Vietnamese Culture - A 1970's Perspective
                        Copyright 1996 Tran Thong

Issue 28. The magic crossbow

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
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??
Issue #15. Chu Dong-Tu and Princess Tien Dung, George F. Schultz,
Issue #16. The husband's most difficult task: teaching his wife, 
           Van Ngan, VB 691216
Issue #17: Superstition in Viet Nam, Van Ngan, VB6911?? - May 8, 1996.
Issue #18: Hair: VN style, VB7007?? - May 15, 1996
Issue #19: Funeral rites in Viet-Nam, Van Ngan, VB7006?? - May 22, 1996.
Issue #20: "Non Bai Tho" or the "Poetical Leaf", ???, VB7011??.
Issue #21: The different systems of writings in Viet-Nam, ???, VB710201.
Issue #22: Vietnamese literature in "Chu Nom", ???, VB710201.
Issue #23: The boat of illusion, Nguyet Cam, Heritage Sept/Oct 1995.
Issue #24: Tran Hung Dao's proclamation to his officers, 
           George F. Schultz, VB 710201.
Issue #25: The refined pleasure of tea-drinking, Tuong Minh, The 
           Saigon Times Weekly, No. 238.
Issue #26: The hero of Phu Dong, ADT
Issue #27: The genie of Ta?n Vie^n, ADT
Issue #28: The magic crossbow, ADT - August 23, 1996.
                     The Magic Crossbow
                    Adapted by AnDinhTon

After ending the Hu`ng Vu+o+ng dynasty, King An Du+o+ng Vu+o+ng unified 
the two countries of A^u Vie^.t and La.c Vie^.t (some books have said Ba 
Thu.c and Va)n Lang. Va(n Lang is La.c Vie^.t. Ba Thu.c is probably 
incorrect because it too far north! An Duong Vuong is probably a 
descendant of the Ba Thu.c royal family and was known as Thu.c Pha'n An 
Du+o+ng Vu+o+ng) into a single country that he named A^u La.c. An Duong 
Vuong settled in Phong Khe^ (now in the district of Ddo^ng Anh, province 
of Phu'c Ye^n). In 225 BC he decided to build the spiral-shaped fortress 
of Co^? Loa.

However each time they were just about to complete the walls of the 
fortress, they crumble. The King set up an altar, fasted (a(n chay - went 
on a vegetarian diet to purify oneself) for three months to appeal to the 
Heavens. On the 7th of March, an old man appeared at the Western gate and 
    The fortress will never be finished!

The King invited him to his court, bowed himself and in tears asked:
    Each time I almost finish this fortress it falls down.
    This is proving very costly to my people. Can you give
    me an explanation?

The old man replied
    You will need the help of the Thanh Giang (Blue River) angel. Only
    he can help you finish this fortress.

Then the old man bid his good-byes.

The next morning the King went to the East gate. Suddenly he saw a golden 
turtle emerge from the water in the sunrise direction. The turtle said:
    I am the Thanh Giang angel. I am all knowing.

The King was very happy because this fulfilled the prophecy of the old 
man yesterday. He had a golden chariot transport this honored guest to 
his court. He asked him about the reason for the fortress falling down. 
The turtle replied:
    The spirits of the mountain and the river in this area have been 
    subverted by the departed spirits of the Hung Vuong descendants
    to take revenge on their loss of their kingdom. There is also a
    thousand year old white rooster that has been transformed into
    an evil spirit that now inhibits the That Dieu mountain. The ghost
    of a musician that was buried in these mountains, is also haunting
    it. By the side of the mountain, there is a small inn, whose owner,
    Ngo Khong, has a daughter and a white rooster. They are the evil
    spirits haunting these mountains. Each night they will reveal
    themselves under their evil forms and kill travelers. You need
    to catch the white rooster and the daughter of the inn owner, kill
    them both. Only then will the evil spirits be done with.
    However, before these evil spirits disappear, they will draft a
    petition to the Heavens to destroy the fortress. An owl will be used
    to transmit the petition. I will bite the owl and it will drop the 
    petition for you to catch. Then that will be the end of these
    spirits and you can finish your fortress.

The turtle then instructed the King to disguise himself as a traveler and 
go to the inn and ask to stay the night. The King followed the 
instruction and came to the door of the inn. He put the turtle on top of 
the entrance. The inn owner Ngo Khong told him
   These parts are haunted. These evil spirits kill travelers. So, 
   please move on while the sun is still up.

The King smiled and replied:
    Life and death are one's destiny. Ghosts cannot change my destiny. I 
    am not afraid.

Then he spent the night there. The night came and the evil spirits came 
to the door of his cabin and called out:
    Whoever is in there, open the door immediately!

The golden turtle shouted back:
    The door is locked. I dare you to come in!

The evil spirits used fires and other means to try to break down the door 
but they were unsuccessful thanks to the magic of the golden turtle. When 
the rooster crowed, the spirits retreated. In the morning the inn owner 
brought an undertaker with him. He was very surprised to find his guest 
alive and laughing. He prostrated himself and said:
    You must be an angel. Please use your magic to deliver us from these
    evil spirits.

The King said:
    You must kill the white rooster to destroy the evil spirits.

As Ngo Khong killed the white rooster, his daughter also fell dead. The 
King had his people dig up Mount That Dieu. They found an old music 
instrument and a skeleton. They incinerated everything and threw the 
ashes in the river.

At sunset, the King and the turtle went up Mount Viet Thuong. They saw 
the evil spirits transforming themselves into an owl up the big teak tree 
with a petition in its beak. The turtle transformed itself into a mouse 
and rushed after the owl up in the tree. The mouse bit the owl, which 
dropped the petition. The King picked up the petition and ripped it to 

From then on the evil spirits were finished. The fortress was finished in 
less than a month. Its perimeter was over ten thousand feet, in the shape 
of a snail, thus its name Loa Thanh.

After three years, the golden turtle bid his farewell. The King asked
    Thanks to you I have been able to complete my fortress. Do you
    have any strategy for dealing with foreign invaders.

The turtle replied
    The fate of a nation is in the hands of Heaven. Only the virtuous can 
    hold onto his kingdom for long. But since you asked, let me give
    you this to help you.

The turtle then gave the King one of his claws and said:
    Use this claw in a crossbow. You will have nothing to fear from any

The King had Cao Lo^~ build a crossbow with the claw as the trigger.

A few years passed. Trie^.u DDa` (a general of Ta^`n Thu?y Hoa`ng who 
decided to move south to strike out on his own) decided to invade. The 
King took out his magic crossbow and took a shot at the enemy. In one 
shot he killed thousands of the enemy. Trieu Da retreated to the Trau Son 
mountain range. He learned about the magic crossbow of An Duong Vuong. 
So, he had his ambassadors sue for peace. The King was very happy to let 
Trieu Da govern the land to the north of the Tieu Giang (small river). 

Shortly after, Trieu Da sent his son, Thu?y, to the King's court 
to ask for the hand of Princess My. Cha^u. The King approved and Trong 
Thuy came to live at the King's court. 

Trong Thuy asked My Chau to let him have a look at the magic crossbow. He 
substituted the magic trigger with a fake one. After this devious trick, 
Trong Thuy asked for permission to go back and visit his parents. Before 
he left, he told My Chau:
    Our love is immense but I cannot forget my duties with my father. As    
    I am about to go back to my father I am worried that should there 
    be a conflict between our parents, we will be separated, me in the
    North and you in the South. When I am able to come back and look for
    you, how can I find you?

She replied
    I am only a helpless woman. However I have this goose down blanket
    that I keep with me all the time. In the unlikely event I have
    to leave the palace, I will drop goose feathers at crossroads
    so you can follow me.

Trong Thuy bid his farewells and took the magic claw with him back to his 
father. Trieu Da was very happy and raised his army for a sudden attack.

When he heard the news, the King calmly continued his chess game and said
   Didn't Trieu Da learned his lesson from my magic crossbow?

When Trieu Da's army arrived at the gate of his fortress, the King took 
out his magic crossbow and fired at the invader. But nothing happened! 
The unprepared army and the court just fled in panic. 

The King had to flee on a horse in the southern direction. When he 
reached the seashore, there was no ship in sight. In desperation he cried 
    The gods cannot let me die. River angel, where are you! Please come
    to my rescue!

The golden turtle emerged out of the water and shouted to the King:
    The person on the back of your horse is your enemy. You must kill her
    before I would rescue you.

The King pulled out his sword and beheaded My Chau. Before she died she 
    I am a female. If I have been unfaithful to you then let me turn into
    dust. If my faith has been constant and I have only been tricked then
    let me turn into a pearl so that this humiliation can be washed.

Her blood flowed down the ocean floor where oysters swallowed it and the 
blood transformed itself into pearls.

The golden turtle took the King below the waters and disappeared.

Trong Thuy with his pursuing troops following the goose feather trail 
arrived at the seashore shortly after. He only found the body of My Chau. 
In grief he took it back to Loa Thanh where he buried her. The grave 
became a deep well with crystal clear water. Trong Thuy fell sick from 
grief and in a moment of despair he jumped down the well to kill himself. 

Legend has it that if one were to wash a pearl from the eastern sea 
(South China Sea) with water from this well, its brilliance will increase 
Note from TT: This is the first time I read about the part about An Duong 
Vuong and the evil spirits. In my school days I only learned that the 
Golden Turtle helped him build the city but not how. Probably this did 
not make it into the school literature because there is just too much