Chưng bính truyện

Asian Geographic - - Folk Tales Of Asia -

Bánh tét is a cylin­dri­cal sticky rice dish wrapped in ba­nana leaves, mostly eaten in cen­tral and south­ern Viet­nam. The ori­gins of these rice cakes are equiv­o­cal but the ear­li­est record of bánh chưng bánh giầy can be found in Book 1 of Linh Nam Chich Quai (ex­tra­or­di­nary sto­ries from Linh Nam), the ear­li­est col­lec­tion of leg­ends, myths, and folk­lore dat­ing back to an­cient Viet­nam in the 14th cen­tury, compiled by an anony­mous au­thor dur­ing the Tran dy­nasty. Most of the sto­ries in the col­lec­tion are an at­tempt to ex­plain many as­pects of Vietnamese life, in­clud­ing the ori­gins of iconic foods like paan or wa­ter­melon. The bánh chưng bành giầy story, ti­tled “Chưng bính truyện” is one that most peo­ple are fa­mil­iar with.

Chưng bính truyện tells the story of the sixth Hu ng King who wanted to pick an heir amongst his twenty sons. To do this, the king hosted a cook­ing com­pe­ti­tion among the broth­ers, send­ing them on a search for de­li­cious dishes ev­ery­where in the world. Lang Lieu, the king’s eigh­teenth son, be­ing poor and moth­er­less, couldn’t af­ford to travel far. Lucky for the prince, one night when Lang Lieu was sleep­ing, a de­ity en­tered his dream and of­fered him advice to use sticky rice as the main in­gre­di­ent to make a square cake ( bánh chưng), sym­bol­is­ing the earth; and a round cake ( bánh giầy), sym­bol­is­ing heaven. Ac­cord­ing to the de­ity, there was no ex­otic del­i­cacy that could com­pare with rice, as rice fed and nur­tured life. The de­ity also added a leaf wrap­ping to rep­re­sent a mother’s pro­tec­tion. Lang Lieu fol­lowed the sug­ges­tion, and the king noted that his youngest son’s gifts were not only the purest, but also the most mean­ing­ful. Lang Lieu then be­came heir to the throne, and his broth­ers bowed to show re­spect and con­grat­u­lated the new king.

This folk tale shows the im­por­tance of pos­i­tiv­ity and cre­ativ­ity in the hard­est of times, and that man can tri­umph even if he is least likely to, only if he puts in a lit­tle ef­fort and a lot of heart.

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