Story of the Betel Leaf and the Areca Nut
There were two twin brothers of the Cao family. Tan was the older brother and Lang was the younger. They were schooled by a Taoist named Chu Chu who had an eighteen-year old daughter. He then married her to Tan, and the young coupled lived happily together.
However, Lang felt less close to his brother now that he was married. In fact, this emptiness hit Lang so hard that he left his house and started wandering around the country.
He reached a large river and could not cross it. There was not even a small boat anywhere nearby to transport him to the other side. He was so sad that he sat down and wept until he died. After his death, Lang was transformed into a limestone lying by the river. Troubled by the long absence of his brother, Tan went out to look for him. When he reached the riverside, he sat on the limestone and died of exhaustion. He was transformed into an areca tree.
His young wife in turn was upset by the long absence of her husband and went out to search for him. She reached the place where the areca tree grew, leaned against it and died. She was transformed into a plant with large piquant leaves which climbed on the areca tree.
Hearing of this tragic love story, local residents set up a temple in their memory.
One day, King Hung went by the site and heard the story from the local people. He ordered his men to take and grind together a leaf of betel, an areca nut and a piece of lime. Juice as red as human blood was squeezed out from the melange. He tasted the juice and found it delicious. Then he recommended the use of betel chewed along with areca nut and lime at every ceremony.
From this time on, chewing betel became a custom for Vietnamese, and very often they begin their conversations with a quid of betel.
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