Once upon a time a great mandarin had a daughter who was as beautiful as the day.
Her name was My Nuong, and she lived in seclusion in women’s apartments, according to the custom of girls of her class. While passing her days embroidering in the pavilion she would in dreams follow the river whose clear water rolled along between the hills.

But at this time a poor fisherman. Truong Chi. every day went to throw his nets in this part of the river. He was poor, his face lacked beauty, but he had the most melodious voice in the world.

My Nuong watched the sampan gliding by. She only saw the fleeting silhouette of the fisherman and his song softly soothed her solitude.

Sometime after, Truong Chi went to fish in another part of the river. No longer hearing the dear voice, My Nuong gave way to a strange sadness. What feeling had therefore stolen into her heart? She herself didn’t know. She simply waited for the voice as for a friend, and the voice had been stilled. In the end she became ill.

The great mandarin called well-known doctors to her bedside. But no medicine could chase away the languor of the young girl. What was the origin of this mysterious disease? On asking the attendants the great mandarin finally discovered the secret of the disease. The doctors consulted advised him to fetch the fisherman.

The Sandalwood of life: Truong Chi My Nuong

The Sandalwood of life: Truong Chi My Nuong

Truong Chi was invited to visit the young girl and started to sing. My Nuong started to smile at the sound of the long awaited voice, but when she opened her eyes and saw the poor fisherman her dream was shattered, she only showed coldness towards him. He on the contrary, was doubly struck by My Nuong’s beauty and by her disdain. He returned to his sampan heart-broken. He could no longer fish nor sing.

Love-sickness finally overwhelmed him. One day he started to sing in an anguished voice:
“Since, alas, our hearts cannot meet on earth, may our souls unite forever in another life!”.

Then he threw himself into the river. Truong Chi’s soul, floating to the river bank, was transformed into a sandalwood tree.
Sometime later an old man fished out this precious wood and by chance sold it to the great mandarin. On finding it particularly beautiful the latter had a teacup made from it which he offered to his daughter. One autumn day My Nuong poured a little weak tea into the cup.

The fisherman’s sampan immediately appeared, gliding at the bottom, while a plaintive song was sung. My Nuong then remembered. Very moved, and thinking of her past love, she started to cry.

A tear fell onto the cup and the cup melted.
According to the Su Nam Chi Di (Extraordinary facts of Vietnamese History), Truong Chi died of love-sickness rather than drowning himself. Three years after, when his body was exhumed, a crystal as large as an orange was found in place of his heart and the Prime Minister, My Nuong’s father, had a teacup made from it.

The collection of ‘Love Stories’ (Tinh Su) of Chinese literature gives another version: a young girl died of languor having heard the song of a boatman passing on the river. In place of her body there was only a crystal, which melted with the tears of the man who had been told the story.

According to another version: At Thach Tri there lived a poor student, from the family of the Nguyen, who had to help his mother, a boat woman. His golden voice seduced the daughter of a rich owner who lived on the river bank. As she was In love with him she encouraged the young man to ask her father to give him her hand In marriage. Her father demanded three thousand teals of gold: The student left to see his fortune and returned with the sum demanded. But alas, his loved one had died of languor. Only a red vermilion crystal remained from her ashes and her father had a cup made of It. When tea was poured into It the Image of the sampan with the ferry woman glided at the bottom. On seeing It the young man burst Into tears, and the crystal melted.

According to a Cham legend a poor young man, in love with a princess, offered her a ring, then died of his hopeless love. He had asked his mother to keep his liver in a small box. At that time the King was stricken by a disease which gradually made him blind. On the advice of a fortune-teller he sent out to search for this dried human liver, which he soaked In water and then bathed his eyes with it. Cured, he saw In the basin the Image of a young man carrying a ring. The latter held out his hand to the Princess and pulled her into the water. The young man returned to life and they were married.