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Jan
2023

Eighteen legendary kings with the name of Hung successively ruled – Page 5

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the dei ties protecting the Emperor of Heaven. The combat resulted in a cove
nant passed between Heaven and the animals. The only clause of the con tract
stipulates that each time the animals wished for rain, they simply asked the toad
to grind its teeth. Two ancient one-line adages say it plainly: The toad is
Heaven’s uncle. Heaven will strike whoever strikes it.
When the toad grinds its teeth, the four corners of heaven are shaken.
Nguyen Van Ngoc, Tuc Ngu Phong Dao, Hanoi, 1953, p. 55
With the bronze civilization, the Vietnamese placed the beginning of their
history. If they have no story that explains the creation of the world, the
Vietnamese tell many legends about the dawn of their history. One of them
relates the genealogy of the rulers of Van Lang, , the first name of the
Vietnamese territory, which covered, in addi tion to the entire delta of the Red
River, the northern portion of the Indochi nese panhandle. That land which was
divided into fifteen districts remains in the eyes of all Vietnamese the cradle of
their civilization.
Eighteen legendary kings with the name of Hung successively ruled the
country for a period longer than two thousand years (2879-258 B.C.E.). The first
of the Hung Kings, who altogether were considered the founding fathers of
Vietnam, descended from Lac the Dragon Lord, Lac Long Quan, and Au Co, the
immortal. After a long time of living together, Au Co gave birth to a pouch
containing one hundred eggs. From these eggs, came out one hundred children.
For some reason that remains unsaid, the parents decided one day to split up and
continue their lives in different dwelling places. As Lac Long Quan partakes the
nature of dragons, so he went with fifty children to reside on the coastal plains,
while Au Co, being a descendant of the race of immortals, withdrew with the
rest of the family to the forested mountains. To this day, the Vietnamese still
believe firmly that they are children of dragons and grand children of immortals
(con rong, chau tien).
Many conclusions can be drawn from this legend.
First of all, the division of one people, issuing from one same couple into
two different groups whose respective habitat places one on the coasts and the
other on the mountains accounts for the fact that the ethnic and kinh people of
Vietnam should be considered two strands of the same fi ber, as the following
saying states it affectionately: O gourd, love me tenderly! beseeches the
pumpkin, Even though we do not belong to the same species, We still share the
same trellis.
Vu Ngoc Phan, Tuc Ngu, Ca Dao, Dan Ca Viet Nam, Hanoi, 1978, p.128
From this legend also derives the sense of equality between the sexes. The
number of children who hatched from the pouch of one hun dred eggs was
equally divided into half male and half female. Again, when the parents divided
the children, the husband received exactly half the number of children while the
other half followed their mother.
This story must have originated some time before the coming of Confu
cianism to Vietnam. With the obsession of male heirs ever present in
Confucianist environment, the myth would never have given an equal number of
males and females to Au Co’s hatched eggs. On the contrary, I am certain that it
would have assigned at least seventy-five boys to merely twenty-five girls.
Again, thoroughly educated in the Confucian tradition, emperor Tu Duc’s
reaction is easy to predict. When he came across this story in a book on
Vietnamese history, the comment he wrote down in the book’s margin is quite
revealing: he dismissed it out rightly, considering it as pure superstition,
unfounded historical fact; he even suggested that it skirts the realm of animal
behavior. Finally, we may not know the reason why the parents suddenly decided
upon their separation, but a closer reading of the story yields the feeling that they
simply wanted to give way to their respective needs or predilections. Dragons
must reside near the water and fairies or immortals are faithful compa nions of
trees and rocks. But, how can we explain the fact that the people of the mountain
and the people of the water, or by proxy the mountain and the sea, have not lived
peacefully all that time next to one another.
From time immemorial, almost as frequently as once a year, the sea would
surge out of its bed; it would rise and rise against the mountain as if it wanted to
overtake its peak. Naturally, death and devastation follow its path. The people of
Vietnam could not explain that phenomenon, until one day, the water spoke and
here is what it said.
One of the eighteen Hung kings had an astonishingly beautiful daugh ter.
One day, by a weird coincidence, the genie of the Mountain, Son Tinh, and that
of the Water, Thuy Tinh, came exactly at the same time asking for her hand. The
king ordered them to go home and come back the next day with presents
gathered from their respective realms. The first to arrive at the gate of the palace
will obtain the hand of the prin cess.
The Mountain came first. He swiftly carried the princess to his pa lace
perched on top of the mountain. The Water, however, refused to con cede defeat.
How could he? The Mountain had cheated: ignoring the rules of the game, he
had come to claim the princess before the rising of the sun, before the start of the
day. Therefore,, the Water hurled itself against the mountain hoping to reconquer
the princess. The mountain, however, stood fast extending its peak higher and
higher so as to domi nate the water at all times. Later people consign that rivalry
in a short poem: The mountain stretches higher and higher
The river longer and longer
Year after year, the river nurtures its revenge Day after day, it languishes in
jealousy.
Vu Ngoc Phan, Tuc Ngu, Ca Dao, Dan Ca Viet Nam, Hanoi, 1978, p. 26
Another legend testifies to the need for Van Lang to fight for its sur vival,
already in the very early phase of its history. That is the story of Genie Dong,
who until he reached the age of three, had not uttered a word, whiling away his
time lying in a hammock. But upon hearing of an invasion against his country,
he stood up and grew to become a giant. He requested from the king an iron
whip and an iron horse. In the heat of the fight, his iron rod broke, and so he
simply uprooted a clump of bamboo to continue his battle. After the invader was
chased away and peace res tored, Genie Dong was seen riding his iron horse into
the horizon. In his native village, people claim that they still can notice the gaps
made by the genie in their bamboo hedges. Every year, the villagers of Phu Dong
organize lavish ceremonies celebrating his exploits on the 8th day of the fourth
lunar month. He is venerated under the title of Genie Dong, Thanh Dong, or
Celestial King of Phu Dong, Phu Dong Thien Vuong.
King Hung the 18th was the last of the dynasty.
An invasion in 258 B.C.E. fomented by a neighboring chieftain, Thuc Phan,
put an end to an already declining Hong Bang dynasty to inaugurate a new one,
the Thuc. This dynasty is remembered by two interrelated occurrences: the
building of a capital city at Co Loa and the patient and effective resis tance
against repeated attacks waged by the many military expedi tions sent South by
the Qin Emperor in order to place the whole region under China’s rule.
Thuc Phan declared himself king under the reign name of An Duong and
endowed his country with a new name, Au Lac, . An interesting story
pertains to the building of Au Lac’s capital city, Co Loa, some remains of which
can still be seen now, on the old road between the Noi Bai airport and Hanoi. It
was without a doubt a very impor tant undertaking. The city had the shape of a
conch shell with nine circumvolutions, each one of them isolated from the others
by a wide moat. Those moats combined with the rivers and streams flowing
around the site provided the people of Co Loa with a significant network of
transportation. The city was so impressive that no one at the time could believe
that any one people were capable of building such a marvel without the interven
tion of a supernatural power. Therefore, even if no miracle had taken place,
people still had to invent one in order to affirm the presence of the occult in the
midst of their daily life.
They convincingly asserted that King Thuc did obtain the help of a lo cal
deity, under the form of a golden turtle who came to him in wondrous
circumstances. When the king started building his city, for a long period,
whatever the workers constructed in the day was totally demolished at night. It
was as if darkness brought with it earthquakes that unfailingly ravaged the entire
construction site. Quickly enough, the king set up sacrifi cial ceremonies. That
very night, a golden turtle recommended the king in his dream not to locate his
city directly on top of its carapace. The king followed the advice to the letter and
in no time, Co Loa was built. To express its gratefulness to the king, the turtledeity
gave King Thuc one of its claws which, when used as the trigger on a bow,
would multiply by the thousands the one single arrow it sent out.
Many Qin envoys, thus, failed to subjugate Au Lac. The last one, Zhao Tuo
(Trieu Da 207-137), taking advantage of the decline of the Qin dynasty,
carved out an independent kingdom called Nan Yue, Nam Viet , situated
directly north of Au Lac. He was, however, repeatedly thwarted in his efforts to
annex the Thuc kingdom. What he could not do by the force of arms, Zhao Tuo
set out to do by other means: he sent his son, Trong Thuy, to wed My Chau, a
daughter of the Thuc king. A ves tige of the matrilocal organization of
Vietnamese society demanded that the husband came to live in the residence of

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