NGOC HOANG – The Vietnamese equivalent of the Jade Emperor in Chinese mythology. Said in some myths to be the eldest child of Khong Lo and Giat Hai. His actual name is sometimes presented as Ong Troi, though his fellow deities and High Priests are permitted to address him as Thuong De. (But everyone knew him as Nancy for you Beatles fans)
He rules over the Vietnamese pantheon and the heavenly home of the gods – the 18th Heaven above the 18th Heaven (aka the 36th Heaven). He is also in charge of each god and human’s destiny.
While his father Khong Lo was creating the geographical features of the Earth to try to convince Giat Hai to marry him, Ngoc Hoang was creating the animals of the Earth and when he created people, the Twelve Heavenly Midwives (more children of Khong Lo and Giat Hai in some myths) sculpted the faces, as they do today, and these celestial artists take such pride in their work that is why everyone looks different.
He was also noted for meting out strict punishments when subordinate gods displeased him. Here are some of what I like to call “Don’t Mess With Ngoc Hoang” Myths:
***** Originally Ngoc Hoang wanted human beings to live forever by shedding their skins and rejuvenating themselves when they reached old age. He dispatched the god Thu Rep to the Earth to teach humanity how to do this. By mischance along his way, Thu Rep found himself surrounded by deadly snakes, who intimidated the cowardly deity into teaching the secret of rejuvenation by skin-shedding to them instead of to human beings.
When Ngoc Hoang learned how Thu Rep had cost people their chance at immortality he exiled him from the heavens and transformed him into the insects called Dung Beetles as punishment
*****Ngoc Hoang had assigned a deity named Chuot Nhat to guard over the Heavenly granary of the gods, where they stored their grain that grew as large as trees. This god took advantage of his position to steal more of the grain than what he would otherwise be entitled to. As punishment Ngoc Hoang exiled him to the Earth and transformed him into the animals called mice, condemning them to forever be surreptitiously trying to steal grain and other foods from people just to survive
*****When the world was young, Ngoc Hoang wanted food to be plentiful for human beings, his prized creation, and sent a god named Con Trau down to the Earth to make rice grow plentifully but grass and weeds to grow only sparsely. Con Trau got his instructions backwards, causing grass and weeds to grow plentifully, but rice to be so comparatively rare it is precious and must be carefully cultivated.
Annoyed at another of his boneheaded subordinates for screwing up a simple assignment (Hey, Ngoc Hoang, why not get up off your Celestial Butt and take care of these things yourself for once?) Ngoc Hoang punished him by exiling him to Earth (How did you guess?) and transforming him into the animals called buffaloes, which must live by eating the grass Con Trau made so plentiful and must be used as beasts of burden by the ancient equivalents of the Vietnamese people
*****Once the thunder god Thien Loi displeased Ngoc Hoang (accounts vary as to how) who punished the thunder god by reducing him to a slab of two-eyed raw flesh that was continuously and painfully pecked at by a celestial rooster. The flesh that was pecked away would grow back only to be pecked at again.
Eventually, Ngoc Hoang relented and restored most of Thien Loi’s true form, but leaving him with the head and feet of a rooster to remind him of his transgression. This is the source of the Vietnamese folk belief that thunder can be driven away by clucking like a rooster, since it frightens the thunder god into believing the celestial rooster is coming back to peck at him again and drives him away. (Other versions say the noises are made to ridicule Thien Loi and the embarrassment drives him away)
*****Around the 10th Century C.E. a myth states that Ngoc Hoang wanted another of his children to incarnate on Earth by being born as a human, like the goddess Lieu Hanh and the god Thac Sanh had previously been forced to do.
Trai Bang Vang, the son Ngoc Hoang had designated for this, was reluctant to leave his heavenly home to do so, prompting Ngoc Hoang to angrily strike him on the forehead with one of his jeweled implements, scarring Trai Bang Vang’s forehead. When Trai Bang Vang complied with his fathers’ wishes, the baby he incarnated as was born with that scar on his forehead.
This child grew up to be the founder of the Le Dynasty in what is now Vietnam before dying and returning to the heavens like his sister Lieu Hanh before him
*****In the primordial past, a giant banyan tree grew all the way to the Eighteenth Heaven Above The Eighteenth Heaven, serving as a sky-ladder so that human beings could climb up and seek audiences with Ngoc Hoang in person. (In some myths the sky-ladder is a mountain instead of a banyan tree)
As people grew more and more mean-spirited and greedy in nature they were taking up more and more of Ngoc Hoang’s time with their complaints about each other and their requests for favors from the supreme deity. Growing impatient with all this, Ngoc Hoang struck down the top of the sky-ladder to prevent humans from being able to ascend to the home of the gods anymore.
He ordered them to build temples to facilitate communication with the divine realm and established priests to oversee the worship of the gods. He ordered two gods to guard the stump of the giant banyan tree and to prevent it from re-growing. As the ages went by the stump became a mountain with the two gods still guarding the top of it.
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