The text that I mentioned in the previous post, the An Nam chí nguyên, contains an entry on Mount Tản Viên which talks about a spirit there called Mị Nương who was reportedly the daughter of a Hùng king. This passage then goes on to tell what is now a very well-known story in Vietnam.

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This is what it says:

On Mount Tản Viên there is the Mị Nương spirit. It is said that she is the daughter of the Hùng king. The king loved her and wanted to selected a talented man for her to marry. At that time there were two men on Mount Gia Ninh, one was called Sơn Tinh [literally, “mountain essence” or “mountain sprite”] and the other was called Thủy Tinh [literally, “water essence” or “water sprite”] who could pass through mountain stones and dive under water. They were both asked to request to marry [Mị Nương] by offering gifts of local products. The next day, Sơn Tinh presented gold, silver, precious gems, special birds and rare beasts at the king’s palace, and with these generous gifts he requested marriage and took Mị Nương to hide in Mount Lôi Động.

Thủy Tinh came later, and presented objects such as precious pearls, hawksbill turtles, special shells and sea turtles, but since Mị Nương had already been taken away by Sơn Tinh, he became furious and attacked Mount Lôi Động.

Sơn Tinh thereupon moved Mị Nương to the peak of Mount Tản Viên. Every year Thủy Tinh got resentful and attacked, but to no avail. Today it is still like this.

Mị Nương is also a numinous monster [linh quái]. She often reveals her form as a person with long hair and a long robe, and is just like a beautiful woman. For more details see the Gazetteer of Quảng Oai châu.

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It is easy to recognize this as the famous Sơn Tinh – Thủy Tinh story, however it is also different from the version of that story that was eventually recorded in texts like the Lĩnh Nam chích quái. That version, for instance, does not talk about Mị Nương as a “numinous monster” with “long hair and a long robe” like a “beautiful woman.”

So where did that information come from?

1) The name “Mị Nương” is of Tai origin. “Mae nang” in Tai languages refers to a “lady” or “princess.” (Actually, we should probably call it “Sino-Tai” as “nang” is in Sinitic languages.)

2) In the Đại Việt sử ký toàn thư there are references to Mount Tản Viên which refer to the “savages” (man 蠻) who lived around it. For instance, in 1207 Mount Tản Viên “mountain savages” (sơn man 山蠻) plundered, and in 1226 they fought with neighboring savages.

3) I don’t think the “Mount Lôi Động” is mentioned in other versions, but it’s interesting to note that the term “động” 洞 that is in this mountain’s name was also used to refer to places where “savages” lived.

When we add all of this information up, doesn’t it look like Mị Nương was a spirit that Tai-language speakers (“savages” from the perspective of the Việt and Ming Chinese) worshiped?