At "Thien Nhai Tu" temple, a young sadi with the name Tran Tu Tam (Nghe Si Minh Canh) led a peaceful, carefree life of a monk. One cloudy day, a girl called Nhuoc Thuy (Nghe Si Phuong Lien?) came out of nowhere and gave him a letter which told of a horrendous murder that took place 20 years ago that involved the deaths of Tran Tu Tam's parents. He learned that his folks were brutally killed 20 years ago by a traitor in their group and that Tran Tu Tam was lucky enough to escape with the help of a kind man named Du Phong (Nghe Si Thanh Sang) who ran off with him and left him in the temple to be raise by the head monk. The letter also stated that now was the time for Tran Tu Tam to resume a layperson life and seek revenge for his parents.
Amid this revelation, appeared a beautiful girl named Bach Thien Nga (Nghe Si Le Thuy), whom upon seeing the innocent sadi, began to tease him mercilessly. Unbeknown to them both that this accidental meeting would mark a blossom, loving relationship later on. Subsequently came Nghe Si Hong Nga in the role of To Tu Trinh. She was originally married to Du Phong, but after Du Phong was chased off by Chu Thien Cac (Nghe Si Diep Lang), she forced herself to marry Chu Thien Cac because she thought Du Phong has been dead and she was already pregnant with his son at that time. She knew that she needed to stay alive for her unborn son & to seek revenge for her husband later on. And nobody, except her, knew of the fact that Khac Kiet (Nghe Si Minh Vuong) was Du Phong's son and not of Chu Thien Cac. Well, from her conversation with the character Tuong Hiep (Nghe Si Hung Minh), we learn that Chu Thien Cac at that time has been injured and was trying to recuperate in a hidden cave somewhere. To Tu Trinh & Tuong Hiep planned to overthrow Chu Thien Cac and put up her son, Khac Kiet, to be the new leader.
Then appeared Han (Nghe Si Thanh Kim Hue) at the scene. She was the daughter of the first wife that Chu Thien Cac neglected & threw over when he remarried To Tu Trinh. Before Han's mother passed away, she beseeched Han to seek vengence on the other woman for her. Thus, Han was searching and wanting to kill To Tu Trinh to pay back for the neglected life she & her mother had to endure. As they were fighting, sadi Tran Tu Tam ran out and tried to stop. Because of his interference, To Tu Trinh injured Han and the latter passed out. They both thought that she was dead. Tran Tu Tam was then overriden with guilts. He went and confessed to the head monk, his teacher, that he had ignorantly killed a girl and had committed one of the serious Buddhist precepts. Feeling too unworthy live in the temple any longer, he kowtoed his teacher and left the life of a sadi.
For the next several years, Tran Tu Tam learned martial arts from Chu Thien Cac, and didn't know that Chu Thien Cac was the culprit who killed his parents. Also here that he met Bach Thien Nga again and their relationship blossomed. Unfortunately, To Tu Trinh, who raised Bach Thien Nga since she was small, had other plan. She wanted Bach Thien Nga to marry Khac Kiet on the night when he accept the leadership role. Chu Khac Kiet was very much in love with Bach Thien Nga but as we know, the latter already fell in love with Tran Tu Tam. As if that wasn't problematic enough, Han, the girl whom Khac Kiet's mother tried to kill before, fell in love with Khac Kiet, but he only loved Bach Thien Nga. Then came in Du Phong, confronting his ex-wife and being told by her that Khac Kiet was his son and not of Chu Thien Cac.... So what will happen now?
Well, Tran Tu Tam asked Khac Kiet to meet up for a duel to resolve his dad's misdeeds for he thought that Khac Kiet was Chu Thien Cac's real son. Hearing this, Du Phong came in place of his son and unknowingly Tran Tu Tam injured him. When Khac Kiet came, Tran Tu Tam then realized of his mistake but it was too late. Then Chu Thien Cac came. To settle old debt and spare the young people of more problems, Du Phong and Chu Thien Cac started fighting and they both died. Before they did, they asked that the young people should go on with their lives and forgot about revenge stuffs. Tran Tu Tam then blessed the marriage between Bach Thien Nga and Chu Khac Kiet and he went back to Thien Nhai Tu temple, resumed the life of a monk.
Commentary:I first watched this cai luong when I was nine or so in the trip to Da Nang to visit my aunts. It was such a great, memorable play that long after that, it still lingered in the back of my head. When I came to the US, I started to look around trying to locate this old drama. Back then I remembered it by the name of "Giua Chon Bui Hong" so it took me awhile to figure out that these two happened to be the same cai luong. And when I found this and heard it again for the first time, I felt lifted. Literally! It was such an indescribable feeling -- Like I had found a missing part of me. That amazing glowing, satifying sentiments lasted a long time. I remember going around smiling for days...
I don't know what I felt when I watched it back then, but now listening to it, I can't help but wish the ending to be a little bit happier. It would be nice if Tran Tu Tam hook up with Bach Thien Nga and Khac Kiet get together with Han instead. It was obvious that Tran Tu Tam and Bach Thien Nga were seriously in-love with one another. and by giving her to Khac Kiet, Tran Tu Tam was not only hurting himself but also Bach Thien Nga for she has no feeling for Khac Kiet. Moreover, I am sure giving enough time, Khac Kiet would find himself to find love for Han and it would make sense because by doing that he would help to ease the pains that his mother has conflicted on Han and her mother when she stole Chu Thien Cac from them. Thus, in doing that all the debts would be paid off. And hence all four of them would be happy instead of right now, only Khac Kiet would be happy. But then, I guess it is just more dramatic that way.