Thousands of years ago in Asia there was a land known as Xich Quy, country of red demons, ruled by the descendants of the Yellow Kings of China.
King Kinh Duong Vuong, a descendant of the last Yellow King, married a daughter of the river lands who was a water goddess, and among her many powers was the ability to transform herself into a sea dragon.
Kinh Duong Vuong and his queen lived by the sea, and there they raised a son they named Sung Lam. He was a handsome child, strong and healthy, and as he grew older, he began to display many of his mother's gifts. Like his mother he was drawn to the sea, and like her, he too possessed magical powers.
When the king died, Sung Lam inherited the throne, and as time passed, he proved his extraordinary powers. He saved his people from invasion by monsters and devils, and he rescued them from many natural disasters as well.
As the years passed, the people began to call him by another name, Lac Long Quan, Dragon King of the Mighty Sea, for they believed their king possessed the power of the sea dragons.
One day a king from the northern mountains, also descended from the Yellow Kings of China, wished to visit the southern lands where Lac Long Quan ruled. He brought along his daughter, Au Co, descendant of the mountain fairies.
Unaccustomed to the dangers of the south, father and daughter traveled south out in the open, and as they journeyed, they were suddenly startled by a gigantic black bird swooping out of the sky. The bird swept toward them, ready to attack.
When she saw the monster, Au Co turned herself into a crane and began to fly as fast as she could across the sky, away from the monstrous creature chasing her. She raced toward the sea, with the bird close behind.
It happened that Lac Long Quan was wandering along the shore when he heard the sound of flapping wings above him. He looked up to see the enormous bird ready to catch a fragile crane between its claws. Lac Long Quan picked up a rock, and with all his strength hurled it into the sky. His aim was perfect; he hit the monster, who shrieked in pain and fell to the earth, dead.
When Au Co saw her savior, she flew to the beach and landed before him. He was just about to step forward to see if the crane might be injured when she fluttered her white feathers, and a moment later she was transformed once again.
The moment Lac Long Quan saw the beautiful fairy standing before him, he fell in love with her. Au Co, too, was dazzled by the strength and kindness of the king.
Soon afterward they married in a lush garden, surrounded by the many people who were pleased to celebrate this marriage. After all, she was enchanting, and the king beloved. And so the king built his bride a beautiful mountain castle, and one year later Au Co gave birth.
But no ordinary child was born to the king and queen. Rather, Au Co gave birth to a golden sac containing 100 eggs.
When the eggs hatched, out of each one came a boy, but these were no ordinary boys. They grew quickly into blessed young men with great minds and courage, strength and beauty. Everyone respected them, for everyone knew of their unusual beginning.
For some time the kingdom of Au Co and Lac Long Quan prospered, but as time passed, the dragon king began to spend more and more time in his underwater world, and Au Co yearned for her home in the north.
"I am a sea dragon by nature," said Lac Long Quan, "and you, my wife, are a mountain fairy. We are as different from each other as fire is from water. It seems our time together has come to an end and we must part."
Au Co agreed, although they promised each other they would always look after one another and after their children.
And so they told their children. "Half of you will go with your mother to the mountains," Lac Long Quan said, "and half of you will live with me beside the sea. But always remember, if either group ever faces danger, the others will aid them."
Au Co took 50 sons west, into the mountains. There they learned to grow rice and fruit trees, and too they learned to breed and tame the many wild animals. Lac Long Quan took 49 sons to the eastern coast, leaving behind one son, Hung Lang, to rule over the kingdom he was leaving.
In the east the dragon king taught his children to fish and to dive for pearls, and he taught them, too, the magic to scare away the sea monsters that swam in those waters.
The descendants of the dragon king and the fairy princess founded a land they called Van Lang, the place we today know as Vietnam. And it was from these ancestors that the people learned that no matter the distance between them, their bonds would never be broken.
4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (816) 932-6600