Vietnamese Culture
                        Copyright 1998 Tran Thong

Issue 34. The hundred knot bamboo

Please direct all questions to trant@alumni.princeton.edu
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Issue #1:  Tet 1971 in Vietnam! by Phu Si, VB710118
Issue #2:  The Unicorn dance at Tet, by Minh Tam, VB710118.
Issue #3:  The origin of Tao Quan, the three kitchen gods, by
           George F. Schultz, VB710118.
Issue #4:  1971 - The year of the Pig, by Van Ngan, VB710118.
Issue #5   The Joy of "first writing of the new year", by Thuy Ngoc,
           VB710208.
Issue #6:  Traditional Vietnamese male attire, by Van Ngan, VB710208
Issue #7:  The legend of Princess Lieu Hanh, George F. Schultz, VB710215 
Issue #8:  The dialogue on Mount Na-Son, George F. Schultz, VB710222
Issue #9:  The secret housewife, George F. Schultz, VB710301
Issue #10: The golden axe, George F. Schultz, VB710308
Issue #11: Golden age of Viet Nam under the Hung Kings, Pham Tung, 
           TAS720506.
Issue #12: The legend of Chu Van Dich, George F Schutlz, VB701221
Issue #13: The sandalwood maiden, George F. Schultz, VB7010??
Issue #14: Legend about Emperor Ly Thai-To, George F Schultz, VB7010??
Issue #15. Chu Dong-Tu and Princess Tien Dung, George F. Schultz,
           VB701005
Issue #16. The husband's most difficult task: teaching his wife, 
           Van Ngan, VB 691216
Issue #17: Superstition in Viet Nam, Van Ngan, VB6911?? - May 8, 1996.
Issue #18: Hair: VN style, VB7007?? - May 15, 1996
Issue #19: Funeral rites in Viet-Nam, Van Ngan, VB7006?? - May 22, 1996.
Issue #20: "Non Bai Tho" or the "Poetical Leaf", ???, VB7011??.
Issue #21: The different systems of writings in Viet-Nam, ???, VB710201.
Issue #22: Vietnamese literature in "Chu Nom", ???, VB710201.
Issue #23: The boat of illusion, Nguyet Cam, Heritage Sept/Oct 1995.
Issue #24: Tran Hung Dao's proclamation to his officers, 
           George F. Schultz, VB 710201.
Issue #25: The refined pleasure of tea-drinking, Tuong Minh, The 
           Saigon Times Weekly, No. 238.
Issue #26: The hero of Phu Dong, ADT
Issue #27: The genie of Ta?n Vie^n, ADT
Issue #28: The magic crossbow, ADT
Issue #29: The legend of tra^`u cau, ADT
Issue #30: Tu+` Thu+'c and Gia'ng Hu+o+ng , ADT
Issue #31: Tru+o+ng's wife, ADT
Issue #32: The legend of ba'nh chu+ng, ba'nh da^`y and the watermelon.
Issue #33: Vietnamese folk songs: tha(`ng bo+`m, ???, VB710201.
Issue #34: The hundred knot bamboo
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                The hundred knot bamboo

There was a rich devious landowner who used all kind of tricks to exploit 
his servants and laborers. He had a beautiful nubile daughter . Khoai 
lived as a servant in this household from the time he was a young boy. He 
had to work very hard. He is now in his late teens. The landowner was 
afraid that Khoai will leave the household and thus he would lose a very 
hard working helper. So, one day he called Khoai and told him:

"If you stayed in the household and work hard day and night, I will give 
you my daughter in marriage"

Khoai believed the landowner and was very happy. He redoubled his efforts 
to win the heart of the landowner. Three years have passed. The daughter 
is now grown. In the region, there is this very wealthy village chief, 
who eyed the daughter for his son. So, the village chief came and ask for 
the hand of the daughter.  The landowner agreed and set out to prepare 
for the wedding.

When Khoai realized that he has been taken advantage of, he was mad and 
went to the landowner to complain. He asked the landowner:

"You have promised your daughter to me. Why are you going back on your 
promise now?"

The landowner did not like to be addressed in such a manner. He was going 
to beat him, but taking another look at the young man, he dared not. He 
told him instead:

"My son, you are mistaken! My daughter is now of age and the preparation 
for the wedding that I am undertaking now is actually for you. However, 
if you want the wedding to take place, you must accomplish the following 
task. You need to find a bamboo with one hundred knots. Then you will 
need to cut it up into chopsticks for the wedding feast. That is my 
condition for giving you my daughter's hand in marriage."

Khoai again believed him and went up the forest in search of the bamboo 
with 100 knots. He searched for days on end and went from one end of the 
jungle to the other without success. In despair he sat down in the jungle 
and wept in despair.

Suddenly he saw an old cheery man with all white hair but with rosy 
complexion. The old man approached him and asked:

"Son, why are you so sad?'.

Khoai told him his story. The old man told him:

"Go and cut 100 stems of bamboo and bring them back here".

Khoai went out and brought back the bamboo that the old man asked. The 
old man then gave the command

"Stick together! Stick together" (Kha('c nha^.p)

The bamboo sticks that were lying here and there on the ground 
immediately came together all in a row to make a bamboo with 100 knots. 
Khoai was filled with joy. He wanted to thank the old man, but he has 
disappeared. He realized that he has met Buddha. He set out to bring the 
bamboo back. But there was no way for him to load this long bamboo on his 
shoulder. He kept on running into other trees. He sat down again in 
despair and wept. Immediately he saw the old man reappear. Buddha asked 
him:

"Why do you weep?"

He explained his situation. Buddha pointed at the bamboo and said

"unstick! unstick!" (Kha('c xua^'t).

and the bamboo came apart in 100 stems. And Buddha disappeared. Khoai 
tied up the 100 bamboo stems and proceeded to take them home.

When he arrived home, he found the two families preparing to feast in the 
courtyard. The village chief family has come for the wedding. Khoai was 
really mad and ran to the landowner to ask for an explanation. The 
landowner told him

"I asked you to get me a bamboo with 100 knots, not 100 stems of bamboo!"

Both family stopped their feasts and laughed derisively at Khoai, and 
joked about his naivety. Khoai told the landowner that he has the bamboo 
and the courtyard and the landowner should come out and examine it. As 
the landowner approached the pile of bamboo, Khoai said in a low voice 
"stick together! stick together!". Immediately the bamboo stems came 
together and the landowner was also stuck at the end of the bamboo. The 
landowner tried to pull himself away but failed. The future in-laws came 
to his rescue. Khoai waited until the village chief has touched the 
landowner before he said "stick together! stick together!". Immediately 
the village chief became stuck to the landowner. The same fate happened 
to the village chief's son. The more they tried to pull away, the harder 
and more painful they became stuck. Both families were now in panic. 
Nobody dared to pull the three men away any longer nor joked about Khoai. 
They lined up and asked him to pardon the 3 men stuck at the end of the 
bamboo.

Khoai had the landowner promise his daughter to him and the village chief 
has to agree not to seek vengeance. Then Khoai said "unstick! unstick!" 
and they all became free.

The village chief and his party quickly left the festivities. And Khoai 
moved into the bridegroom chair and the celebration continued!

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