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VN Folk Tales
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LadyDragon
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 05, 2007 11:38 pm    Post subject: VN Folk Tales Reply with quote

I'm opening a thread for Vietnamese folk tales. Looking back on it, I don't think the Legend of the Mosquito is the right story to start the thread with, so I'm moving it down. You'll find it again at the end of the thread.

Hope you enjoy all the stories. Very Happy

Note: These retellings of Vietnamese folk tales are copyrighted to M-C Luong. Please contact her for permission if you want to reproduce them elsewhere.
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Ylang-Ylang



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PostPosted: Tue Nov 06, 2007 1:08 pm    Post subject: To @Ladydragon Reply with quote

It's very interesting !
Thank you @ladyDragon Rose Rose Rose
Do post more legends. I confess that I do not know many VN legends !
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Wildflower



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PostPosted: Tue Nov 06, 2007 5:00 pm    Post subject: VN Folk Tales I - The River in the Sky Reply with quote

Thanks, Kitty. Here's one more legend. How come you don't know many Vietnamese legends? Did you grow up all your life in France? Though I spent my childhood there, my mother used to tell us all these tales. And then of course I later searched for anything about Vietnamese legends published in French or English, and of course Vietnamese. One of the "classics" is Pham Duy Khiêm's "Légendes des terres sereines". There are some other collections, written in the 1920's, that are so paternalistic in tone in the introduction and preface one doesn't know whether to laugh or cry. And of course in the series "Contes et légendes", there's "Les contes et légendes d'Indochine".

Anyway, here's another VN folk tale, the legend of how the Milky Way came into being. I "anglicized" the pronunciation of Nguu Lang and Chuc Nu - as written in Vietnamese, it would have been impossible for my American readers to pronounce. I haven't bothered to correct the spelling here, just did a "copy and paste" from my old file.



THE RIVER IN THE SKY
The Vietnamese Legend of the Milky Way

When you look up at the sky on a clear night you can see a misty band of white across the heavens. In the West it is called the Milky Way. The Vietnamese see it as a river of flowing silver that crosses the estates of the Jade Emperor, he who reigns over Earth and Sky, Man and Beast, and everything else in the Universe. On either side of that Silver River is a broken heart - the hearts of a young couple who have loved and lost.
*
The Princess Tyucnu was the most beautiful of all of the Jade Emperor's daughters and also the most skillful and hard-working. Every day she would come out and sit by her loom on the terraces or gardens of the Heavenly Palace, and until nightfall she would weave, the shuttle unceasingly dancing back and forth, clickety-clack, clickety-clack, in her slim hands. From her loom would come out rich and beautiful fabrics that all the Genies, Fairies and Elves of her father's Court used for their gowns. All day her loom would sing its busy little song next to the whispering of the trees and the trills of the birds of Paradise.

And every day Knew-Lann the shepherd would come out with the Jade Emperor's herds and would graze them in the heavenly meadows. Every day he would see the Princess diligently working at her loom and could not but marvel at how beautiful she was, how graceful her movements, how perfect her face and bearing. He would stand there and stare at her for hours on end, lost in admiration, and only the bleating of a stray calf or the mournful moaning of a buffalo cow that had stepped on a wandering cloud and could not get back to the meadow grass would recall him to his duties. But for all his mooning, he never neglected the herds and always acquitted himself well of his task. Everything was well and orderly in the Kingdom of Heaven.

The shepherd was a rather good-looking fellow himself, and it was not long before the Princess noticed him. She would look up and see this handsome young man gazing at her with undisguised adoration and, after a while, she smiled back. They exchanged a few words and it was not long before she, too, fell in love with him and they pledged their troth. Knew-Lann could not believe his good fortune.

The Jade Emperor was not class-conscious. He did not mind one of his daughters marrying a shepherd. He gave them his blessing, his only condition being that they would not stop working after they were married. There was a great feast and much rejoicing in the Heavens.

After the honeymoon, the young couple meant to settle down to work again. But Heaven's gardens were so delightful, there were so many flowering meadows to walk through, so many tinkling brooks to sit holding hands by, so many bird-filled woods to explore, so many nooks and crannies in the mountains dotted with cotton clouds to wander and hide in to whisper sweet nothings to each other, that they forgot all about working. A year passed, and still in the morning the woods and meadows and brooks called to them and they neglected herds and loom. They were, after all, young and beautiful and in love, and the Heavens were their own private garden. Can anyone who has ever been in love find it in their heart to blame them?

However, the Jade Emperor knew nothing about the sweetness of love. All he knew was that his herds roamed all over the Heavens' fields, wreaking havoc among the gardens, eating the flowers, trampling the sweet grasses. And that spiders weaved their webs on the abandoned loom, while the whole Court waited in vain for new gowns.

The Emperor was as stern as he had been kind. When he found out what was happening, his anger was terrible to behold. In one stroke of his hand, he opened up the heavenly meadows and through them he made a cut: a great, impassable river of shimmering silver. Then he decreed that the young couple would be parted, one on either side of the Silver River, and that they would have to work apart forever after.

Since then, Knew-Lann and Tyucnu helplessly look at each other from across the Silver River. They have not stopped loving each other and pining for one another but they cannot meet again - except once every year when the Jade Emperor relents just a little bit. That is the seventh month of the Lunar Year, which is called the Month of the Knew's. This is the month of the end of summer, and the start of autumn's drenching rains.

In that month, should you happen to be in the countryside down here on Earth, the farmers will point out to you that there is not a raven or crow to be seen: they have all flown up to the Heavens to support the bridge crossing the Silver River to allow the star-crossed lovers to get together. Yes, for a brief time, there is a bridge they can cross so they can meet again.

Every year, when that happens, Knew-Lann and Tyucnu weep for joy. When they must part again for another long, lonely year, again their tears flow. That is why it rains so much on the seventh month. They call it the Knew's rains. Now you know why.
*****
Author's note : My apologies to the language of my forebears (which has been written in Latin characters - just like English or French - since the sixteenth or seventeenth century) for changing the spelling of Ngu*u-Lang and Chu*’c-Nu*~'s names so they could be pronounced by Western readers with a semblance of accuracy. And one small clarification: in most Eastern cultures, the family name comes before the first name, so "Knew" or "Ngu*u" is the shepherd's surname, whence the "month of the Knew's" and the "Knew's rains".


© Copyright M-C Luong, 2001
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Janine



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PostPosted: Tue Nov 06, 2007 6:29 pm    Post subject: An Lộc Sơn and Dương Quý Phi Love Story Reply with quote

This is Chinese and not Vietnamese, but there are a lot of Vietnamese cai luong plays about this love story. Are you planning to write about it, LD/WF?

I remember some time ago (it may have been on the old EverythingViet site, before that was closed and AvenueViet opened) Doan Du had posted some pictures of the real Duong Quy Phi. Talk about a face that launched a thousand ships. Hers started a war and destroyed a kingdom. I was always fascinated by it, and the two very different kinds of love - the one An Lôc Son bears to Thai Chân (Duong Quy Phi) and the one the other guy, who became a eunuch for love, bore Thai Chân's rival in the Emperor's harem, Mai Tiêu Loan. Which was the greater love? That's a very interesting question, isn't it?

One man rebels against his lawful Emperor and lays a kingdom to waste, also wears himself out riding miles just to bring his love her favorite fruits, the other one selflessly sacrifies his manhood and does his best by hook or by crook to promote his loved one in the Emperor's favors. So which of the two loved best?

Subject for quite a dissertation here, isrn't it?

Sorry if I veered away from your Vietnamese tales to a Chinese historical legend (An Loc Son and Duong Quy Phi did exist), but this is a classic in both countries. Very Happy
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Wildflower



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PostPosted: Wed Nov 07, 2007 1:55 pm    Post subject: VN Folk Tales II - The Little Colt Reply with quote

I almost posted this under "Fancy anecdotes" because of the scene of the dead coming back in a dream, but it is, after all, a story. It also goes well with the one about the mosquito - Life, Death and Debt.



THE LITTLE COLT

Author's Note : Owing a debt, be it in an actual money or tradable goods, or a moral debt, is extremely important to the Vietnamese and, under pain of being reborn in the shape of a lowly animal or living in unhappiness in the next human life, one must do one's utmost to repay any favors owed, even after one's own death, and even if the debt was incurred after death - for, to the Vietnamese, death is not an end.
*
Once upon a time there was a kind farmer who was well to do if not actually wealthy, who was very generous and never refused to help his fellows in need. One day one of his neighbors, after a disastrous fire had devastated his crops, came to him and asked to borrow a sack of bean seeds, so he could replant his crop, promising to repay him as soon as he was able to.

"Of course, my dear Lôc, I'll give you the seeds you need," said he, "and take your time about repaying me, I am not in need of it right now." Lôc thanked his neighbor profusely and carted the heavy bag of seeds away. Before replanting, though, he went to a nearby village to buy farming implements and was set upon on the road by bandits who robbed and killed him.

The farmer, hearing no more of Lôc, thought that the latter had just taken his bag of seeds away to another farm and had no intention of ever repaying him. "Well, that's life," he shrugged philosophically, and went about his business as usual.

On the day of the Feast of the Dead, the farmer went to the pagoda to pay his respects to his ancestors. After having made the appropriate offerings, he stopped under the shade of a tree for a rest and fell asleep. He dreamed that Lôc came to him under the tree and told him "I've owed you a sack of bean seeds for a few years now, and I'm sorry I haven't been able to repay you yet." "Oh," the farmer answered, "I had written that off long ago, don't think twice about it." But Lôc said "Oh no, that would never do. I was just not able to repay you earlier for I had other business to see to, but I promise you, you'll get your money back before the year is out."

When the farmer woke up, he laughed a little at the strange things one dreamed at times, set out for home and thought no more about it. When he got back to his farm, his son came out to tell him that their prize mare had foaled a perfect little colt. This colt turned out to be the most docile, obedient and hard-working horse he had ever had. The beast was so extraordinarily intelligent and always so eager to please that he soon became a legend in the village and offers to buy him poured in, but the farmer would not part from the animal who had become his particular pet.

But one day the colt fell sick, and steadily grew weaker. Several horse doctors came and tried to save him, but the colt would just not respond to treatment. Desperate, the farmer called in one of the monks at the pagoda to come and see if it had been set upon by evil spirits. After a few incantations, the monk looked strangely at the farmer and asked "Does the name Lôc mean anything to you?" "Why, yes," said the farmer, then he stopped for at hearing the name of his former debtor, the colt had raised his head and looked at him mournfully. "Lôc was that guy whom I loaned some seeds to and who disappeared shortly after," he finished. The monk nodded sagely. "It was never his intent to go off without repaying you," he said, "he was prevented from doing so. Now, for this colt, here's what to do to cure him. Once he's well, however, I advise that you sell him immediately, and give half of the proceeds of the sale to the pagoda, and then everything will be well again."

The farmer did as he was told. He gave the colt the medicine the monk had given him, then sold it and went to give half the proceeds to the pagoda. As he was walking home with his share, he suddenly stopped in his tracks. The sum he was left with was exactly the price of a sack of bean seeds!

He then understood that Lôc had died before being able to repay him and had been reborn as the colt, so as to clear all the debts he had left behind. He smiled and sent a fond thought to the soul of the departed debtor, wishing him wealth, happiness and peace of mind in his next incarnation.


© Copyright M-C Luong, 2001
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 09, 2007 1:28 pm    Post subject: Vietnamese Folk Tales III - The Magic Bow Reply with quote

The Legend of Trọng-Thủy & Mỹ-Châu



Introduction to the story - This is not so much tale as historical legend (the way the Odyssey and the Trojan War are legends, with events that did happen, but thrown in we have Gods and Goddesses intervening in human affairs, working magic and sometimes wreaking havoc.) It takes place during the very early days of Vietnam, when it was called the Kingdom of Âu-Lac (this was long before the Chinese invasion and occupation), and its capital was the City of Cô-Loa, near where Hanoi is nowadays. It is interesting to note that Ngô-Quyên, the founder of the first Vietnamese dynasty back in 939 A.D., spurned the Chinese-founded city of Hanoi and once again established the capital at Cô-Loa - the City shaped like a shell.
*
Prologue

You will find this related in the Ancient Scrolls. Two thousand and three hundred years ago, after decades of war, King An-Duong Vuong united two warring kingdoms. He named the new, united country Âu-Lac then set out to build a great capital city. But as soon as the ramparts came up, a terrible storm threw them down. Thrice An-Duong Vuong set his masons to work, and thrice the walls came down in one night. The King then built a shrine and prayed. The seventh day, an old man came out of the East and told him "You must appease the Monarch of the Clear Waters."

The next day, as he stood by the river, the King saw a great Golden Turtle swim out of the waters. The King bowed to the Spirit of the River and invited him into his palace, then asked him why his walls could not stay up. The Turtle told him: "This land is a land of mountains and streams. It is the Spirits of the Mountains who are opposing you. But with my help, you can overcome them."

And indeed, with the Golden Turtle's protection, the walls came up and stayed up. In appreciation, An-Duong Vuong built his ramparts in three coiling lines in the shape of a conch shell and called it Cô-Loa Thành, the City shaped like a shell. His task done, the Golden Turtle prepared to depart. Thanking him profusely, the King saw him to the gates and back into the river, then asked him "But how shall I fare now that you've gone?" The Turtle said "Fortune and evil all come from Heaven. I can make you a gift, but never forget that you are the one responsible for the security of your own kingdom." So saying, he gave the King one of his claws. The King used it as a trigger for a magic crossbow, a bow so powerful a single shot from it would scatter a whole army.
*
Trọng-Thủy and Mỹ-Châu - A Love Story

So the kingdom of Âu-Lac, with its invincible King, prospered. But to the north, Triêu-Đà, the King of a minor Chinese Kingdom coveted the land and time and again sent his armies against Cổ-Loa, only to be defeated time after time by the magic bow. His troops fell like flies, in their tens of thousands, every time An-Duong Vuong loosed his bow. Finally, Triêu-Dà sued for peace and asked for the hand of his enemy's daughter, My-Châu (Beautiful Pearl), for his son, Trong-Thuy (Powerful Water), whom he sent to live at the Court in Cô-Loa.

Though theirs had been an arranged marriage, Trong-Thuy and My-Châu fell deeply in love with each other, and were very happy together for a few years. But unbeknownst to My-Châu, her husband had been sent to Cô-Loa with a mission.

The Magic Bow was hidden in a very safe, secret place, and Trong-Thuy did not rest until he had cajoled the secret out of his wife. Armed with the knowledge, one night he stealthily went to the hiding place and broke the magic claw, which rendered the weapon ineffective, then tiptoed back to their apartments.

The next day, he bid My-Châu goodbye, saying he had to visit his parents. As a parting gift, he gave her a beautiful cloak made of richly embroidered silk and lined with goose feathers, saying "Who knows what tomorrow might bring us? But remember that you are my wife and I love you, and will come to you eventually no matter what. If war should break out and you have to leave the city, take this cloak with you, and drop the feathers one by one at each crossroad, so that I know where you are heading and will follow you."

As soon as he had told his father that it was now safe to attack the Kingdom of Âu-Lac, Triêu-Đà brought his armies and attacked again.

An-Duong Vuong took out his magic bow, but it was broken and he could not make it work. The enemy came on in relentless waves, and when he saw that all was lost, he took his daughter with him on a horse and fled. My-Châu, thinking only that she would make sure that her husband would find her, plucked the feathers from the cloak and dropped them behind her on the road every time they took a turn.

They came to a river and there, his escape route cut off, the King invoked his protector, the Golden Turtle. The Turtle appeared and told him "Your enemy is right behind you, Sire."

The King turned around. There was no one there but his daughter. He did not know that Trong-Thuy and his father's army were following just behind. He unsheathed his sword as she wept and said that the Gods would witness that she had ever been a faithful and obedient daughter to him. He killed her, and then killed himself before he would be overtaken by his enemies.

When Trong-Thuy came to the river, he saw the bodies and wept. He had loved My-Châu dearly and knew that he could not live without her. He looked around him at the sky and water and clouds and it seemed to him that her voice was calling to him in the wind, gently reproaching him for having caused her father's ruin and her own death. He could not bear it and killed himself, and died with his arms around her.

My-Châu became a beautiful pearl, an embodiment of her name, and Trong-Thuy became an oyster, forever holding the pearl in loving embrace in death, as he had not been able to do in life because his duty had lain elsewhere. Because, for all his treachery, his love was true and the Gods were witness to it and gave them both all of eternity to be together.
*
In another version of the legend, the Golden Turtle carries the King away and he lives forever after in a magic land. Trong-Thuy carries his wife's body home and builds her a somptuous mausoleum. But before long, unable to stand the loss any more, he kills himself by throwing himself into a pond where she used to bathe. This version of the legend has it that pearls from the river where My-Châu died, when washed in the water of the pond where Trong-Thuy drowned himself, would take on a particularly entrancing sheen. Hearing of it, the Emperor of China demanded that a vase full of pearls from the river, washed in that pond, be part of the three-yearly tribute sent to him, and so it was until the Ly Dynasty in 540 A.D., when the Emperors of Vietnam ceased (momentarily) to pay tribute to China.
***
Comments on the story - And that was how Triêu-Đà conquered the Kingdom of Âu-Lac in 208 B.C. and made it into a kingdom he called Nam-Viêt, which he organized into a feudal system. The Han Emperor in China recognized it as an independent kingdom. This independence was to last less than a hundred years, but that is yet another story.

Before the modern Western reader is too harsh on Trong-Thuy and the way he betrayed his wife and father-in-law, they should remember that he didn't really have much choice. His first duty was to his King and his parents, which in this case were embodied in one person, his father. Like quite a number of heroes in these stories, he did what he had to do, regardless of his own feelings, then when his duty was done he took his own life - and was rewarded, in a certain way, for having done "the right thing". Once his duty to King and Country was done, he was free to follow his heart and do his duty to his wife, in this case follow her beyond death. I personally find it a very touching story, and in many ways typical of the stories of Vietnam
.


© Copyright M-C Luong, 2001
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Ylang-Ylang



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PostPosted: Fri Nov 09, 2007 2:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It's really very beautiful, your story on Trong-Thuy & My-Chau
Thanks Rose Rose Rose
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 10, 2007 2:46 pm    Post subject: Vietnamese Folk Tales IV - The Legend of the Mosquito Reply with quote

This was first published in the local magazine that ran the book reviews I posted before.

Mosquito, Mosquito Mine

Did you ever know how mosquitoes came about to buzz around, bite and bother us, and draw blood from us? According to Vietnamese folklore, this is how it happened.



Once upon a time there was a man called Tâm, a good, hard-working man who tilled his ricefields and bred silkworms while his wife Diêp tended the worms and sold the harvested thread.

Tâm, a simple man, was unaware that his pretty wife was very vain and dissatisfied with their life. She dreamed of an easy, idle existence, instead of this constant toiling. He, on the contrary, was happy with his lot and never even thought she could be otherwise. Truth to tell, he never thought much at all.

One day Diêp fell ill and died quite suddenly. Tâm was unconsolable. He could not let her go, he said, and chased away the friends and neighbors who came to help him bury her. He was not going to let his beloved wife be buried in the earth where she would be scared and cold and all alone.

He sold all his earthly possessions, took Diêp's body with him on a small boat and went wandering upon the waters looking for help. One morning he came to the foot of a hill covered with fragrant plants and flowers and all kinds of fruit-bearing trees. The air was so clear and bright that Tâm found himself leaving the boat and climbing light-stepped to the top of the hill. There he saw an old man leaning on a bamboo staff. Though his beard was snow-white and long, the man's face was unlined and his eyes sparkled with youthful life. Tâm realized he was in the presence of the Genie of Medicine. He fell to his knees and paid his respects.

"I have heard of all your virtues and hard work," said the Genie, "so I stopped my hill on your way. Is there anything you want from me?" Tâm said he just could not cope with the loss of his wife. He begged the Genie to revive her and let him resume his life with her. The Genie sighed. "You are a good and loving man, and I shall not deny your request", he said, "I just wish you will not have cause to regret this."

He directed Tâm to cut his little finger and let three drops of blood fall on his wife's corpse. As Tâm did so, Diêp's eyes fluttered open and she sat up, good as new. The couple embraced, thanked the good Genie, and went on their way.

They came back to their old village and managed to start their business again. Tâm had his happiness back, until one day he came home and learned that a rich silk merchant, who had stopped by to buy silk strands, had been struck by Diêp's beauty and had abducted her. "When it's not Death, it's a rich merchant," he thought. "Why can't fate leave us alone to live our lives in peace?"

He set out in pursuit and, after many weeks of searching, he found Diêp again in the silk merchant's palace. But by this time she had gotten used to her new life with a rich man. This indeed was the life she had always dreamed of, and she refused to come home.

Tâm at last saw his wife's true face. Heartbroken, but also angry, he told her "All right, stay here and see if I care. But I'll trouble you for my three drops of blood back, I don't want you to keep anything that's mine in this new life of yours."

Relieved that she was being let off so lightly, Diêp promptly fetched a knife and cut her finger. But as the three drops trickled from her, so did her life trickle away and she fell to the ground, dead.

However, the vain woman could not resign herself to leave this life. She came back in the shape of a small buzzing insect, looking to draw blood for Tâm or any other human being so that, by taking back again those three drops of blood, she can once more come to life as a woman. This accursed race bred and multiplied, the cause of much annoyance and much scratching - and many sleepless nights.

Author's Note: Whaddaya know, it's a woman's fault again! - But what do you expect? Men have been writing the legends, epics, and history itself. So from the start, between Pandora and her box, Eve and the apple (as if she force-fed poor innocent Adam, hey?) and all the legends including this one, woe comes to Mankind because of Womankind. The temptation was great to write a revisionist version, but intellectual honesty kept me from it, not to mention the fact that it IS the female mosquito that bites. But for those among you who don't mind a very irreverent and very revisionist version of Genesis, I recommend Harlan Ellison's "The Deathbird". In that novella, which got a Hugo Award in the 1970's, the Serpent is actually sent to the Garden of Eden to HELP Adam and Eve with the Tree of Knowledge, because Man and Woman had been given a rough deal in the cosmic lottery.


© Copyright M-C Luong, 2001
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Wildflower



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PostPosted: Sat Nov 10, 2007 2:48 pm    Post subject: A Little Background Reply with quote

kitty wrote:
It's really very beautiful, your story on Trong-Thuy & My-Chau
Thanks Rose Rose Rose


Thank you, Kitty. It's my pleasure.

Yes I like that legend too, it's so very touching. And such a good illustration of Confucean morals and ethics.

So, a little background note:

In China and Vietnam of old (some of it still lingers nowadays), society and ethics were structured rigidly following Confucius's teachings.

As pertains to "The Magic Bow" story, a man's duties were ranked "Trung, Hiếu, Nghĩa, Tình": First duty is loyalty to King and Country, second is respect and obedience to parents, third is loyalty to friends and last comes duty to love. Confucius knew Love was the most powerful force, that's why he made it last on the list. To him, a man had to acquit himself of all the other duties before he could think of his wife and family. A woman's duties were even more strictly defined and limited: Obey her father, once married obey her husband, if widowed obey her son (yes) :rolleyes:

Both Trọng-Thủy and Mỹ-Châu followed these precepts to a fault.

Janine wrote:
Re: An Lôc Son's Love story: One man rebels against his lawful Emperor and lays a kingdom to waste, also wears himself out riding miles just to bring his love her favorite fruits, the other one selflessly sacrifies his manhood and does his best by hook or by crook to promote his loved one in the Emperor's favors. So which of the two loved best?

Yes Janine I've thought about that, and actually started writing the story, but it's much longer and complicated than what I've written to date, so it'll have to wait a bit. I also have to lay my hands on the draft of my first few chapters, one of those files on the computer my brother still has in California... Rolling Eyes

It also entails a bit of historical research. I'll have to ask Saigonnais if he still has the pictures of Duong Quy Phi he posted long ago on the other site. I also have to look more into accesses (open and hidden) to the Imperial Palace and especially the women's quarters to see how An Lôc Son managed to sneak in to see his love.
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 21, 2007 11:48 pm    Post subject: Emotional me Reply with quote

I have tears in my eyes every time I read "The Silver River" and "The Magic Bow". cry me a river Those stories are both so sweet and so sad. Sniffle, sniffle.

Thanks, WF. I like a good cry over a good story. shameless grin
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