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The Magic Crossbow

Adapted by An Dinh Ton

After ending the Hung Vuong dynasty, King An Duong Vuong unified the two countries of Au Viet and Lac Viet (some books have said Ba Th�c and Van Lang. Van Lang is Lac Viet. Ba Th�c is probably incorrect because it too far north! An Duong Vuong is probably a descendant of the Ba Th�c royal family and was known as Th�c Ph�n An Duong Vuong) into a single country that he named Au Lac. An Duong Vuong settled in Phong Khe (now in the district of Dong Anh, province of Phuc Yen). 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 (an 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 commented:
"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 shreds.

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 invader."

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

A few years passed. Trieu Da (a general of Tan Thuy Hoang 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, Trong Thuy, to the King's court to ask for the hand of Princess Me ChAu. 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 out:
"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 vowed:
"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 tenfold.

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