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.


Monday, 17 January 2011

Wisdom - Trang Quynh tales

A farmer was ploughing his field. Now and then, he shouted at and beat the buffalo that was pulling the plough.
A tiger happened to stroll along the edge of the field.
"Buffalo, you are so big. Why do you let this puny man beat you?", he asked.
The buffalo answered. "The man is small but his wisdom is big".
The tiger did not understand what wisdom was so he growled at the man. "Hey you, man,what is wisdom? Let me see it".
"Wisdom? Oh, my wisdom it at home" replied the man, eyeing the tiger's teeth and claws.
"Go home and get it. Bring it here so that I can see it". The tiger ordered.
"Oh,no! I am afraid that you will eat my buffalo while I am gone. If you agree to be bound with rope, I will run home and fetch the wisdom ".
The tiger agreed .After binding the tiger the farmed beat its back.
"Here is my wisdom. This is my wisdom", he explained.

Sunday, 2 January 2011

The Twelve Months - By Alexander Chodzko

There was once a widow who had two daughters, Helen, her own child by her dead husband, and Marouckla, his daughter by his first wife. She loved Helen, but hated the poor orphan because she was far prettier than her own daughter.
Marouckla did not think about her good looks, and could not understand why her stepmother should be angry at the sight of her. The hardest work fell to her share. She cleaned out the rooms, cooked, washed, sewed, spun, wove, brought in the hay, milked the cow, and all this without any help.
Helen, meanwhile, did nothing but dress herself in her best clothes and go to one amusement after another.
But Marouckla never complained. She bore the scoldings and bad temper of mother and sister with a smile on her lips, and the patience of a lamb. But this angelic behavior did not soften them. They became even more tyrannical and grumpy, for Marouckla grew daily more beautiful, while Helen's ugliness increased. So the stepmother determined to get rid of Marouckla, for she knew that while she remained, her own daughter would have no suitors. Hunger, every kind of privation, abuse, every means was used to make the girl's life miserable. But in spite of it all Marouckla grew ever sweeter and more charming.
One day in the middle of winter Helen wanted some wood-violets.
"Listen," cried she to Marouckla, "you must go up the mountain and find me violets. I want some to put in my gown. They must be fresh and sweet-scented-do you hear?"
"But, my dear sister, whoever heard of violets blooming in the snow?" said the poor orphan.
"You wretched creature! Do you dare to disobey me?" said Helen. "Not another word. Off with you! If you do not bring me some violets from the mountain forest I will kill you."
The stepmother also added her threats to those of Helen, and with vigorous blows they pushed Marouckla outside and shut the door upon her. The weeping girl made her way to the mountain. The snow lay deep, and there was no trace of any human being. Long she wandered hither and thither, and lost herself in the wood. She was hungry, and shivered with cold, and prayed to die.
Suddenly she saw a light in the distance, and climbed toward it till she reached the top of the mountain. Upon the highest peak burned a large fire, surrounded by twelve blocks of stone on which sat twelve strange beings. Of these the first three had white hair, three were not quite so old, three were young and handsome, and the rest still younger.
There they all sat silently looking at the fire. They were the Twelve Months of the Year. The great January was placed higher than the others. His hair and mustache were white as snow, and in his hand he held a wand. At first Marouckla was afraid, but after a while her courage returned, and drawing near, she said: --
"Men of God, may I warm myself at your fire? I am chilled by the winter cold."
The great January raised his head and answered:
"What brings thee here, my daughter? What dost thou seek?"
"I am looking for violets," replied the maiden.
"This is not the season for violets. Dost thou not see the snow everywhere?" said January.
"I know well, but my sister Helen and my stepmother have ordered me to bring them violets from your mountain. If I return without them they will kill me. I pray you, good shepherds, tell me where they may be found."
Here the great January arose and went over to the youngest of the Months, and, placing his wand in his hand, said: --
"Brother March, do thou take the highest place."
March obeyed, at the same time waving his wand over the fire. Immediately the flames rose toward the sky, the snow began to melt and the trees and shrubs to bud. The grass became green, and from between its blades peeped the pale primrose. It was spring, and the meadows were blue with violets.
"Gather them quickly, Marouckla," said March.
Joyfully she hastened to pick the flowers, and having soon a large bunch she thanked them and ran home. Helen and the stepmother were amazed at the sight of the flowers, the scent of which filled the house.
"Where did you find them?" asked Helen.
"Under the trees on the mountain-side," said Marouckla.
Helen kept the flowers for herself and her mother. She did not even thank her stepsister for the trouble she had taken. The next day she desired Marouckla to fetch her strawberries.
"Run," said she, "and fetch me strawberries from the mountain. They must be very sweet and ripe."
"But whoever heard of strawberries ripening in the snow?" exclaimed Marouckla.
"Hold your tongue, worm; don't answer me. If I don't have my strawberries I will kill you," said Helen.
Then the stepmother pushed Marouckla into the yard and bolted the door. The unhappy girl made her way toward the mountain and to the large fire round which sat the Twelve Months. The great January occupied the highest place.
"Men of God, may I warm myself at your fire? The winter cold chills me," said she, drawing near.
The great January raised his head and asked: "Why comest thou here? What dost thou seek?"
"I am looking for strawberries," said she.
"We are in the midst of winter," replied January, "strawberries do not grow in the snow."
"I know," said the girl sadly, "but my sister and stepmother have ordered me to bring them strawberries. If I do not they will kill me. Pray, good shepherds, tell me where to find them."
The great January arose, crossed over to the Month opposite him, and putting the wand in his hand, said: "Brother June, do thou take the highest place."
June obeyed, and as he waved his wand over the fire the flames leaped toward the sky. Instantly the snow melted, the earth was covered with verdure, trees were clothed with leaves, birds began to sing, and various flowers blossomed in the forest. It was summer. Under the bushes masses of star-shaped flowers changed into ripening strawberries, and instantly they covered the glade, making it look like a sea of blood.
"Gather them quickly, Marouckla," said June.
Joyfully she thanked the Months, and having filled her apron ran happily home.
Helen and her mother wondered at seeing the strawberries, which filled the house with their delicious fragrance.
"Wherever did you find them?" asked Helen crossly.
"Right up among the mountains. Those from under the beech trees are not bad," answered Marouckla.
Helen gave a few to her mother and ate the rest herself. Not one did she offer to her stepsister. Being tired of strawberries, on the third day she took a fancy for some fresh, red apples.
"Run, Marouckla," said she, "and fetch me fresh, red apples from the mountain."
"Apples in winter, sister? Why, the trees have neither leaves nor fruit!"
"Idle thing, go this minute," said Helen; "unless you bring back apples we will kill you."
As before, the stepmother seized her roughly and turned her out of the house. The poor girl went weeping up the mountain, across the deep snow, and on toward the fire round which were the Twelve Months. Motionless they sat there, and on the highest stone was the great January.
"Men of God, may I warm myself at your fire? The winter cold chills me," said she, drawing near.
The great January raised his head. "Why comest thou here? What does thou seek?" asked he.
"I am come to look for red apples," replied Marouckla.
"But this is winter, and not the season for red apples," observed the great January.
"I know," answered the girl, "but my sister and stepmother sent me to fetch red apples from the mountain. If I return without them they will kill me."
Thereupon the great January arose and went over to one of the elderly Months, to whom he handed the wand saying: --
"Brother September, do thou take the highest place."
September moved to the highest stone, and waved his wand over the fire. There was a flare of red flames, the snow disappeared, but the fading leaves which trembled on the trees were sent by a cold northeast wind in yellow masses to the glade. Only a few flowers of autumn were visible. At first Marouckla looked in vain for red apples. Then she espied a tree which grew at a great height, and from the branches of this hung the bright, red fruit. September ordered her to gather some quickly. The girl was delighted and shook the tree. First one apple fell, then another.
"That is enough," said September; "hurry home."
Thanking the Months she returned joyfully. Helen and the stepmother wondered at seeing the fruit.
"Where did you gather them?" asked the stepsister.
"There are more on the mountain-top," answered Marouckla.
"Then, why did you not bring more?" said Helen angrily. "You must have eaten them on your way back, you wicked girl."
"No, dear sister, I have not even tasted them," said Marouckla. "I shook the tree twice. One apple fell each time. Some shepherds would not allow me to shake it again, but told me to return home."
"Listen, mother," said Helen. "Give me my cloak. I will fetch some more apples myself. I shall be able to find the mountain and the tree. The shepherds may cry `Stop!' but I will not leave go till I have shaken down all the apples."
In spite of her mother's advice she wrapped herself in her pelisse, put on a warm hood, and took the road to the mountain. Snow covered everything. Helen lost herself and wandered hither and thither. After a while she saw a light above her, and, following in its direction, reached the mountain-top.
There was the flaming fire, the twelve blocks of stone, and the Twelve Months. At first she was frightened and hesitated; then she came nearer and warmed her hands. She did not ask permission, nor did she speak one polite word.
"What hath brought thee here? What dost thou seek?" said the great January severely.
"I am not obliged to tell you, old graybeard. What business is it of yours?" she replied disdainfully, turning her back on the fire and going toward the forest.
The great January frowned, and waved his wand over his head. Instantly the sky became covered with clouds, the fire went down, snow fell in large flakes, an icy wind howled round the mountain. Amid the fury of the storm Helen stumbled about. The pelisse failed to warm her benumbed limbs.
The mother kept on waiting for her. She looked from the window, she watched from the doorstep, but her daughter came not. The hours passed slowly, but Helen did not return.
"Can it be that the apples have charmed her from her home?" thought the mother. Then she clad herself in hood and pelisse, and went in search of her daughter. Snow fell in huge masses. It covered all things. For long she wandered hither and thither, the icy northeast wind whistled in the mountain, but no voice answered her cries.
Day after day Marouckla worked, and prayed, and waited, but neither stepmother nor sister returned. They had been frozen to death on the mountain.
The inheritance of a small house, a field, and a cow fell to Marouckla. In course of time an honest farmer came to share them with her, and their lives were happy and peaceful.

Happy New Year!

I wish you Health...
So you may enjoy each day in comfort.
I wish you the Love of friends and family...
And Peace within your heart.
I wish you the Beauty of nature...
That you may enjoy the work of God.
I wish you Wisdom to choose priorities...
For those things that really matter in life.
I wish you Generousity so you may share...
All good things that come to you.
I wish you Happiness and Joy...
And Blessings for the New Year.
I wish you the best of everything...
That you so well deserve.