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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The Legend of the Moon Boy
A long time ago there was a clever boy whose name was Cuoi. He did nothing with his cleverness but played tricks on people around him, especially his uncle and aunt who he lived with.
One day Cuoi came to the field and broke the bad news to the uncle that his wife had fallen down from the ladder and was hurt. The man was so frightened for his wife that he got up and ran to his home. Cuoi, however, took a short cut and reached the house before his poor uncle. He then told his aunt that her husband had been gored by a buffalo and had died. The poor woman dropped everything and ran out to the field. On the way, the two distraught husband and wife bumped into each other, each sweating and panting from all their running. The couple decided to punish Cuoi by putting him inside a bamboo cage and setting it adrift on the river.
Many years later, Cuoi married a girl in the village but he did not change. He kept on playing tricks on people. One morning he went into the forest and saw a tiger mother plucking leaves from a tree to cure her cub’s wound. Cuoi took the opportunity to uproot the tree and re-planted it in the garden behind his house. He called the tree “Banyan” and took good care of it. He always reminded his wife that the tree was magic so she should never pour dirty water or place garbage at its roots otherwise it would fly to the heavens. His poor wife became jealous of the tree that Cuoi took such good care of and one day, she dumped garbage at the root of the tree.
When Cuoi came home he found the tree shaking and rising higher and higher in the sky. He tried to hold on to its roots to pull it back down but he could not. The tree actually pulled him up farther and farther from the earth until it reached the moon.
It is said that if you look up at the moon, there is still an image of Cuoi sitting at the root of the banyan tree and looking down on the world. There is also a Vietnamese expression: “to lie like Cuoi”.
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