The origin of Tao Quan, the three kitchen gods
There is a popular belief in Viet Nam that Tao Quan, the Three Kitchen Gods, are present in the kitchen of every home. These gods observe everything that takes place there. At the end of the lunar year, on the twenty-third day of the twelfth month, they depart to make their report to Ngoc Hoang, the Jade Emperor, supreme divinity of the Taoist Heaven. On that day, Tao Quan are offered the best of food and spices and are presented with gifts of money and clothing. The idea of a threesome is unique to this story. More often the kitchen god or genie is described as a single person and may be called Ong Tao, Ong Lo or Ong Vua Bep. Long, long ago, when Earth and Sky met in the Valley of Whispers, in the dense, green forest there lived a woodcutter and his wife. They were very poor and oftentimes the man was unable to earn enough to buy their food. Frustration and worry drove him to drink, and he would come staggering home at night in a vile mood. Since there was only his wife to listen to him in their ramshackle cottage, he poured out all manner of abuse on the poor woman. Because she was his wife, she had to accept it. Sometimes he would try to appease his rage by smashing the furniture; but when he took to beating her she could endure it no longer. One night, she fled the cottage and was never seen there again. For days and weeks, the woman wandered in the forest. She was hungry and her feet were torn and bleeding. Finally, she came to a hunter’s cabin. The owner was an honest man, who gave her food and permitted her to rest in his home. She kept house for him then, and after some time they were married. They lived together in great happiness, and it seemed that the woman had forgotten the terrors of her previous marriage. One day, when Tet (Vietnamese New Year) was approaching and the hunter was out in the forest looking for game, a beggar knocked at the door of the cottage and asked for alms. He was clad in...
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