Today’s Enlightening Entertainment will be presented in Aulacese (Vietnamese), with subtitles in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, German, Hungarian, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Malay, Mongolian, Persian, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, and Thai.

The drum tempo varies between fast and slow, merging with singing voices which at times are elevated in pitch, other times deep and powerful. In brilliant costumes, lissome movements are in every gesture. Actors and actresses are differentiated by distinctive make-up, so that the audience can easily identify between the loyal and the obsequious, the noble ranks and humble subjects.

This is hát bội (classical theatre), a performing art in Âu Lạc (Vietnam), originating from the common people and becoming more widespread among them in the 13th century under the Lý and the Trần dynasties. In the later Lê dynasty, classical theatre was introduced to the Court to entertain the royal family and mandarins.

In the 19th century, Mr. Đào Tấn developed classical theatre and opened a performing school. He also built the first classical theatre in Bình Định province, central Âu Lạc. Since then, classical theatre has flourished in both artistic and literary aspects. Classical theatre operas are often based on historical references, highlighting moral values. Today, classical theatre is considered a traditional performing art of Âu Lạc.

On Enlightening Entertainment, Supreme Master Television is pleased to introduce different forms of arts from Âu Lạc (Vietnam), as well as from other countries in the world, in order to share the beauty and cultures of the peoples on our planet.

The classical theatre opera “What Came From Heaven is Returned to Earth” is based on an Aulacese folk tale about two sworn brothers Ngô Thiên and Lý Địa, illustrating that Heaven will reclaim whatever we don’t deserve. The story offers advice that humans honor their promise and relationship with one another, be it in times of poverty or wealth and glory.

We now invite you to enjoy part 1 of the classical theatre opera “What Came From Heaven is Returned to Earth” by playwright Nguyễn Diêu Trì. This opera will be presented in 2 episodes, with performances by Nguyễn Diêu Trì as Ngô Thiên, Huỳnh Văn Tân as Lý Địa, Mỹ Dung as Fairy, Minh Liễu as Guard, Đạo An as Guard, Nguyễn Văn Thân as Elder Fairy, and other artists.

I live in Đoài Village. My name is Ngô Thiên (Heaven). My parents already passed on, leaving their young child in the world. I remember when my parents passed away, I was only 10 years old, without family members or relatives. A rich man in the neighboring village took pity on me and helped pay for my parents’ burial service. Then he brought me home to tend his buffaloes to settle the debt. Now I’m already 20 years old. Day after day, I’ve plowed and hoed for hire.

O Father and Mother! O people! I dare not blame Heaven or Earth. I probably was born at the wrong hour. O God! How can You heartlessly turn a blind eye to someone in poverty? How pitiful it is for the poor! Unfortunately, my parents passed away when I was only 10 years old. Now I’m all alone, without any relative. Whom could I confide in?

Having been absorbed in lamenting, I forget that the sun has set. I’d better leave the plow here and take the hoe back to my boss to fulfill my duty. My lot as a tiller is a very hard life. Why is it that some are poor, while others wealthy? Some have more than enough, yet some couldn’t make ends meet? I keep telling myself, after rain comes the sunshine.

I live in Đoài Village. My name is Lý Địa (Earth). I’ve had a poor and unlucky life. I plow and hoe for hire to earn my bread. Due to poverty, I’m lacking many things. I sustain myself with either porridge or vegetables. I labor very hard, enduring the elements, farming for hire from morning till evening to earn a livelihood. My parents already passed away, leaving me all by myself.

I live in a tattered thatched hut and work for hire to support myself. All year round, I try to make ends meet. But why bother to think of it! It’s probably destined by Heaven. The course of life winds and bends. Be it misery or happiness, I’d leave it to fate. Fate is dictated by Heaven. O folks! Why ponder about rich or poor?

There you are, brother Địa! It’s already dark. You haven’t yet finished the plowing? Why don’t you get ready to go home?

O brother Thiên, not anywhere yet! You know what, the buffalo has just recovered from illness today. I pity him, so I let him rest. Since this morning I’ve only managed to finish a few furrows. I’ll probably get just half a meal today. How miserable, O brother! But, brother Thiên!

What is it, brother?

There’s something I want to discuss with you. Since you’re here, I’ll tell you and see what you think.

But what is it anyway?

Look, brother Thiên. I find you’re intelligent and quick-witted. You comprehend twice what you hear. Don’t plow and hoe for hire anymore. You should take care of studying.

Forget it, O brother! I’m dirt poor and can’t earn enough food despite working endlessly. And now you talk about studying. Forget it! Frankly, I dare not think about it, brother.

No, this is what I meant. You and I vow brotherhood. You’re older, so you’ll be my elder brother. I’m younger than you, I’ll be the younger brother. Starting today, I’ll do farming for hire day and night to provide for your studying. Later, when you graduate and become a mandarin, we brothers will enjoy together the honor and wealth.

So you will...

Because if we keep farming for hire like this, we’ll never have a comfortable life.

I know that, but it’s a long time. The exam only takes place every ten years. I don’t know if you’ll be able to make it.

Don’t worry! I can. But if you agree, let us kneel down here to make a vow with Heaven and Earth as our witness.

All right! If you say so, let’s kneel down together.

You agree then? (All right.) Let’s kneel, elder brother. Amitabha Buddha be praised! My name is Lý Địa.

And my name is Ngô Thiên.

The sunset will be the lamp.

Wild grass will be used instead of incense to make a pledge. I vow brotherhood with him.

We brothers are both orphans who do farming for hire year-round, but couldn’t afford enough food or clothes. Today, we vow to live and die together, to share both our wealth and hardship. May Heaven and Earth witness our pledge to support each other for the rest of our lives.

Amitabha Buddha be praised! May God and Buddha witness us. I, Ngô Thiên, am kneeling down here. I vow that even if the situation changes, I’ll steadfastly keep my promise. Whatever I vow in the beginning, I shall fulfill later. I, Ngô Thiên, together with Lý Địa, have requested Heaven and Earth to witness our brotherhood. If later anyone changes his heart, he’ll go back to naught.

O brother! Now that we understand each other, our brotherly love will never change.

All right, We’ve made our promise; let’s ingrain it in our hearts.

Let’s go back to our thatched hut. I’ll do the farming, and you’ll focus on studying.

Let’s go, younger brother!

Let’s go, elder brother.

Brother Ngô Thiên! Since I vowed brotherhood with brother Ngô Thiên, vowing to live and die together to share our wealth and hardship. My part is to work for hire in the farm every day, hoping to earn a lot of money so that brother Thiên has ease of mind to focus on his study. I was poor, now I’m even poorer. My life is difficult, yet it’s more difficult now. On days when I plow a lot of land, we have enough food. When less work is done, I’d give up my meal for my friend so that he can study. What a miserable fate I have!

O brother Thiên! Do you realize that I’m now plowing without rest, with the sun above and water below. My tears are mixed with sweat. Train yourself diligently, O brother. Try to study well. Pass the coming exam to prove your worth. O brother! Be at the top of the honor roll. Later, when you achieve wealth and status, remember that your friend has contributed to your glory.

Attention, everyone! The capital will hold an examination which only takes place every ten years. Students are encouraged to participate. Attention, everyone!

Wonderful! I’ve heard the announcement very clearly. All the talented students are informed to go to the capital for the examination. So, the examination has been opened now. I should go home quickly to bring this news to brother Thiên. How happy I am! I’ll hurry back to inform my brother. I bow a hundred times, a thousand times to God and Buddha. Please bless us brothers, O God and Buddha. Help brother Thiên to pass the exam, so that we can escape our lives of hardship.

The sea of saintly teaching and forest of poetry are very profound. I’ve been reading all through the night. I hope to pass the exam with highest honor to have a chance to glorify my country. It’s been ten years of study. I’ve waited for the exam to open. O Lý Địa! I’ll always remember our vow, to change our lives together. O younger brother, I’m determined to change our fate. I realize that you’re now working very hard; your body is exposed to water and sunlight. I promise to study very well so that I’ll achieve the first laureate position to satisfy your years of expectations.

O brother Thiên!

You’re back already?


Let me ask you. What is it that you’re so excited about? Tell me quickly, brother.

O brother, this is what I heard with my own ears.

Tell me.

Brother Thiên!

I’m listening.

It was announced in our village to inform students to participate in the exam.

So the capital has opened an exam? (That’s right.) Is it true?

You know, as soon as I heard it, I put down the plow and hoe, and rushed back to inform you to quickly set out to achieve fame and position.

How elated I am!

I’m very happy, O brother!

I’ve studied for ten years. Lý Địa. (Yes.) All this time, we brothers have been waiting for this day. hoping that I’ll pass the exam to change our fate. I promise you I’ll do my best to change our fate from now.

O brother Thiên! (Yes?) You’ve studied hard for 10 years, waiting for the day to attain fame and position. O brother Thiên! This is my farewell before your departure: may your name appear on the honor roll. O brother Thiên! All these years, one trains himself well in classics and history; the other works under the long rain and scorching sun, waiting for the examination to open for you to change our destiny. Demonstrate your talent to pass with honor. Otherwise, it’d be a waste of our hard efforts all this time.

O Lý Địa, brother. (Yes.) I know how hard you have worked to provide for my study. I promise you that from the provincial to the palace exams, I’m determined to pass them all with the highest grade. O Lý Địa! (Yes.) On your behalf, I’ve studied arduously.

Yes, that’s right.

In my stead, you’ve plowed and hoed more laboriously. I’ve studied tirelessly for 10 years. Now is the time for the carp to become a dragon to repay your many years of hard work.

O brother! Don’t be concerned of my hardship. It’s all right, I just do my part to contribute to your glory.

O brother, our vow I always keep in mind. I promise you that we’ll share equally our hardship and wealth.

Brother Thiên, these are your belongings that I’ve packed up already. Take them with you. O brother, I bid you farewell for now. May we meet again at the shore of glory.

Farewell, my kind friend.

Be happy, O brother. Try your best in the exam.

You stay back here.

You should leave now, brother. While you go to take the exam, I’ll stay home awaiting your news.

Goodbye, brother!

Goodbye! Take care!

All right! I’m leaving now.

Since my brother left for the capital city to take the exam, it’s been three months. I wonder if he passed or failed because I haven’t heard from him at all. O brother Thiên! At home, I’m anxiously awaiting your news, praying for my good friend to pass the exam. O brother! I pray for you to pass the exam. Did you make it or not? I’ve longed for your news at home.

Attention, all villagers, young and old! First Laureate Ngô Thiên from Đoài Village is now appointed as the province chief. Attention, everyone! The First Laureate is coming home! The First Laureate is coming home!

Watching him walking stately, it’s definitely Ngô Thiên. That means brother Ngô Thiên has made it! I’d better return this plow to its owner. My miserable life is over from this day on. But from here to the province chief’s palace is very far. How am I to get the money for traveling? How about I sell the house that I have dwelled in all this time for traveling expenses! I must hasten to the province palace for a reunion with my brother. I prostrated a thousand times to God and Buddha for blessing brother Thiên during the exam so that we may escape our lives of hardship.

My ten years of studying has brought me success and glory now. I’ve graduated as First Laureate and been appointed as province chief.

Sir, there’s a stranger wishing to see you. He’s still standing in front of the palace, so I’m coming in to report to you.

Guard! (Yes.) You said there’s a stranger who comes to see me. (Yes.) Come here! (Yes.) What is that stranger’s appearance like?

Your Honor, how do you mean “appearance,” Your Honor? What a brain! What I meant by “appearance” is, does that stranger dress as if he is wealthy or poor?

Your Honor, I found him to be very poor.


Yes, his pants are rolled up on one side, and only half of his shirt remains. He doesn’t look like a beggar, nor does he look like a panhandler. He’s extremely poor, sir.

If so, what for he comes to see me?

He said his name is Lý Địa, your sworn brother.

He’s my sworn brother? (Yes.) How would a man like me, a mandarin of the court, swear brotherhood with a penniless man who looks like a beggar? Never mind! Tell him to go away!

Yes, sir! But, sir...

No “but” or “if” whatsoever!

He said very clearly that he’s Lý Địa, your sworn brother. He insisted on coming in. If I don’t let him in, he’ll sit there until he can see you.

Guard! His name is Lý Địa? (Yes.) Go tell him to go away. (Yes.) Wait! (Yes.) Well, let him in to see me.

Hey you! (Yes.) His Honor has allowed you to come in.

He has?

But listen here: This is a mandarin’s office, all right? (Yes.) A mandarin and a commoner are of different classes. You should behave properly while you’re in there. (Yes.) You have his permission already. Come in! (Yes.)

I’ve come to present myself to Your Honor. Good health and long life to you!

Be at ease! Stand up! (Yes.) Listen to my question: Why did you come to the province palace? What injustice and complaint do you want to report? Tell me, and I will judge accordingly. Understand?

I now see very clearly. It’s indeed brother Ngô Thiên. O brother Ngô Thiên!

Stop that! (Yes.) Judging by your look, I’ve never seen you before. How dare you call me this Ngô Thiên and that Ngô Thiên?

Brother Thiên! It’s me, Lý Địa! You don’t remember me, brother Thiên?

Enough! I don’t know any Lý Đạo or Lý Địa!

O God! Brother Thiên! How have you the heart to turn your back on me and forget the affection and kindness in the past? For ten long years, I endured the long rain and scorching sun to provide for my friend’s study until his academic achievement. Brother Thiên! It’s Lý Địa here! Take a closer look at me, brother Thiên! I’d sworn brotherhood with you and vowed to live and die together. I’d plowed and hoed for hire in ten long years to earn money to support your study. Now you’ve become the first laureate. How could you forget your promise, O brother! How could you heartlessly betray your friend’s kindness? O Heaven and Earth!

That man! Let me ask you: Who is your sworn brother? Who is it that vowed brotherhood with you?

O God!

I understand now. You’re probably so destitute that you come to a mandarin’s palace and invent a tale of favors to gain some food. All right! I heard your lament. I’ll be generous this time to help you once. Guard? (Yes.) Bring out here for the beggar a bowl of rice and a tael of silver, you hear?

Yes! Here’s the rice, sir. Here’s the silver, sir.

Just leave it there. (Yes.) That beggar! There’s the rice. Eat if you’re hungry, and take that tael of silver, then get out of here. The bowl of rice and a tael of silver are my deed of kindness for the world.

O brother Thiên! I resent the one who has changed his heart. O God! All my ten years of hard work is repaid with a bowl of rice and a tael of silver now. O brother Thiên! What did you promise me that you now have quickly forgotten? You’ve forgotten the vow witnessed by Heaven.

His Honor already left. Why are you still standing there crying? Eat the rice and take the silver, then leave right away, you hear? How very bold you are! You dared come to a mandarin to concoct a story for food. My mandarin is kind-hearted already. If it were other mandarins, it’s hard for you to defend your wrongdoing. Make sure you leave, you hear?

O God! How double-faced and ungrateful people are! Here’s the bowl of rice to repay ten years of plowing and hoeing. And here’s a silver tael! I look at this side, it’s silver; I turn to look at the other side, it’s also silver. It’s silver all over! O God! Worldly events come to pass like a dream. People’s hearts are as “silvery” as autumn clouds. (“bạc”– silvery – sounds like “bội bạc” – ungrateful) I try to laugh, but laugh I could not. Enduring the pain, I blame he who betrays me, disregarding his vow.

O brother Thiên! What did you promise to me that you soon have forgotten now? O brother! How have you the heart to change from white to black? O God! How have you the heart to mistreat an honest person? I resent Ngô Thiên, whose heart has changed unexpectedly. O Heaven and Earth! It’s finished! My mind is like a tangled skein. Am I dreaming, or is this reality?

You’ve enjoyed part 1 of the classical theatre opera “What Came From Heaven is Returned to Earth” by playwright Nguyễn Diêu Trì, with performances by Nguyễn Diêu Trì as Ngô Thiên, Huỳnh Văn Tân as Lý Địa, Mỹ Dung as Fairy, Minh Liễu as Guard, Đạo An as Guard, Nguyễn Văn Thân as Elder Fairy, and other artists.

We thank you for watching Enlightening Entertainment today. Please stay tuned to Supreme Master Television. Words of Wisdom is coming up. Take care, and we’ll see you next week.