There is a text known as the Việt sử lược or the Đại Việt sử lược which was reportedly compiled in the fourteenth century. During the Ming occupation, it was brought to China where it was subsequently included in the Siku Quanshu.

In the twentieth century, this work was translated into quốc ngữ. Trần Quốc Vượng translated the work in 1960, and Nguyễn Gia Tường in 1972 (but it wasn’t published until 1993). Here is a passage from Nguyễn Gia Tường’s translation:

“During the time of King Zhuang of the Zhou, in Gia Ninh Region there was a extraordinary person who was able to use sorcery to bring into submission the various tribes. He called himself the Hùng King, established a capital at Văn Lang, and called [his kingdom] the Kingdom of Văn Lang. Customs were pure and simple, and tying knots was used for administration. Transmitted through 18 generations, all were called Hùng King.”

Đến đời Trang Vương nhà Chu (696-682 trước Công nguyên-ND)8 ở bộ Gia Ninh có người lạ, dung ảo thuật qui phục được các bộ lạc, tự xưng là Hùng Vương đóng đô ở Văn Lang, đặt quốc hiệu là Văn Lang, phong tục thuần lương chơn chất, chính sự dùng lối thắt gút. Truyền được 18 đời đều xưng là Hùng Vương.

What is so “evil” about this translation? It is the fact that the original version of the text that we have (the one preserved in the Siku Quanshu) does not contain the character for “hùng” in “Hùng King.”

Instead, it contains a character which is pronounced “đôi” (碓).

Yes, this character looks like the character for “hùng” (雄). But it also looks like the character for “lạc” (雒), which we find in earlier Chinese texts.

Indeed, when Chen Jinghe published a collated version of this text, he noted this issue, and stated that this “đôi” should be “lạc.”

So why is it “hùng” in a quốc ngữ translation? And why isn’t there a footnote indicating that the character in the original is “đôi”? Nguyễn Gia Tường added many footnotes to his translation. Why leave this one out?