[Reading level: B2 – Upper Intermediate]
Vietnamese people always value the true essence of cultural traditions passed on from our ancestors. Before the Lunar New Year, people across the country celebrate the Kitchen Gods’ Day (Tet Tao Quan) on the 23rd of the last month according to Lunar Calendar.
Once upon a time, there is a couple, Trong Cao and his wife Thi Nhi who are married for many years but have no children. One day, they quarrel over some trivial matter, and the husband, in a fit of anger, beats and throws his wife out of their home. Although Thị Nhi still loves her husband, she has no choice but to go away.
Thi Nhi goes far away and meets a very kind man called Pham Lang. He marries her and he loves Thị Nhi very much. Their life is happy and peaceful but Thi Nhi cannot forget her first love.
As for Trong Cao, he had been filled with remorse from the day he sends his wife away. He waits, and waits hopelessly for his wife’s return. Eventually, he decides to set out from his home to search for Thi Nhi.
He travels far and wide, but he cannot find his wife. His food runs out and he has to beg for his meals. One day, starving and thirsty, he knocks on the door of a house to ask for food. He is shocked when he recognizes his former wife. The sudden appearance of Trong Cao deeply moved Thi Nhi, and she invites him inside and gives him a good meal. Suddenly, there is a knock on the door. It’s Pham Lang returning. The thought of being discovered with her former husband sends Thi Nhi into a panic. She hides Trong Cao under a stack of straw.
Unfortunately, Phạm Lang sets fire to the straw because he needs ashes to fertilize his field. As the flames spreads out, Trọng Cao accepts his fate to be burnt to death to protect Thi Nhi’s virtue. Thi Nhi is distraught because her love for Trong Cao causes his death. Thi Nhi can neither save Trong Cao from the fire nor tell her husband. She has no choice but to throw herself into the flames.
Pham Lang cannot understand why his wife kills herself. Filled with sorrow, he jumps into the burning fire and dies with his loving wife.
The Jade Emperor in the heavens knows the sad story. He is so moved by their devotion and deep love that he decides to help them to live together forever. Using his magic, he changes them into the three hearthstones around the cooking fire, where they become Kitchen Gods.
Ever since, the three Kitchen Gods are responsible for taking care of all household affairs. Each year, on the 23rd of the last month of the lunar year, the Kitchen Gods leave the kitchen, they are seen off by the owner of the house and ride on a carp to the heavens to give a report on each family’s doings. Then they return on the Eve of the first day of the Lunar year.
Today, the three prongs of a primitive stove are known as the Kitchen Gods. The family worship them right at the kitchen daily or monthly. To Vietnamese people, the kitchen is a very important place that brings everybody in the family together as well as keeps the warmth, harmony and happiness of the family. On 23rd of the twelfth lunar month, the family holds a small ceremony at home with certain offerings including three elaborate paper headpieces, sticky rice, chicken, flowers and three sticks of incense to see off the Kitchen Gods them to the heavens to make their reports to the Jade Emperor.
essence /ˈes.əns/ [C2] (n): tinh hoa
pass on sth (v): truyền lại cái gì
ancestor /ˈæn.ses.tər/ [B2] (n): ông cha
once upon a time (expression): ngày xửa ngày xưa
quarrel /ˈkwɒr.əl/ [B2] (v): cãi nhau
trivial /ˈtrɪv.i.əl/ [B2] (adj): nhỏ nhặt
in a fit of anger (expression): trong cơn tức giận
remorse /rɪˈmɔːs/ [C2[ (n – formal): sự hối hận
set out (v): khởi hành
far and wide (adv): khắp nơi
starving /ˈstɑː.vɪŋ/ [B2[ (adj): đói
former /ˈfɔː.mər/ [B1] (adj): cựu, cũ
send sb into a panic /ˈpæn.ɪk/ [B2] (expression): khiến ai đó hoảng sợ
stack /stæk/ (n): đống
straw /strɔː/ (n): rơm
ash /æʃ/ (n): tro
fertilize /ˈfɜː.tɪ.laɪz/ (n): bón phân
fate /feɪt/ [B2] (n): số phận
virtue /ˈvɜː.tʃuː/ [C2] (n): phẩm hạnh
distraught /dɪˈstrɔːt/ (adj): quẫn trí
sorrow /ˈsɒr.əʊ/ [C2] (n): đau khổ
the Jade Emperor /dʒeɪd ˈem.pər.ər/ (n): Ngọc Hoàng
devotion /dɪˈvəʊ.ʃən/ (n): sự tận tâm
affair /əˈfeər/ [B2] (n): công việc
see off sb [B2] (v): tiễn đưa ai đó
carp /kɑːp/ (n): cá chép
prong /prɒŋ/ (n): cái ngạnh
primitive /ˈprɪm.ɪ.tɪv/ [C1] (adj): sơ khai
worship /ˈwɜː.ʃɪp/ [C1] (v): thờ cúng
warmth /wɔːmθ/ [B2] (n): sự đầm ấm, ấm cúng
offering /ˈɒf.ər.ɪŋ/ (n): lễ vật
elaborate /iˈlæb.ər.ət/ [C2] (adj): cầu kỳ
headpiece (n): vật trang trí trên đầu
incense /ˈɪn.sens/ (n): hương
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