Prah Thach Sanh.
Thach Sanh was a very tall, dark and handsome Khmer Krom man who grew up in the Buddhist pagoda, at a small village from Khleang (SocTrang).
(The legend Thach Sanh.)
Raised and educated by the entire Buddhist monks, Thach Sanh not only mastered the Buddhist scripts in Khmer, Sanskrit and Pali languages.He also mastered martial art and could played all music instruments.
Thach Sanh was a kind, honest, industrious young man, and very happy living the humble life with the monks.
Until one day the old monk who was the head of the pagoda told Thach Sanh, that it was time for him to leave the pagoda.
The old monk said Thach Sanh needed to experienced life out side the pagoda, learn to be independent, and to put his education and talent to good use.
Thach Sanh was very sad, for all his life, the pagoda was his only home, and the monks were the only family he had.
“Tver bon ban bon, tver bap ban bap.” (You reap what you sow.) Were the last words from the old monk, after his farewell blessing to Thach Sanh.
Thach Sanh wandered to Prah Trapeang province (Tra Vinh), there, he built a tiny house near the river at a small village.
Every night he would sit under the moon, serenading the stars with a sad melody he played with the flute, that he got from the old monk.
He missed the pagoda and the monks. He was lonely.
One day, as Thach Sanh was eating dinner, a stranger came knocked in the door, asking for a bowl of rice.
He told Thach Sanh his name was Ly Thong and cried that for the last two days, he had gone without a single grain of rice in his stomach.In reality, Ly Thong was a con artist who used his back magic to rob people and got caught when his magic faded out.
Kind hearted Thach Sanh invited Ly Thong to eat with him.
During dinner, Ly Thong convinced Thach Sanh that he would change, and would follow Buddhist teaching if Thach Sanh would let him stay.
With out hesitation Thach Sanh welcome Ly Thong to his home, and treated Ly Thong with love and respect, as if Ly Thong were his big brother.
One day, Ly Thong told Thach Sanh he heard there was a giant tiger from one of Seven Mountains, Mott Chrouk (Chau Doc).
The giant tiger were mangling the villagers and their cattle, and no one was able to capture the beast.
Ly Thong told Thach Sanh that he wanted to use his black magic for one last time to capture the tiger.
Thach Sanh told Ly Thong to forget about black magic but should take him along to capture the tiger.
Thach Sanh didn’t know that a few months earlier, the King had announced a large reward for anyone who could killed the tiger.
And Ly Thong was back to his old evil self tricking Thach Sanh to kill the tiger for him.
Ly Thong and Thach Sanh traveled to Mott Chrouk (Chau Doc), the long journey left them weary, as they have been through six of the Seven Mountains.Cautiously they approached the last of the Seven Mountains.
As they climbed up Coto Mountain, the sound of Ly Thong teeth chattering got louder, for he was scared of the giant tiger.
The tiger were napping on a big rock, and when the men got closer the smells from their flesh sent an aroma to the tiger’s nose.
The tiger awoke, roared loudly and started to attack Thach Sanh and Ly Thong.
Thach Sanh bravely fought the giant tiger, alone, while Ly Thong nervously hid under a big rock shaking at the sight of the giant beast.
The tiger was powerful and strong but Thach Sanh was stronger.
Thach Sanh killed the tiger with his bare hands, and the very exhausted Thach Sanh collapsed next to the tiger.
When Ly Thong saw the tiger was dead, he scratched his own face and body.
He tore his clothes messed up his hair, and rolled on the grasses as if he has been in the fight with the tiger.
Then he started to cry out loud. Thach Sanh sat right up when he heard Ly Thong cried.
Ly Thong said he only wanted to capture and put his black magic on the tiger to stop the beast from eating people.
And that he didn’t wanted Thach Sanh to kill the tiger for the King worshiped that tiger.
Ly Thong cried louder, he said that the King would behead any one that killed his tiger.
Thach Sanh was naďve, he believed Ly Thong, and feared for his life.
When Ly Thong told him to run and hide, Thach Sanh said that he would run back to his village and took off.
Waited till Thach Sanh gone,Ly Thong cut the tiger’s head and took it to the King.
The King was very happy; he rewarded Ly Thong with lot of silver and gold and also gave him a prominent position at the palace.
The King had only one daughter, many men wanted to married her but the King found no one was good enough for his Princess.
Amongst these men was a neighboring Prince who was a master of black magic.
When the Princess turned down his proposal, the Black magic Prince turned himself into a giant bat.
The giant bat snatched the princess, and flew away as the King looked up in horror.
The King announced to the world that any man who could bring the Princess back would get his kingdom and the Princess.
The King also summoned Ly Thong to his chamber and ordered Ly Thong to find his daughter.
The King told him to take as many guards men as he wanted to go with him.
Ly Thong was scared, he knew his black magic was nothing compared to the Black magic Prince, and he knew there was only one man who could bring the Princess back.
Ly Thong and his army went back to Prah Trapeang (Tra Vinh) to look for Thach Sanh.
“ Good to see you my big brother. You look wealthy and in good health.” Thach Sanh said, he was very happy to see Ly Thong.
Ly Thong told Thach Sanh that he was on the way to rescue the Princess but dropped every thing to visit his “little brother”.
“ If the evil Black magic Prince kills me tomorrow, I am happy that I got to see you today, my little brother.” Ly Thong said.
Thach Sanh wiped his tears, he was deeply touch by sweet, lying words from Ly Thong. Again, he believed Ly Thong.
“ Please let me go with you.” Thach Sanh said, and that was exactly what Ly Thong wanted to hear.
Again, Thach Sanh felt into Ly Thong’s trap.
When they reached Kamourn Sor (Rach Gia), Thach Sanh stopped at the pagoda and asked for lok srote tirk (holly water blessing performed by monks)before they heading out to Peam Island (Ha Tien Island).
Ly Thong lead his army and Thach Sanh up the mountain, and as they got closer to the summit, they could hear the sounds of woman crying.It was came from within the cave.
The cave was dark and deep and Ly Thong was scared of the Black magic Prince.
He told Thach Sanh to go down the cave and he and his army would wait to trap the Black magic Prince from above.
Ly Thong and his army lower him down the cave with a long rope. Thach Sanh found the lovely Princess and told her that he came to rescue her.
The Princess was taken by Thach Sanh charming good look, she told Thach Sanh that the Black magic prince would wake up soon, and he would be very angry if he see Thach Sanh.
Thach Sanh told the Princess to hurry up and climb on the rope, and told her not to forget to throw back the rope down for him.
When Ly Thong and his army pulled the Princess up, he ordered to threw the rope away ,and used his black magic to block everyone’s memory.
He and his army took the Princess still under-black magic spell, “zombie like,” back to the palace.
And Thach Sanh was left stranded inside the cave.
Thach Sanh waited and waited for the rope that never came down.
He thought something went wrong on top of the cave, but he never thought Ly Thong would tricked him.
Desperately, he went further to look for the way out.
At one dark corner, Thach Sanh looked up and saw a giant Bat hanging upside down, sleeping.
Thach Sanh had every opportunity to kill the giant Bat but he didn’t.
Instead Thach Sanh cautiously, quietly creep under the giant Bat attempting to find the another exit from the cave.
Unfortunately the giant Bat woke up, and upon realizing the Princess had escaped he became violently mad.
The giant Bat attacked Thach Sanh with all his mighty black magic power.
But for unknown reasons his back magic weren’t able to touch Thach Sanh.
After lengthy unsuccessful attempts to kill Thach Sanh, the giant Bat lost all the black magic and was captured by Thach Sanh.
“ Spare my life and forgive me master.” The giant Bat knelt downed, begged and “ sompeas” (Cambodian bow) to Thach Sanh.
Thach Sanh told the giant Bat that he was not going to kill him.
But he wanted giant Bat to stopped using black magic, stopped hurting others and start to listen to Buddha teaching.
The giant Bat was relieved and happy that Thach Sanh didn’t kill him.
He promised to Thach Sanh that he would go to the pagoda for Buddhist teaching.
He told Thach Sanh to climb on top of him ,and he would take Thach Sanh to the main land.
The giant Bat took Thach Sanh to the palace and left.
Thach Sanh went into the palace's gate ,and asked one of the guard for his ‘big brother” Ly Thong.
The guard told Thach Sanh that Ly Thong got promoted to General, and that the entire palace was getting ready for the Princess and Ly Thong wedding.
Thach Sanh was happy to hear the good news and asked to see Ly Thong.
When the guard told him that Thach Sanh was looking for him.
Ly Thong told the guard to take Thach Sanh to one room, where he had set a trap with his black magic and imprison Thach Sanh.
He was afraid that Thach Sanh would ruin his wedding.
Once trapped in side the black magic room, Thach Sanh realized that Ly Thong tricked him.
He tried to break down the wall but he couldn’t. The black magic over powered his strength.
Sadly, Thach Sanh sat on the floor, took his flute out and played the sad melody.
The Black magic Prince heard the music and he knew that Thach Sanh was in trouble.
The Black magic Prince decided to use his black magic to save Thach Sanh, and turned himself in to the giant Bat again.
The giant Bat flew into the palace and rescued Thach Sanh.
He took Thach Sanh to see the King, and told the King that it was Thach Sanh who killed the tiger, and it was Thach Sanh who rescued the Princess from him.
The giant Bat then used black magic to over power Ly Thong’s magic and freed anyone under his spell.
The Princess and Ly Thong’s army men came forward, they told the King that Thach Sanh was the hero.
The King was mad at Ly Thong for tricking him.
He ordered Ly Thong beheaded, but Thach Sanh begged the King to spared “his brother” life and set him free.
Ly Thong ran out the palace, only to be captured by the giant Bat who dropped him into the ocean, where Ly Thong died and turned into shark.
The beautiful Princess happily married Thach Sanh who later became a compassionate and great King.
The Black magic Prince who not only broke his promised with Thach Sanh, but committed sin for deliberately harmed another human. And because The Black magic Prince didn't have the compassion and forgiveness, when he used up all his black magic to captured Ly Thong, he couldn’t turn himself back to human.
He would hanging around the pagoda in the daytime to listen to Buddhist teachings at Watt Kompong Chay, Prah Trapeang (Tra Vinh).
According to the monks, Watt Kompong Chay was well known as the Bats pagoda. For many centuries, thousands of bats were hanging around the pagoda.
That was until 1968, when a bomb dropped on Watt Kompong Chay killing 62 Khmer Krom, and caused massive damage to the pagoda causing the Bats to disappear.They were soon replaced by thousands of white storks.
Watt Kompong Chay at Prah Trapeang ( Tra Vinh) now known as Chua Hang.
Some people believe that the Black magic Prince had turned into a holly monk and now with Buddha.
But other say that the Black magic Prince is still trying to earns good karma by listening to Buddhist teaching.
And that the Black magic Prince is now at Khleang (Soc Trang) where Thach Sanh was born.
If you go to Watt Mahatup(Bat Pagoda)in Soc Trang check out those bats that hanging on the tree, one of them could be the Black magic Prince.
If you go to Peam Island (Ha Tien Island) don’t forget to visit Thach Sanh stone cave.
The cavern is still standing and the people still tell the story of the handsome, kind and powerful Khmer Krom legend Thach Sanh.
Written by Mylinh Nakry.
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