Vietnamese Culture - A 1970's Perspective
                      Copyright 1996 Vn-families

Issue #15. Chu Dong-Tu and Princess Tien Dung, George F. Schultz, 
Vietnam Bulletin October 5, 1970.

We will run this column weekly until we run out of interesting cultural 
Please direct all questions to [email protected]
Here is the proposed schedule of this column.

Issue #1:  Tet 1971 in Vietnam! by Phu Si, VB710118 - Jan 17, 1996
Issue #2:  The Unicorn dance at Tet, by Minh Tam, VB710118.
Issue #3:  The origin of Tao Quan, the three kitchen gods, by
           George F. Schultz, VB710118.
Issue #4:  1971 - The year of the Pig, by Van Ngan, VB710118.
Issue #5   The Joy of "first writing of the new year", by Thuy Ngoc,
Issue #6:  Traditional Vietnamese male attire, by Van Ngan, VB710208
Issue #7:  The legend of Princess Lieu Hanh, George F. Schultz, VB710215 
Issue #8:  The dialogue on Mount Na-Son, George F. Schultz, VB710222
Issue #9:  The secret housewife, George F. Schultz, VB710301
Issue #10: The golden axe, George F. Schultz, VB710308
Issue #11: Golden age of Viet Nam under the Hung Kings, Pham Tung, 
Issue #12: The legend of Chu Van Dich, George F Schutlz, VB701221
Issue #13: The sandalwood maiden, George F. Schultz, VB7010??
Issue #14: Legend about Emperor Ly Thai-To, George F Schultz, VB7010?? -
           April 17, 1996.
Issue #15. Chu Dong-Tu and Princess Tien Dung, George F. Schultz,
           VB701005 - April 24, 1996.
Issue #16. The husband's most difficult task: teaching his wife, 
           Van Ngan, VB 691216 - May 1, 1996.
               A Vietnamese Legend Adapted by George F. Schultz

The legend that follows is one of the oldest of Viet Nam, reputedly 
going back to the early years of the semilegendary Hong Bang dynasty.  
It is probably of Taoist inspiration and affirms a belief in genie and 

The third King Hung Vuong had a beautiful daughter named Tien Dung 
(Divine Beauty), who, although of fairylike 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 

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 

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 

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 

"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.