TWENTY VIETNAMESE GODS AND GODDESSES

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Vietnam mapMAT GA TRONG – “Sun rooster”. The Vietnamese sun goddess. A daughter of Ngoc Hoang. Her sister is the moon goddess. The sun is her palanquin, adorned with rooster images, and carried across the sky by her attendants as she reclines on it and gives the world light and warmth. Seasonal changes in the length of the days and nights are explained by saying that in summer she is borne across the sky by virile young attendants who take their time because they like to flirt with the goddess on the way, resulting in longer days.

In winter she is borne across the sky by older attendants who hurry across the sky so they can rest their arms and backs all the sooner, resulting in shorter days. In summer her sister has the older attendants and in winter the younger ones. Her son is the Vietnamese fire god Ah Nhi.  

TRANG CHIM – “Moon Swan” – Vietnamese moon goddess. Like her sister the sun goddess she is a daughter of Ngoc Hoang. The moon is her palanquin, adorned with swan images and being borne across the sky by her attendants while she reclines on it, lighting the night. The same seasonal myth about longer nights in winter applies to her as well. In winter she is borne across the sky by young, virile attendants who take their time carrying her across the sky so they can flirt with her as they go.

In summer she is borne by the older attendants who want to rush through carrying their burden so they can rest, hence the shorter nights in summer. After half a year she and her sister switch attendants.  In other myths it is said the older bearers simply take their jobs more seriously and conscientiously complete their task quicky, while the younger attendants are depicted as dawdlers. 

CON GAU – “Bear” The Vietnamese bear god. He is the husband of both the sun goddess and the moon goddess. Solar and lunar eclipses are said to be caused by him having relations with his wives. The god is so amorous he would oink and boink indefinitely, blotting out all light from the world, starting the tradition of people making loud noises to help “kill  the mood” and drive the bear god away after a decent interval (no political joke intended).
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This is similar to myths in the Philippines where eclipses are said to be caused by giant creatures trying to devour the sun and the noises are made by the people to drive the monsters away and thereby save the sun.
 
HONG SAN – God of the “Red River” in northern Vietnam. A son or grandson of the sea god Long Vuong. The river is so named because Hong San was supposedly once accidentally impaled by a hook or spear of a fisherman and the wound bleeds perpetually, accounting for the crimson tinge of the waters.
    
AH NHI – The Vietnamese god of fire. The child of the sun goddess, he is often depicted holding a burning golden crow similar to the golden roosters that adorn his mother’s palanquin. In other myths this flaming crow is depicted as being large enough for Ah Nhi to ride on his journeys between the heavens and the Earth.
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Ah Nhi taught humanity the use of fire and how to strike stones together to generate sparks and then use dry twigs and leaves to build those sparks into a flame to cook food and provide warmth.
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KHONG LO – This god was the primordial giant who separated the sky and the Earth, setting up support columns to help support the sky similar to many other such deities in other pantheons. His breath is the wind and his voice the thunder. When he saw that the propping up of the sky had “taken” he broke off the uppermost portions of the support columns and transformed them into stars in the sky (or in some myths into various mountain peaks or islands). Where he had dug out the Earth to build the columns oceans were formed.

He set up the 4 Sacred Beasts to guard the 4 remnants of the columns here on Earth. Those remnants stood at each of the cardinal points: Long (dragon) guarded the base of the Eastern column, Lan (a mythical tiger/giraffe/saola/lizard  hybrid creature) guarded the Western column, Quy (a giant tortoise) guarded the Northern column and Phung (a giant bird) guarded the Southern column. A giant female deity named GIAT HAI formed out of the mist and clouds, and Khong Lo fell in love with her.     

GIAT HAI – The first goddess and the companion of the primordial god Khong Lo. Her tears of loneliness when she feared she was the only one who existed were the original source of the world’s oceans. When she came into being from the mists and the clouds Khong Lo fell in love with her and proposed marriage.
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She challenged him to a test of strength by grappling with him and defeated him because she was stronger. Khong Lo still wanted to marry her. She challenged him to see which of them could build a higher mountain in 3 days, again saying that if he could best her she would marry him. Her mountain peak surpassed his so she kicked his down, forming smaller hills. Khong Lo still wanted to marry her.
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She challenged him to dig a river-bed with his flail and fill the riverbed with water carried from the oceans all in 1 night while she slept. If he did she would marry him. Awakening just before the night was over Giat Hai saw that Khong Lo was about to succeed in his task so she imitated the crowing of a rooster to trick him into thinking it was morning already and time was up. Khong Lo was defeated again, but still wanted to marry Giat Hai.
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She told him if he could straighten what is now the Annamite mountain range in central Vietnam she would marry him (a myth claiming that the mountains were originally arranged haphazardly until Khong Lo straightened them out at Giat  Hai’s  command). He did so but Giat Hai kept adding more and more tasks for Khong Lo to complete and each task helped create the geographical features that exist in the world today.
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Finally, after countless tasks had been performed and the world was shaped to her liking, Giat Hai agreed to marry Khong Lo. Ironically, they had been having sexual relations this whole time, giving birth to the next generation of deities who had even provided the original couple with grandchildren by the time Giat Hai decided to marry her suitor. (Apparently Khong Lo had never heard the saying about not having to buy the cow if you’re getting the milk for free)
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All these new deities were invited to the wedding of Khong Lo and Giat Hai, so you have to love the concept of “Let’s have a big wedding so all our children and grandchildren can be there!” Some mythological accounts of these births are said to be encoded in the “crossing of the river” myth which features Khong Lo stretching his organ as a bridge over the river and Giat Hai “drying” the children under her skirts after they fall into the water. 
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The wedding was held at what is now Thien Cung Grotto, where in lieu of wedding photos, scenes of the divine wedding, which lasted 7 days and 7 nights, are said to be preserved in the oddly-shaped fossilized stone structures there.  This grotto is also said in some myths to be where the Earthly remnants of Khong Lo’s support columns are located. Even the high walls of the cave contain natural formations that are said to be scenes of the gods and ancient animals celebrating the wedding. In some myths the grotto is instead the site of the wedding of Au Co and Lac Long Quan.
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ONG LO – Vietnamese kitchen/hearth god or household god. At Tet, the Vietnamese New Year, he is said to be in the heavens reporting to Ngoc Hoang about the good and bad things that went on in each household throughout the year that just ended. The raucous Tet celebrations take place during that period when the Vietnamese were said to be free of the watching eyes of the hearth god while he was giving his report.
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One tale in Vietnamese myth implies that abundant offerings to Ong Lo can motivate him to protect wrongdoers from their rightful punishment. A man named Cuong Bao blasphemed by not performing the necessary rituals for his dead mother and thus was liable to punishment by the thunder god Thien Loi.
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Cuong Bao made ample offerings to Ong Lo, beseeching him to protect him. The hearth god obliged, not by withholding the blasphemous act from his report to Ngoc Hoang, but by instructing the man how to use Asian spinach and oil to disarm Thien Loi of the bronze axe intended to punish Cuong Bao. The blasphemer succeeded in this, so the infuriated thunder god ordered the rain god to flood Cuong Bao’s home.
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Ong Lo again protected the man by instructing him to build a raft before the flash-flood struck, and then interceded with Ngoc Hoang to get him to call off the rain god. Growing cocky, Cuong Bao neglected his worship of Ong Lo so the hearth god withdrew his protection and Thien Loi was free to strike the man down with lightning. I’ll be expanding this entry later to deal with how Ong Lo became a god and the original triple-entity he may have been derived from.
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TAN VIEN – (Also called  Son Tinh) God who lives on the mountain that bears his name. One of the 4 main deities in the Vietnamese pantheon (often called “The 4 Immortals”) along with the goddess Lieu Hanh and the gods Chu Dong Tu and Phu Dong village’s Thanh Giong.  
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In addition to being considered the guardian of the mountain which is his home, Tan Vien is considered a god of hunting and  the jungle with all its gifts including wood from trees, fruits, leaves and roots with medicinal and other purposes (in this aspect of his nature he’s sort of a Vietnamese version of the Polynesian god Kane/Tane) plus all the animals of the jungles. Not just game animals either but also elephants, rhinoceri, etc.
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The tiger is especially important to him and the tiger-god is even part of his retinue. Tan Vien has a staff (given to him by Ngoc Hoang’s messenger-god Ly Tinh) that enables him to kill or to heal and raise from the dead, depending on which end of the staff he points at the humans or animals the staff affects.
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In some myths he is said to have been one of the 50 sons who went with Au Co to live on the mountain. It is also often said that he lives there with the other 49 sons and their families as well as Au Co herself.
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The aforementioned tiger god is CHUA CON HO – “Lord Tiger” He is completely devoted to his master, the god Tan Vien. The black stripes on the predatory felines he rules over are said to be the result of a mythic clash between him and the fire god Ah Nhi with the stripes being the permanent burn marks suffered in the conflict.   
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THUY TINH – The Vietnamese god of the monsoon rains. One of the deities of the dragon bloodline, and that is why he has elemental powers over rains. In Vietnamese myth dragons and gods of the dragon bloodline are often conceptualized as being shepherds – or in the case of their dragon forms, sheepdogs – of the clouds that bring rain, herding them from place to place like shepherds and their dogs with their sheep and that is why some of them rule over the rains during different times of the year as well as ruling over the seas, oceans, lakes and rivers.
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In some myths this deity is said to have been one of the 50 sons who stayed near and/or in the sea with Lac Long Quan when he and Au Co separated.
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Thuy Tinh is one of the main characters in the Vietnamese epic myth A War Between Gods, in which he battles with the god of Tan Vien Mountain over Princess Mi Nuong, daughter of Hung Vuong XVIII, last ruler of the legendary (and probably non-existent) Hung Vuong Dynasty. This myth is fascinating and contains elements of Hindu, Malagassy and Philippine mythology in addition to the native Vietnamese elements.
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THIEN LOI – Vietnamese thunder god. Ngoc Hoang appointed him as the Divine Judge and put him in charge of punishing criminals, blasphemers, and the seriously immoral. He was also in charge of striking down all those predestined to be struck by lightning, be they human or animal. He also often destroyed the spirits of slain monsters who continued their wrongdoing on the astral plane, like the spirits of the monsters slain by the god Thach Sanh, who continued plaguing that deity after he slew them.
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The sound of thunder is caused by the gong-like drums that Thien Loi wears as ornaments on his body. His weapons are two axes, a bronze one to kill humans and a stone one to kill animals and demons. It was believed that three months and ten days after lightning struck the ground mini versions of Thien Loi’s axes would grow from the soil at the site of the lightning strike.
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Sorcerors would dig up those mini- axes and sell them to people to wear as talismans against lightning strikes or would use the axes themselves to fight off demons and  illnesses. Thien Loi is depicted with the head and feet of a rooster, a deformity he carries as a punishment from Ngoc Hoang for displeasing him in some way. (accounts vary)
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This god’s wife is BA SET, the goddess of lightning. She produces the lightning axes with which he strikes down blasphemers, criminals and the seriously immoral as well as everyone destined to be struck by lightning.
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THIEN YA NA – In some myths she is the wife of Ngoc Hoang, the king of the Vietnamese deities. Eventually many aspects of her worship were assumed by her daughter, the goddess Lieu Hanh, who is one of the 4 major deities of the Vietnamese pantheon (Often called The Four Immortals) and the one whose worship is still most widespread today, despite the official disapproval of the current Vietnamese government.
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One of the few myths in which Thien Ya Na has not been replaced by Lieu Hahn involves dulling the face of her daughter Trang Chim, the moon goddess. When her daughters the sun and moon goddesses were infants they were already being carried across the sky in their palanquins by their attendants. (Talk about spoiled children!)
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Both goddesses gave off the same amount of heat and light so the Earth was growing far too hot. Plants and animals were dying in the sweltering heat so Thien Ya Na, who daily bathed the sun and moon goddesses after their respective journeys across the sky,  devised a solution.
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When bathing the moon goddess she smeared a substance (sometimes mud, sometimes ceremonial makeup, but mostly said to be ashes) on Trang Chim’s face to dull her radiance. That is why the moon is less hot and bright than the sun. I have never found a reason given for how she chose which daughter  to do this to.
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SONG TRUONG – “Tide Prince” A son of the chief sea deity Long Vuong. Song Truong is in charge of the tides and is the deity Long Vuong would have part the waves of the sea when he wanted Song Truong to escort a guest to his undersea palace. This parting of the waves would allow the invitee to simply walk along with Song Truong to their destination. The most famous guest thus escorted was the master carpenter who oversaw the construction of Long Vuong’s palace.
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LONG VUONG – The Vietnamese deity who rules over the seas and is the patriarch of all the deities of the dragon bloodline as his brother Ngoc Hoang is patriarch of all the deities of the heavenly bloodline.  Long  Vuong is the father of Lac Long Quan. Ngoc Hoang appointed Long Vuong to his position and Long Vuong, like his oldest brother, seldom leaves his palace.
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This magnificent palace rises from the bottom of a deep sea pit. One myth tells how the sea deity had his messengers bring an exceptionally talented human carpenter to oversee the construction of this palace when the world was young.
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They brought this carpenter to their master’s court when Song Truong, the tide prince, parted the waters so the man could simply walk with them to Long Vuong’s realm. When the palace was completed the sea god rewarded the carpenter with a fortune in pearls.
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Long Vuong is as celebrated for his generosity as Ngoc Hoang is for his draconian punishments. Much of his largesse is extended toward figures who save various members of his extended family who are always getting into foolish predicaments.
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Two notable examples are the magic lute he gives to the god Thach Sanh for saving one of his sons and the book that materializes any object the reader desires that he gives to the god Tan Vien for saving his grandson Thuy Tinh. There is great confusion and/ or overlap between the subaquatic realm and the land of the dead in  Vietnamese myth for reasons I’ll explain in the near future. For now here are additional prominent myths involving Long Vuong:
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*****A very strong diver once held his breath long enough to swim down to Long Vuong’s castle. He would have drowned since he did not have strength enough to hold his breath all the way back to the surface, but the sea god was so impressed with his audacity that he gave him a rhinoceros horn to hold. (In many Vietnamese myths holding a rhinoceros horn either lets the holder breathe water or surrounds them with an air bubble depending on the story)
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He also gave the diver a tour of his kingdom before sending him back to the surface with a warning to never reveal what he saw of Long Vuong’s undersea kingdom. As people always do in such myths he foolishly disregarded the warning and told his wife. He then died immediately, vomiting blood 
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*****In the 1400s CE one of Long Vuong’s children, who was the god of a river, demanded that King Le Thanh-tong offer his favorite woman to this river god for a wife as a condition of that god ceasing his attacks on river commerce ships. The King did so, but prayed (or had his priests pray, depending on the version) to Long Vuong for justice. Long Vuong sent other sea-deities to punish the guilty river-god and forced him to return the woman to King Le Thanh-tong
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*****Long Vuong once removed one of his slippers and gave it to his son Lac Long Quan. When placed in the water this slipper would grow into a ship. This is where Lac Long Quan supposedly got the ship he sailed to lure out the Chiao sea monster.
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LIEU HANH – A daughter of Ngoc Hoang. She was said to have broken a teacup of her father’s and as punishment was forced to incarnate in human form as her brother Thach Sanh had been forced earlier. The various stories of Lieu Hanh’s adventures in her demigoddess form and following her return to the heavens are legion and comprise the largest and most significant body in the Vietnamese pantheon.
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She is the goddess of women in the work place (I’ll explain why soon) and has elements of love, mother and beauty goddesses from around the world. Often she is posing in human form (usually an innkeeper, tavern keeper or, for variety, a beautiful flutist roaming in secluded, picturesque spots)  and men will try to force themselves on her but she punishes them with her divine powers. An uglier story is the typical  “outraged deity acts like a jerk” myth in which a temple of hers was closed down so she caused a plague in the area until it was reopened.
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The transformation of the myths surrounding her is fascinating to me because most of the evolution took place in the period of written history, so it is easy to follow each change in its historical context, unlike with many other deities from around the world where the changes often took place during pre-recorded history and we are left to simply speculate on them.
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Lieu Hanh is one of the 4 major deities in Vietnamese mythology (often called The Four Immortals) and elements of her worship remain widespread throughout Vietnam despite the official disapproval of the current government, which tolerates the “cultural” aspect of the myths but frowns on the obvious belief many still have in her.
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LAC LONG QUAN – A combination of a Vietnamese Hercules and a founder-hero, Lac Long Quan in some myths is said to be the son of a red demon deity and of a sea deity (which may just be a result of the way the land of the dead and the undersea world are often confused and/or overlap in Vietnamese mythology). He often protected the ancient equivalents of the Vietnamese people on the Hong River Plain.
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In some myths he stays in human form to battle the creatures who menace them, in others he transforms into a flying sea-dragon to fight them. (If Vietnam ever wants to get into the Kaiju movie business they should do films of Lac Long Quan assuming giant dragon-form and kicking monster butt. It could be a combination of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Ultra Man)
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Among the monsters he battled for their sake were:
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a giant sea-beast (in some myths a giant carp) which he supposedly defeated by plunging hot rocks or metal into the beast’s mouth (similar to many Philippine myths) and then tearing it to pieces, with parts of its body becoming various small islands and other landmarks
a giant 9-tailed fox (in Japanese and Korean myths foxes are usually evil as well, except in their role as familiars of the Shinto rice god Inari) which was feeding on children. Lac Long Quan slew it in a battle that is often described in the usual over-the-top way for mythology as having lasted days or months 
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a giant tree-monster of some sort, at times described as multiple trees and at others as an enormous tree-beast whose branches are used like tentacles to sieze and devour victims. This battle supposedly lasted 100 days according to some myths
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a large Chinese man-beast with snakes for arms and two more snakes emerging from his ears to strike at the unwary before withdrawing back into the ear canal
a one hundred-foot long sea serpent called the Chiao. A myth states that the depradations of this beast (who is usually associated with the Chinese) were the reason Vietnamese fishers and divers began their custom of wearing large tattoos on their bodies in the belief that the dragons tattooed on their forms would frighten the Chiao away.
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This red-crested beast would capsize and sink ships to devour the men and ravish the women. (If he’s a hundred feet long how would that work exactly?)  Lac Long Quan took out a ship crewed only by himself (a formidable feat right there, but he is a god after all) and after the Chiao capsized it he allowed  it to swallow him and then sliced the creature apart from the inside. In some versions this is the first monster Lac Long Quan destroys.
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eventually he saved the goddess Au Co who had flown down from the heavens (remember I go by the more inherently Vietnamese versions when there are conflicting accounts) and was attacked by a giant black vulture who flew off with her in his claws. After bringing  the  creature  down and freeing Au Co from its clutches, Lac Long Quan continued battling the beast, who now transformed into a giant tiger (?) and killed it
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For the whole myth of Au Co and Lac Long Quan going on to be parents of all the subsequent Vietnamese people, read the Au Co entry up next.
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AU CO – Daughter or grand-daughter of Ngoc Hoang. The Lac birds, one of the national animals of Vietnam, were sacred to her and were often her messengers.  Once Au Co and some of her sister-goddesses from the  heavens flew down to the Earth to dance and play. They froliced for awhile and appreciated the smell of the air, the feel of the grass and soil, etc.
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Au Co at length wondered if the soil tasted as good as it smelled and tasted some of it. The other goddesses were immediately alarmed because they knew that once a deity of the heavens tastes of the Earth they cannot return to the heavens. (No, I don’t know why Au Co didn’t know that)
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The other goddesses stayed with Au Co as long as they could before, weeping, they flew back to their home in the sky. Au Co, no matter how hard she tried, could no longer fly and eventually began roaming the Earth to become familiar with her new home.
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This was when she was attacked by the giant vulture, prompting Lac Long Quan to come to her assistance. The two fell in love, and as he was a deity of the dragon bloodline and she was a deity of the sky bloodline they were considered fit mates for each other and so they married. Au Co is credited with establishing the traditional gifts of salt and sweet rice at Vietnamese weddings.
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After a year (in some myths) Au Co gave birth to a hundred eggs which after another year (your version may vary) hatched, producing a hundred male deities. (Reminds me of Korean mythology in which many gods are said to have hatched out of eggs) These gods intermarried with many of the mortal women of ancient Vietnam and are the sources of the traditional 100 surnames of the Vietnamese people.
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Eventually Au Co’s longing for the heavenly home she could never return to made her want to live in the mountains since the highest peaks were the closest she could get to the skies that were denied to her. Lac Long Quan, being of the dragon bloodline, was as much at home in the sea as on land, and couldn’t bear to be away from the waters where his family lived.
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After many arguments the 2 agreed to go their separate ways. They  established the ancient ceremony of divorce (something like Izanami and Izanagi do in Shinto mythology when  they separate, but without the death threats) and parted, with 50 of their children going to live in the mountains with their mother and the other 50 remaining near the sea with their father.
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In some versions the 50 who remained with Lac Long Quan also accepted mortality while the ones who left with Au Co remained immortal. All versions agree, however, that one of the 50 who remained by the sea was Hung Vuong I, the legendary 1st monarch of the Hung Vuong Dynasty, a line of royals now believed to be as mythical as the Batembuzi and Bachwezi Dynasties in Bunyoro mythology.
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THAN GIONG – Vietnamese god of war and 1 of the 4 main deities in their mythology (often called The Four Immortals). The mother of Than Giong once fell into one of the enormous footprints left from long ago by Khong Lo, the primordial giant. She thereby became pregnant (you know mythology!) and gave birth to a baby who was always silent and unmoving for the 1st several years of his life. At length during an invasion by China the reigning member of the Hung Vuong Dynasty sent messengers around the kingdom asking for any help that could be given against the invaders.
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The baby spoke for the first time, telling his parents to bring the messenger in their village, Phu Dong Village , to him. He was brought and the baby identified himself as a god who would repel the invasion. Because the child talked like an adult the messenger and the villagers believed him. The messenger went to tell the reigning Hung Vuong, while Than Giong’s parents and the other villagers obeyed the child’s instructions to bring him all the food they could find. Over the next days the child consumed enormous quantities of rice, pork, beef, fish and vegetables, growing and growing all the while.
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In later versions of the myth he simultaneously has the entire kingdom scoured for iron so the ironworkers can labor night and day to forge a giant suit of armor, a giant sword (or lance) and a giant iron horse for him to ride. When Than Giong had reached enormous size he donned the armor, took up the weapon and sat astride the enormous iron horse. Instantly the horse came to life, breathing fire,  and the 2 rode off to face the invading Chinese army.  On the way the giant iron horse’s fiery breath burned some bamboo and the myth says that is the origin of white bamboo. In some versions the horse’s fiery breath accidentally destroys a Vietnamese village during a battle with Chinese troops.
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At the head of the Vietnamese army the gigantic Than Giong with his iron weapon and his horse’s fiery breath wreaked havoc on the Chinese army, slashing, crushing and burning their troops. When the invasion had been expelled and the war was over Than Giong rode his giant horse up the side of Soc Mountain from the peak of which he and his horse flew up to the heavens to live with the other sky-dwelling deities.
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The horse’s giant hoofprints are said to have been the origin of the series of small lakes near Soc Mountain. Various markings on the side of the mountain are also said to be caused by the horse’s hooves. In some versions of the myth the ancient Vietnamese did not know anything about ironworking until the events in this story and in addition to being a god of war Than Giong is also the god of ironworking. This myth is much older than the Iron Age and in the next paragraph I’ll detail the pre-Iron Age version of the story. 
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The pre-Iron Age version of the myth of Than Giong of Phu Dong Village starts out the same, the “impregnation by footprint” bit, the child who neither moves nor speaks until the emissaries of the current Hung Vuong ruler arrive in Phu Dong Village with a call to arms against the invading Chinese army, etc. However, in this version when Thanh Giong devours the food over the course of days he simply grows to the size of a normal (albeit tall) man, arms himself with contemporary weapons and implements and goes out to kick Chinese butt.
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This version of the story emphasizes the atrocities of the invading army, particularly a sick game they are playing with Vietnamese captives: The Chinese soldiers came across a life-sized stone sculpture of a riderless horse near Phu Dong Village. One by one they have  their helpless captives sit on the horse, telling each one that if he can get the horse to give him a ride they will not be killed.
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Naturally none of them have been able to and suffer the consequences (beheading), until Than Giong arrives on the scene, accepts the challenge, and when he sits on the horse it immediately comes to life. He then slaughters the Chinese troops who were playing the cruel game and , astride the stone horse, leads the Vietnamese against the Chinese army, eventually driving them out.
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In later versions of the story the stone horse comes to life when Than Giong sits on it and then he and the horse both grow to enormous size, and on  and on with subtle changes here and there until  the myth  evolved into the version I listed in the opening of this entry. All versions ended with Than Giong and his horse flying up to the heavens when the invading Chinese are driven out.
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CHU DONG TU – Culture deity and sort of a god of “good government”  (Don’t  laugh- the Chinese had a god of civil service exams! I’m serious.)  and civilization. One of the 4 main deities (often called “The 4 Immortals”)  of the Vietnamese pantheon. As with the goddess Lieu Hanh and the war god Than Giong of Phu Dong village my entry on Chu Dong Tu will be expanding on a regular basis because of the wealth of info to impart.
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Here is the general outline of his mythic cycle: Chu Dong Tu was said to be the son of a god and a very poor mortal woman. An interesting aspect of many Far Eastern belief systems is the fact that they don’t always feel the need to name a specific god as the father of a demi-god. It’s just taken for granted that gods often have sexual relations with mortal women, even if they’re married, and have children with them. (In Philippine myths the gods for some reason consider Earth-women to be more beautiful than the women of Skyland, home of the gods in many Philippine myths)
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Anyway, Chu Dong Tu’s mother dies and he and his foster father continue to live in poverty since Chu Dong Tu is not yet aware of his godly heritage. One day their modest hut burned down and they lost all their meager possessions except for a ragged loincloth which they now had to share between them, with the naked one staying in the jungle while the one wearing the loincloth would fish and/or take the fish to market. (Sounds like the premise of a wacky new sitcom. “Two men. One loincloth. Hilarity ensues!” A synopsis for one episode could read “Dad needs the loincloth for an important business meeting the same night Junior has a hot date planned.”)
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Chu Dong Tu’s foster-father at length became deathly ill. As he lay dying, the father told Chu Dong Tu to keep the loincloth for himself to wear and not to bury him in it just because it would be disrespectful to bury someone naked. Chu Dong Tu was too noble to do this and buried the man in their lone article of clothing. Since he now had nothing to wear Chu Dong Tu would hide from most people and even when selling the fish he caught he would hide his nakedness by standing in the water up to his waist and sell them to people passing by in boats. 
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One day the yacht of Princess Tien Dung, daughter of Hung Vuong IV, cast anchor near where Chu Dong Tu was digging up bait worms because the Princess wanted to swim. Seeing activity, Chu Dong Tu buried himself in the sandy beach to hide his nakedness. While swimming, the princess accidentally uncovered Chu Dong Tu’s hiding place.Demanding an explanation, Tien Dung was so touched by the selfless reason that Chu Dong Tu had been reduced to nakedness that she fell in love with him. (In later, Taoist-influenced versions of the myth she sees the mark of Tao on his forehead and realizes this means he is a potentially great man since the Taoist versions downplay godly elements) She had him brought onto her boat, clothed and fed and told him they would marry.
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Hung Vuong IV was outraged at the thought of his daughter marrying some commoner she had met in such a scandalous way and disowned her. Chu Dong Tu and his new bride were now both poor (albeit clothed) and took to wandering. Chu Dong Tu had a walking stick, a hat to protect him from the sun and a bowl for begging and eating out of.
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One night while trying to sleep in the marshland that their wandering had led them to, Chu Dong Tu planted his walking stick in the ground to keep it upright and hung his hat on top of it. His godly powers now manifested themselves and as he and his wife slept, his walking stick and hat had grown into a marvelous city in the marshland overnight. (In some versions the bowl also formed part of the city, usually a wall around it)
*
It was at this point that Ly Tinh, the messenger-god of Ngoc Hoang, was sent to Chu Dong Tu to explain his divine heritage and his Earthly mission. Chu Dong Tu and his wife now ruled from the city (called Ha Loa in some versions) which attracted the poor and needy as its inhabitants and where Chu Dong Tu ruled in an enlightened way, establishing laws, teaching the people about agriculture, (yes, like in other pantheons Vietnamese myths have more than one deity credited with introducing agriculture to humans) and about feats of engineering, astronomy, medicine, irrigation etc.
*
In the Taoist versions, where gods and goddesses are de-emphasized we are told that Chu Dong Tu and the princess were just very good at business and simply built a market and subsequent settlement out of hard work and ingenuity. Plus the walking-stick, sunhat and beggar’s bowl are the 3 traditional implements of wandering Taoist priests. This marvelous kingdom in the middle of what used to be useless marshland became so renowned that eventually Hung Vuong IV grew very jealous of it as more and more of his subjects were migrating there to live under the more enlightened rule of Chu Dong Tu.
*
He ordered his armies to raze the city to the ground and so his troops went forth to carry out his orders.  The general (or in some versions Hung Vuong IV himself) surrounded the city and called on the inhabitants to surrender and evacuate or else they would be destroyed along with the doomed city. Chu Dong Tu, Tien Dung and their subjects refused to surrender or evacuate and since the city had no army or weapons could not deploy an army of their own. The citizens called on Chu Dong Tu to use his godly powers to strike down the surrounding army but Tien Dung was horrified at the thought of her husband destroying her father’s army and/or her father himself.
*
The army’s attack was scheduled to start at dawn, so overnight, while the army slept (Didn’t they post guards?) Chu Dong Tu used his powers to simply spirit the city in its entirety off to the heavens, inhabitants and all, leaving just a lake (or in some versions the original marshland) in its place. Realizing that his son-in-law must have been a god and not the commoner he believed, Hung Vuong IV felt remorse at his actions and adopted the more enlightened elements of the high civilization embodied by Chu Dong Tu’s city.
*

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. He is also in charge of each god and human’s destiny.

While his father 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.

Ngoc Hoang 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.   

 For the second page of Vietnamese myths click here: https://glitternight.com/vietnamese-myth-2/ 
Source books for the above composites:
Asian Mythology
Original Myths Of Vietnam
Dust-Covered Wonders
An Introduction To Vietnamese Literature
The Birth Of Vietnam
A Taste Of Earth
The Dragon Prince
Two Cakes Fit For A King
Essays Into Vietnamese Pasts
Asian Mythologies
The Golden Carp
Mythology And Folklore In Southeast Asia
Cult, Culture And Authority
World Myths And Legends: Southeast Asia
Folk Stories Of The Hmong
Vietnamese Legends
Asian-Pacific Folktales And Legends
Beyond The East Wind: Legends And Folktales Of Vietnam
Goddess Rising
Ten Centuries Of Vietnamese Poetry
Strange Stories Picked Up In Lingnan 

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© Edward Wozniak and Balladeer’s Blog, 2010 and 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Edward Wozniak and Balladeer’s Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

22 Comments

Filed under Mythology

22 responses to “TWENTY VIETNAMESE GODS AND GODDESSES

  1. Delia

    Always interesting takes on international myths!

  2. Stella

    Some of these are so detailed! Wonderful!

  3. Zura

    Hi there, I enjoy reading all of your myth articles. I wanted to write a little comment to support you.|

  4. Rashad

    I can see a lot of the Chinese influence in those myths.

  5. Mike Wellman

    That war god myth was my favorite!

  6. Gilda

    These are so fascinating! I love learning about new gods.

  7. Luetta

    Ngoc Hoang is very Chinese influenced.

  8. Wallace

    I am now in love with this pantheon!

  9. Thelma

    Your the only man I know who does goddesses right.

  10. Belinda

    Lieu Hanh is my favorite!

  11. Verena

    Amazing look at these gods and goddesses!

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