Years ago, Emperor Hung Vuong had many sons. Some pursued literary careers.
Others excelled in martial arts. However, the youngest prince,
named Tiet Lieu, loved neither. Instead, he and his wife and
their children loved the countryside, where they lived and farmed
At the end
of one year, Emperor Hung Vuong met with all his sons and announced
that whomever among the princes that brought him the most special
and unusual food would inherit the throne.
In response to the emperorís wish, some princes went to the mountains.
With the help of the local people, they searched for very rare
fruits and special grain foods.
sailed out to the open sea, trying to catch fish, lobsters and
other much-loved seafoods. With these special food sources, they
planned to cook tasty dishes to please the emperor.
went to the jungle to hunt. They set traps to catch birds and
other wild animals.†These meats were taken home to be prepared
into the most palatable dishes.
In his search,
prince Tiet Lieu went back to the countryside. He saw that the
rice in his paddies was ripe and ready to be harvested. Walking
by a fertile rice field, he picked some golden grains on a long
stalk and smelled their delicate aroma.
went home with the rice stalk and told his wife that since they
were farmers living off the land, they should not look anywhere
else for the gifts. He said the use of the rice which they had
grown with their own hands would add more meaning to the gifts,
and so they used it to make special cakes for the emperor.
On the first
day of Spring, the princes took the gifts of their labor and
love to the emperor. All the foods were delicately and beautifully
was Tiet Lieuís turn to present his gifts, he offered two
kinds of cakes. The round cake was called "Banh Day,"
made with fine flour from ground rice grains and mixed with water
into a soft glutinous paste. The square-shaped cake was called
"Banh Chung," made with rice and mung beans, and wrapped
in green banana leaves. Both were cooked thoroughly.
Lieuís simple offerings, other princes sneered at them.
But after tasting all the foods, emperor Hung Vuong decided that
the prize should be awarded to Tiet Lieu.
explained that his youngest sonís gifts were not only the
purest, but also the most meaningful because Tiet Lieu had used
mainly rice, which was the basic food source of the people. "Banh
Day" symbolized heaven, and "Banh Chung" symbolized
the earth. As a result,
Prince Tiet Lieu was crowned the new emperor.