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More Vietnam Folk Tales - Travel reading

Mandarinal Logic

In the old days, mandarins paid only half the price of everything they bought. One day a mandarin came to a jeweller's and asked for two taels of gold.
- Sir Mandarin - said the dealer giving him two - each tael costs sixty strings of coins, but I'll have only half that amount for every tael I sell you.
The mandarin took one tael, gave back the other to the jeweller, and left.
- Sir - called the merchant after him - You forgot to pay me.
The official slowly retraced his steps, anger on his face.
- Haven't I paid you yet? - he asked.
- You haven't, I swear - said the jeweller.
- Well, it's like this: I paid you with the money I saved you for not taking the other tael.

Twice in the Right

The village headman was well known for vli^his peculiar sense of justice. One day Cai and Ngo had a fist fight and the affair was brought to his notice. A cautious man, Cai took care to offer the official a bribe of five coins. He didn't know that his rival had presented the an in authority with double that amount.
The headman handed down his sentence:
- Cai, you hit Ngo. It's an assault and battery. You'll receive ten lashes.
Cai was sure that the official had forgotten about his present. To remind him of it, he opened his hand in a gesture that showed his five fingers and said:
- Sir, please remember the facts. I was in the right.
Imperturbed, the headman opened both his hands, and with his ten fingers in full view of both parties, tersely answered:
- Yes, I know. But Ngo was twice as right.
Ausurer would pointedly declare to his vacquaintances that wealth does not make a man happy.
- Me, for instance - he would say with all the appearance of sincerity - For all the riches I have, I'm not happy. Indeed, the more wealthy I become, the more unhappy I feel.
One day an unconvinced questioner retorted:
- All right, if you feel burdened by too much wealth, I'd be glad to have half of it and relieve you a part of your unhappiness.
- Oh, no - said the usurer - It's bad enough for me to be fettered with all these possessions. I wouldn't think of shifting part of this burden onto your shoulder.

Three Servants

A rich man, who was very choosey about his servants, had three "pearls" of whom he was very proud: one was very scrupulous, never doing anything without asking for the master's permission; the second showed great ability to see future needs and prepare for them; the third was a model of politeness and had no match for good manners among domestic servants in the district. One day the master was enjoying a cup of tea when the first servant rushed in, grief on his face.
- Master - he panted - Your eldest son has fallen into a deep pond while playing near its shore. Will you authorize me to take him out of the water?
Alas, rescue came too late and the boy was drowned. The lashes the overscrupulous servant was given could not bring him back to life.
Now, the master sent the second servant to buy a coffin for the funeral. He came back a few moments later with two.
- Why two coffins? angry surprise.
- Well - said the servant thoughtfully -You've got a younger son, haven't you? I thought I might as well buy an extra coffin, just in case.
For his foresight, the poor man was recompensed with instant dismissal. The master's trust in his favourites, although badly shaken, remained intact with regard to the third servant, who had such good manners. One day the master went out in his palanquin, which was carried by two servants; one of them, the polite servant. It had rained for days and one stretch of the road was like a swamp, knee-deep in mud. Yet the trusted servant's features showed neither annoyance nor dissatisfaction. He trudged on, undaunted, giving encouragement all the while to the other bearer. The master was so pleased that he said to him:
- You're a good man. When the New Year comes I'll have a new coat made for you.
- Thank you, sir - said the servant, and in order better to show his gratitude, bowed his head and folded his arms on his chest, after letting go off the carrying pole from which the palanquin hung.

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If I Were in His Place

Two hen-pecked husbands were next-door neighbours. One day, when one of the two wives was out, a shower suddenly came down. Her husband forgot to bring in the skirt which had been left drying in the sun. When his wife came home and saw the soaked garment, she flew into a rage and gave him a severe lash of tongue. Hearing this, the neighbour grumbled disapprovingly:
- If I were in his place...
- What would you do? - snapped his wife, who happened to be standing near him.
- Oh... I'd have brought it in before the rain started.

On His Wife's Advice

A farmer, absorbed in his work in the fields, forgot to go home for lunch. His wife went out to call him home. Seeing her, the man shouted:
- Just a minute! Let me hide the tools in that bush!
- Why did you disclose where you're hiding the things so loudly? - his wife reproached him when they got home -They might be taken away!
She was right. Back to the field after lunch, the farmer found that the tools had disappeared. He ran home and told his wife in a whisper.
- The plough is no longer there indeed.

Mine Is Going to Collapse Too

A hen-pecked clerk had his face badly scratched by his wife. When he came to the yamen, the head of the district, a mandarin, asked him what had happened to him.
- Oh, sir - said the man - Yesterday afternoon while I was sitting under the pergola in my garden it collapsed and I escaped death by a hair's breadth.
The mandarin did not believe it.
- You're lying - he said - That must have been done by your wife. If this is true, I'll have her brought here to give her a lesson at once. Women of this sort must be dealt with energetically. Otherwise, they would become unbearable. The mandarin's wife standing in the next room overhead the conversation. She stepped out with a furious look. The terrified official quickly dismissed his subordinate, stammering.
- You may go now, or else my own pergola is going to collapse too.

Stop Thief!

A rich man's daughter had so serious an villness that no remedy could cure. So a kind soothsayer was invited to his house to divine what must be done to the girl. The soothsayer was very fond of women. From the divan on which he was sitting, he counted the steps he would have to make to reach the girl's bed: eight. That night, he slept on the divan. When everybody in the house was asleep, he felt his way to the bed. The girl woke up and screamed. Quickly, the blind man turned round, made eight steps, then came to sit comfortably on what he thought to be the divan. Then he shouted "Stop thief! Stop thief!"
His host lighted a lamp to see what had happened. He found the soothsayer sitting calmly on the alter of ancestors, and gave him a good beating.

Go and Tell Your Teacher Not to Lie Anymore

Atutor often slept in the daytime, but forbade his pupil to do the same. Once, the latter was caught sleeping instead of learning his lesson and was lashed with a rattan stick.
- Sir - the pupil protested - I have to learn from you not only how to write Chinese characters but also how to live. You too sleep in the daytime, then why are you preventing me from doing the same?
- I do not fall asleep in the daytime -retorted the tutor -1 have a dream to enter into conversation with Zhou Gong and Confucius.
- I also had a dream when to pay my respects to Zhou Gong and Confucius!
- You did it! And what did the Venerable Masters tell you?
- They asked me why you hadn't come and seen them for a long time. I said you told me you had just seen him a few days before. And they said angrily: 'Go and tell your teacher not to lie anymore'.

The Seventh Head of Cattle

A fool bought six head of cattle in the market. He led them home, riding one of them. At a moment, he looked back and counted: one, two, ..., five. In despair, he counted again and again, but the sixth head of cattle was still missing. Arriving home, he tearfully said to his wife:
- It's too bad. I've lost one head of cattle!
- How many did you buy? - asked the woman.
- Six, and there have remained only five now - the man said, pointing at the animals behind him.
His wife broke into laughter and said:
- No, not five. I can see seven in all.

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The Next Life on Earth

The souls of three people - a thief, a prostitute and a physician - just brought from the world of the living were interrogated by the King of Hell:
- What did you do when you were living? -asked the King.
The thief said:
-I was very poor and had no money to give people. I only helped them in my own way. Every night, I went to a number of houses. If there was anything that its owner had forgotten taking indoors, I'd take care of it. The King was very pleased.
- Good - he said - You're very helpful. For the next life on earth, you'll be a mandarin!
The woman of easy virtue said:
- I never got married, but I took compassion on widowers. Any of them would be treated by me as my husband.
The King smiled approvingly.
- You're a kind-hearted woman - he said -You'll return to earth for another life as a mandarin's wife!
Then came the turn of the physician. He said to the King of Hell:
- I didn't act like these two people. But during my life, I saved many from death.
The King was furious:
- So, you dared to oppose my orders to bring here people from the world of the living! -he shrieked - You'll be boiled in a cauldron of oil.
The physician tearfully pleaded:
- Please put off the punishment just one night. I want to return home to persuade my son to steal, and my daughter to engage in prostitution, in order to avoid being boiled in a cauldron of oil like their honest father.

No Room Left

Aragged, emanciated beggar came to a k-rich man's house to ask for food. The rich man turned him away, saying - Go away, you filthy creature, you must have returned from hell!
- Yes, that's right, I did return from hell -said the beggar.
- Then why didn't you stay there for good? - asked the rich man.
- Oh, I'd like to - answered the beggar -But there was no room left for me there. It was filled up with rich people.

Who'll Take Care of Me?

A good-for-nothing young fellow of UTVtwenty is living with his father. One day, a fortune-teller said to him:
- Your father will live to be eighty, and you'll live until you're sixty-two.
The young fellow broke into tears. The fortune-teller asked him in surprise:
- Why are you crying? I told you that both your father and you would have a long life!
- Oh, I'll have to live two years without my father - said the fellow tearfully - And who'll take care of me then?

The Square Snake

Abraggart said to his wife one day:
- I've seen a huge snake in the forest, dear. It was one hundred and twenty thuoc1 long, and twenty thudc in diameter!
The woman who knew her husband's boast very well, once more made fun of him:
- Oh, it's not possible! - she said.
- You don't believe me? - the man protested - The snake is more than one hundred thudc long.
- I've never heard of such a thing!
- But I saw it with my own eyes! It's no less than eighty!
Still, the woman did not believe her husband. The man further backed down:
- If it isn't eighty, it's at least sixty.
His wife shook her head in disbelief. He made a further effort to convince her:
- Believe me dear, it's over forty.
- Even that's not possible.
The braggart then said in despair:
- To tell the truth, the snake is twenty thudc long. Twenty, no more nor less.
- So it's a square snake - his wife said with a peal of laughter.
1. Thuoc. a unit of measurement of ancient Viet Nam. It was nearly equal to a foot.

Money from the Gods

Two young fellows who loved bluffing went swimming together. One of them, holding five tien1 in his hand, dived into the water. A moment later, he reappeared, and showing the coins to his friend, said:
- Deep down in the water I found two gods playing chess. They told me to go away after giving me this money!
The other fellow pretended to believe his friend.
- Oh, good. Then I'll go down too. I may get some more money.
Then he dived into the river too. After a moment, he returned to the surface to say to his friend:
- I found them too, they were still playing chess. As I was asking for money, they scolded me: "We've already given five tien to your friend to be shared between you two. What are you coming here for?"
The other fellow could not but part with half the money.

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The Way to Heaven

Atutor was staying in his pupil's house. He slept in the bedroom with the young boy, while the hostess and her daughter had to move their bed to the kitchen.
One night, our pedagogue felt lonely. He groped his way to the kitchen. The hostess woke up and asked:
- Who's there?
- It's me - answered the man.
- But who are you?
- I'm the tutor.
- What do you want to do in the kitchen at this hour?
- I only want some baskets to put my books in.
A few days later, the tutor climbed to the roof of the kitchen at night. He pulled off part of the covering thatch and prepared to drop down when the woman's voice was heard:
- Who's up there?
- It's me.
- But who are you?
- The tutor.
- What on earth are you doing up there?
- Oh, excuse me, can you tell me if this is the way to Heaven?

Learning to Talk

A rich man's servant had the habit of chattering foolishly. His master said to rum one day:
- You must learn how to talk properly. Your way of speaking makes people laugh at you, and at me as well.
The servant tried to do as he had been told. One day, as the latter, dressed in a new robe, was smoking a pipe before going out, the rattle-brained servant drawled:
- Sir, silkworms give silk. The silk is sold' to the Chinese to make gauze. The Chinese sell the gauze to us. You bought the stuff and had a robe made of it. You're now wearing the robe and smoking. Tobacco ash is burning your robe.
The rich man looked down and found to his dismay that his robe had a hole as big as a hand.
In our country, Trang Quynh (Doctor Quynh) a personage living in the 18thcentury, is very well known for his prowess, his wit, and more especially for his practical jokes, the victims of winch were mostly the powerful of that time

The "Longevity" Peaches

one occasion, the Emperor of China made a present to the King of Annam of some uncommonly large peaches, called "longevity" peaches.
The present was brought in during a royal audience. The courtiers outvied each other in admiring the marvellous fruits. Trang Quynh who was there, because he too was an official, went up to the peaches, picked one up, carried it to his mouth and bit into it with relish.
- Arrest that wretch, and cut off his head! -ordered the monarch, pale with anger. The guards of the court seized Trang Quynh, who began to shed buckets of tears.
- You who have had the audacity to taste these delicacies destined for your sovereign, a crime which you must pay for with your life, are you afraid of dying, cowardly scoundrel? - cried the King.
- No, Sire - replied Trang Quynh, sobbing even more bitterly - If I am crying, it is because I fear for Your August Person, for You are going to die soon.
- What stupidity are you telling me there, you mad fool? Who told you I am soon to stop living?
- Well! Sire, seeing these peaches called longevity peaches, I wanted to eat one, because I wanted to live as long as possible to serve Your Majesty. But I hadn't even eaten a quarter, when already death, without a word of warning, came and grasped me by the neck. This leads me to conclude that if Your Majesty
commits the fatal imprudence of eating all the remaining peaches, You will only die all the sooner.
- Release that cheeky rascal! - said the King, amused by this audacious pleasantry.

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The King's Cat and the People's Cat

The King owned a really fine cat. Trang Quynh conceived the idea of taking it away from him. So that is what he did, and the tom-cat soon became a guest at Trang Quynh's. In order to win in a possible dispute, the witty Trang Quynh set about specially training the quadruped. Every day, he put the cat between two plates, one full of choice foods, and the other, with left-over scraps. The animal, who was well fed when he was with the King, as was to be expected, did not fail immediately to attack the plate which he judged was the most suited to his taste. But what he in no way expected was the stroke of the stick which his new master dealt him, while at the same time, a firm hand dragged him by the ear towards the despised plate. This manoeuvre was repeated every day, and Trang Quynh's cat after a while finally gave up his aristocratic habits altogether. This was the moment Trang Quynh was waiting for to be able to show his cat in broad daylight. The King soon learned into whose hands his lost pet had fallen. He had Trang Quynh and the cat brought in by force. There was no doubt about it: the cat he saw before his very eyes was his. Trang Quynh was therefore charged with stealing from the King. It is easy to guess what awaited him.
- It is possible that my cat resembles Your Majesty's, but it is mine all right -protested Trang Quynh - A similarity in the fur is but thin proof. There are
hundreds of cats which look alike. To establish definitely to whom the cat belongs, more conclusive proofs is needed.
- And what proof can you give to convince me that this cat is yours, you impudent rascal?
- Here it is: Your Majesty has the means to feed your cat well, and he must be a great gourmet. Mine who has to adapt his mode of living to his master's a poor chap who can't make ends meet, naturally has more plebeian tastes. Order two plates of food to be brought, different in quality and content, and Your Majesty will be convinced on the spot. The King consented and the examination took place. Needless to say, the cat passed the test with flying colours. Trang Quynh took home his cat, leaving the King crestfallen.

Trang Quynh, Painter of Genius

In the old times, whenever the Emperor p2J of China wanted to undertake the conquest of a neighbouring country, he would try first to ascertain whether or not there were talented people among that country's leaders. Thus, he used to send envoys to neighbouring courts, entrusted with the task of trying on them all sorts of knowledge tests - usually puns, quizzes or enigmas of the most undecipherable nature.Inability to cope with these tests would be evidence of the mental deficiency of the people of this or that country, and as a rule, military aggression would soon follow. On the other hand, if the people came out of the tests with flying colours, they would have nothing to fear.Once one such envoy came to the Court of Annam with a message from his Imperial Master demanding that a painter be found who would be able to draw an animal in the time taken for three beats of the torn torn, i.e. in less than five seconds in present-day measurement. All the best painters in the Kingdom were convened to the Court, but no one dared take upon himself this to all appearances impossible task.
Trang Quynh was then sent for.
- What? Wasting so much time drawing a mere animal? I'll draw ten - he exclaimed.
The test was to take place immediately. With a sheet of paper spread before him, Trang Quynh dipped his fingers into a bowl of ink and calmly waited. Three torn torn beats resounded. On the white sheet appeared ten worm-like winding lines.
What's that? - said the Imperial Envoy, flabbergasted.
Can't you see that it's ten dragons? -answered Trang Quynh with all the
seriousness in the world.

An Attempt to Poison the King or a Journey at the Expense of the Monarch

Trang Quynh was often in trouble, but he was always able to find a way out. One day, from his native province, he set out for the capital. The journey took several days, and was thus expensive. Trang Quynh had only enough money for two days' travelling. On the third day, as his money was exhausted, our hero found himself in a somewhat precarious situation. On the way, he met no one that he knew. And this is the trick that saved him. That night, instead of sleeping, he went out, and only returned very late and, hidden under his tunic, a package. The innkeeper, who was waiting for him, eyed him suspiciously.
- He must be a thief - said the man to himself -1 must watch him closely. Trang Quynh went up to his room, lit the oil lamp and began making parcels. The innkeeper, having promised himself that he would shadow him, didn't sleep either. Through a crack in the boards separating his room from Trang Quynh's, he spied on the latter.On each parcel the supposed malefactor was writing characters which he spelled out in a low voice, but distinctly enough so that an attentive ear might hear. And this is what the hotel keeper heard:
- Poison for the King and the Queen..., poison for Lord Trinh..., poison for His Highness, the King's younger brother... The innkeeper hurriedly left his observation post, and went out secretly. At daybreak, the house was surrounded by many guards armed with pikes, knives and sabres. Trang Quynh, who was still asleep, was violently shaken, and before he had time to open his eyes, he was firmly bound. He was thrown onto a cart and taken to the capital. In the office of the Minister of Justice, he was made to kneel down beside his redoubtable packets, and the interrogation began. - Thank you for the care with which I was surrounded during the whole journey - he said - Without the State taking charge of all the expenses, carrying me in a cart and seeing to my safety along the road, I should have died of starvation two days after leaving my native village. So saying, he undid the parcels and began joyfully munching the contents: some edible wild berries, which few people knew about. The bad joker was chased out, and he bowed low as he left.

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