Your Royal Highness," cried Chu Dong-Tu on hearing these words, "how can I, a penniless fisherman, be the husband of a royal princess?"
"It has been predestined," replied the young woman; "therefore, there can be no reservations about the matter."
"Long live Their Royal Highnesses." cried the officers and ladies in chorus.

Chu Dong-Tu was properly clothed and groomed and the royal wedding took place that same evening with great pomp. But when King Hung-Vuong learned of it, he became furious and shouted angrily at his courtiers.

"In marrying a vagabond," he said, "Tien Dung has dishonored her rank of royal princess. She is to be disinherited and forever banned from my court." The princess had no desire to face her father's wrath. In order to provide for her husband and herself, she decided to go into business. She sold her junks and her jewels, bought some land at a crossroads near the village of Chu Xa, and established a trading post. Visited by merchant vessels from the entire kingdom of Van Lang and from countries overseas as well, the village prospered and in time became a great emporium.

One day, a foreign merchant advised the princess to send an agent across the sea to purchase some rare merchandise that could then be sold at a tenfold profit. Chu Dong-Tu was charged with this mission and together with the foreign merchant left by sea. On reaching the island of Quynh Vien, they met a Taoist priest who immediately recognized the sign of immortality on Chu Dong-Tu's forehead. The former fisherman then entrusted his gold to the foreign merchant and remained on the island for one year in order to be initiated into the secrets of the Way (Dao).

On the day of Chu Dong-Tu's departure, the priest gave his disciple a pilgrim's staff and a conical hat made of palm leaves. He advised him never to be without them.

"This staff will give you support," he said, "but it is worth much more. The hat will protect you from the rain and also from harm. Both have supernatural power."

On returning to Chu Xa, Chu Dong-Tu converted his wife to Taoism. They repented their earthly sins, abandoned their possessions, and left in search of a deserted place, where they would be able to devote themselves entirely to a study of the True Doctrine.

All day they stumbled on through the wilds and at last fell to the earth exhausted. But before lying down to sleep, Chu Dong-Tu planted his staff in the ground and on it hung the conical hat.

The couple had been asleep only a few moments before being awakened by a crash of thunder. They sat up between flashes of lightning and saw a magic citadel suddenly rise from the earth. It was complete with jade-and-emerald palaces, public buildings, and houses for the inhabitants. Mandarins, both civil and military, courtiers, soldiers, and servants came forward to welcome them to the city, begging them to rule over the new kingdom. Chu Dong-Tu and his wife entered their palace and began a reign of peace and prosperity.

When King Hung-Vuong learned of the existence of the magic citadel, he thought that his daughter had rebelled against his authority and was desirous of founding a new dynasty. He assembled an army and ordered his generals to destroy the rival kingdom. The people of the citadel urged the princess to give them weapons so that they might defend her territory.

"No," she said, "I do not intend to defend this citadel by force of arms. Heaven created it and Heaven has sent my father's army against it. In any case, how can a daughter oppose her father's will? I must submit to the inevitable."

That evening King Hung-Vuong's army camped on the bank of the river opposite the magic citadel. His generals planned to attack the following morning. But at midnight a terrible storm arose and the entire citadel with all its inhabitants was seen to rise into the air and disappear. The next morning the royal army found only a marshy pond and a sandy beach at its former sight. The pond received the name of Dam Nhat Da, which means "Pond Formed in One Night", the beach was called "Spontaneous Beach", or Bai Tu-Nhien.