(This is 4th, in the series of Haunted Trees in Vietnam.)
Of all the trees I have covered thus far, The Kraik Protector Tree is the only one that is no longer alive. It is dead, not because of old age or disease––but because it was murdered.
Why do I say ‘murdered‘ instead of ‘killed’ or ‘chopped down’? After all, woodsmen and loggers are certainly not considered murderers (or even butchers).
Well, there is a difference. There have always been those tree-hugger types of people who believe that trees have souls, and indeed they do, but whatever soul they have is their own and not another person’s soul.
In the case of the Kraik, it has the soul of a demon locked within. When the tree was destroyed, the demon was killed. Hence I used the word ‘murder’.
This is not a fictional account. It is the combined history of the Kingdom of Vietnam and the Kingdom of Champa, and it starts with Princess Ngọc Khoa.
Princess Ngọc Khoa
The year was 1631.
A beautiful young Vietnamese woman was traveling through the Champa Kingdom along with her retinue of guards when she stopped by an area famed for its many merchants of all sorts.
Although she traveled incognito, with only a minimum number of guards and none of the usual fanfare that normally accompanied a person of her position, this breathtaking young woman was none other than the Princess Nguyễn Phúc Ngọc Khoa.
To be historically accurate, she was not a princess, although history books simplified her title as such for expediency’s sake.
She was actually the third daughter of Lord Nguyễn Phúc Nguyên who held both the title Prince as well as Lord because he was the sixth son of King Tiên Nguyễn Hoàng who was the first of the Nguyễn Kings of Vietnam.
Since her father was only the sixth prince of a king, in accordance with the titles bestowed onto Vietnamese royalty, she would not have been considered a princess, which is a title reserved only for the daughters of a king. Her title was Công Nữ, which would be equivalent to the English monarchy’s Lady.
To keep things simple, I’m going to continue to call her Princess Ngọc Khoa, as this was what she was known as, before she became a Champa queen.
Not much is written about Princess Ngọc Khoa in the Vietnamese history books except for one thing––the Princess was exquisitely beautiful.
Everyone agreed that she was considered Khuynh Quốc Khuynh Thành (倾国倾城) which was a term used in ancient days to represent a woman of such significant beauty that she could make the palace towers lean and the very foundation of a kingdom topple.
The towers did indeed lean, and the kingdom did in fact topple due to Princess Ngọc Khoa’s beauty. According to Champa historical accounts, she wreaked havoc with the last existing kingdom of Champa and ended Champa’s 15 centuries of sovereignty within the area that is now central Vietnam.
Since very little was written about her in Vietnamese history books, what we do know about her is written from historical accounts written by foreign historians.
The two pivotal historical accounts that have survived the ravages of time are the ‘Histoire des Pays de l’Union Indochine‘ and the ‘Nouvelles recherches sur les Chams‘. This is what was documented.
As I previously stated, the Princess Ngọc Khoa had been sent there by her father, Lord Nguyên, to purchase silks, perfumes, and fine jewelry made from precious gold and rare gems. The various Champa historical accounts however, wrote that she had been sent there to entice the monarch of Champa, King Pô Romê.
The truth was most likely somewhere in the middle. It was true that she was in the bustling market area of the kingdom of Champa, browsing the various stalls and buying high quality silks and perfumes.
I also had no doubt that her father had sent her there to scout out the area in hopes she could find a way to catch the attention of King Pô Romê.
This was, after all, one of the thirty-six stratagems taught in The Art of War, which every ruler must learn.
Stratagem 31: Beauty Stratagem (美人計) is an often-used strategy of the Viet kings with a high level of success.
Beauty Stratagem was a ploy which sent beautiful people (sometimes men, but most often women) to varying areas of neighboring kingdoms to allay fears, as a peace offering, and as ambassadors of goodwill to keep the peace and to facilitate commerce between the nations.
It is also sometimes use as a way to send a single arrow flying into the heart of an opponent. This was what the Champa people believed that Princess Ngọc Khoa was sent to do.
Lord Nguyên knew that the last king of Champa, King Po Romê, had one weakness––he was attracted to beautiful women.
Using Stratagem 31, Lord Nguyên sent his third daughter to the Kingdom of Champa in hopes of finding a way for her to garner good will with the kingdom of Champa, if not as a concubine, then at least as a goodwill ambassador.
Princess Ngọc Khoa would far exceed his expectations. She had barely arrived at the capitol of Champa when word of her exceeding beauty had reached King Po Romê‘s ear.
Without wasting any time, King Po Romê had ordered the stunning beauty to present herself to his court. As soon as King Po Romê laid eyes on the Princess, he fell head-over-heels in love with her and sent an emissary to Lord Nguyên to ask for her hand in marriage.
Lord Nguyên agreed, and in short order, they were married. One note of interest was that this marriage was opposed by the ambassadors of both countries, Champa and Vietnam, but in matters of the heart, King Po Romê would not be swayed.
Queen Bia Ut Yuôn
The Champa people called Princess Ngọc Khoa, Bia Ut Yuôn, which in the Champa language means Third Queen Consort. She was the Third Queen because King Po Romê had two previous wives, First Queen Consort and Second Queen Consort.
Bia Ut Yuôn would be his favorite, as his other two queens would be relegated to the Concubines’ Palace (aka the harem) while Bia Ut Yuôn lived with the king in his palace.
All went well until she began to be afflicted by the presence of demonic visions. Bia Ut Yuôn began to succumb to an affliction whereby each night, she would see a huge number of earthbound spirits and demons clustered on top of the sacred Kraik ironwood tree, which was located within the palace walls.
The demons would then descend on her and began to hound and plague her to the point where she could not eat or sleep. After awhile, she sickened considerably.
Full of worry, King Pô Romê gathered his court sorcerers to conduct a mass exorcism for the tree, but it did not work and Bia Ut Yuôn continued to be tormented by the strange affliction.
Day after day, she began to worsen drastically. Unable to eat or sleep, she begged the king to remove the tree or she would not survive the year.
Desperate to save his wife, King Pô Romê gave the order to kill the Kraik ironwood tree. His advisors begged him not to murder the tree because it had to remain alive to protect the Champa Kingdom.
At first, he listened to his advisors, but then his beloved wife grew ill, exhibiting all the signs of demonic possession. Without any viable options, he gave the order for the tree to be taken down. This time, no advisor could sway his decision.
However, when the soldiers used axes to try and kill the Kraik tree, they found that the tree was as hard as if it was made of iron. Although this was an ironwood tree, with an extremely dense wood, the soldiers could do no damage to it at all.
Three days and three attempts later, the tree remained standing, without even a scratch on its bark.
According to Champa history, the Kraik tree laughed and roared:
“Hey you all! Even if you want to kill me, don’t even bother because you cannot kill me. Tell your king if he wants me dead, he will have to kill me himself!” 
By this point, no one dared approach the tree. Although the soldiers feared the king, they were more frightened of the Kreik tree.
Desperate and out of options, the soldiers went to the king and told him what the Kreik said. Again, they asked King Pô Romê to rescind the order.
Enraged that the soldiers were unable to do anything to the Kreik, King Po Rome took a long rìu axe and struck the trunk of the Kraik tree.
With a piercing shriek of pain and anger, the Kreik tree screamed in anguish as crimson blood flowed from its slashed trunk.
He struck again. And again it shrieked.
It was noted in Champa history that King Po Rome struck the tree with his rìu ax three times.
Each time he struck the ironwood’s trunk, it let out a horrible death sound that reverberated through the atmosphere and its trunk bled profusely.
On the third swing, the Kreik tree succumbed to his onslaught.
The Kreik tree had been mortally wounded, but its howling and screaming continued for another seven days and seven nights
After the seventh day, the hemorrhaging ceased and so did the shrieking and howling. The tree had finally died.
There was a funeral rite to send off the souls of the ironwood tree, and Bia Ut Yuôn was finally cured of the demonic possession. This should have been the end of the story––but wait. There’s more.
It wasn’t too long after that, the kingdom of Champa and the kingdom of Vietnam began to clash. There were many border skirmishes, and one year later, during the final battle, King Pô Romê was caught and subsequently died in the hands of the Vietnamese troops.
King Pô Romê
Now you know me. If I didn’t know better, I would have agreed that this was simply a ploy for Princess Ngọc Khoa to remove the spirit guardian of the Champa people so that her father could advance his army and overthrow the kingdom of Champa.
However, the Queen was not wrong. There actually was a demon within the tree, and in fact, I would argue that there were a huge number of demonic entities residing within the tree.
It had been imprisoned within the Kraik as a type of Trấn Yểm (see my previous post on Black Sorcery and the Maiden Bùa Thiên Linh Cái) to protect the Champa Kingdom.
This was why no one could harm the tree except for King Pô Romê, and for good reason. There is one little known detail about King Pô Romê that most people overlook.
He was a sorcerer in his own rights.
Pô Romê was not an ethnic Champa from the lowlands. He was born in the highlands and was a herder with a group of wandering nomadic tribe known as the Churu.
As an ethnic Churu, Pô Romê formed a marriage alliance with the Chief of the highlanders of the ethnic Austronesian Rade, as well as with the king of the lowland Cham Awal.
Once he married Princess Bia Than Cih (also known as Bia Sucih), the daughter of King Po Klaong Mah Nai, he became heir apparent of the Champa kingdom. Once King Po Klaong Mah Nai passed away, Pô Romê became king of the Champa Kingdom even though he was not ethnic Champa.
During his time in the highlands, Po Romé had journeyed to Kelantan Malaysia numerous times, where he studied kabar rup, a form of Malay sorcery. He also adopted the Muslim name, Po Gahlau ‘sovereign of agarwood’.
Pô Romê was the only one who could kill the demonic tree because he was the one who sent the demonic souls into the tree.
As I have so painstakingly tried to reconstruct the dark sorcery methodology of Bùa Thiên Linh Cái, the knowledge to utilize a tree, or river, or boulder, as a point of demonic possession was widely practiced throughout the ages. To this day, that knowledge still exists.
Let me tell you about the Kreik tree.
The Kreik Tree
At the time of King Pô Romê’s rule, the Champa Kingdom had a guardian spirit.
This particular guardian was an earthbound deity, a cheerful and benign term for what we Vietnamese call a demon. To make matters worse, this demon was not a free-range demon.
It was an enslaved demon (or rather a huge number of demons), bound to the ironwood tree, and cursed with the directive to protect the Champa lands from invaders.
This group of imprisoned demons was chained within a thousand-year-old ironwood tree that the Champa people called The Kraik. It was not just an ordinary ironwood. It was a protector tree.
Most trees are simple perennial plants that live their normal lives in a predictable pattern. If they are fruit trees, they are cultivated for harvesting each season. If they are lumber trees, they are cultivated for the required number of years and then they are felled.
But ‘Protector Trees‘ are cultivated for only one reason: To Protect.
The trees that are chosen to be Protector Trees are always of the angiosperm type––that is, they are hardwoods that can live up to several thousand years.
But Protector Trees don’t grow from seeds. They must be created by a very dark form of sorcery so that a tree can gain the powers to become a Protector. It is done by using the dark sorcery of the Maiden Bùa Thiên Linh Cái.
They are (almost) always planted in locations that require their protective services, and will usually be accompanied by the sorcerer(s) and/or their family who spend generation after generation to care for the tree, and subsequently, the trapped demon(s).
If this sounds familiar, this is the mikos’ job when they are at their Shinto shrines.
They are almost always young maidens who are recruited to be priestesses whose main job is maintaining the temple, the grounds, and any temple tree that may have a Protector Spirit within.
The reason that they are young maidens have to do with the ancient Maiden Bùa Thiên Linh Cái process of creating a guard demon which requires maidens.
Iron trees are native to South and Southeast Asian and can usually be found growing in large ancient forests.
In Theravada Buddhism, the ironwood tree is said to have been used as the tree to achieve enlightenment, or Bodhi by four Buddhas called “Mangala – මංගල”, “Sumana – සුමන”, “Revatha – රේවත”, and “Sobhitha – සෝභිත”.
This would make sense, if perhaps the final trial-by-fire to become a Buddha is the ability to control and redeem, or if the demon is unwilling, to exorcise the demon from the tree. This would be the only reason why anyone would sit under a banyan tree to meditate for many days and nights.
The soon-to-be Buddha must find a tree with a demon spirit trapped within and attempt to release the spirit so that its suffering might be eased.
This is, in my humble opinion, compassion in its highest form. As compassionate as I am, there is no way that I would actively seek out a haunted tree and try to redeem the demonic spirits contained within it.
This could also be the reason why there are so many large, old ironwood trees can be seen around the remains of ancient Buddhist monasteries.
They are probably the descendants of trees that had been planted by the monks in ancient times, and survived for thousands of years by sending suckers or shoots from the base of the trunk, which become new trees when the old trunk falls down.
The Champa Kreik tree was most likely created in the same manner as others of its demon-possessed kind, many of which still stand to this very day.
I’m not done telling the story of haunted trees yet, so until next time, be well, my friends.
- DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY — NAVAL HISTORICAL CENTER. Selected Groups in the Republic of Vietnam
- Cham Studies
- Histoire des Pays de l’Union Indochine
- Nouvelles recherches sur les Chams
- Malay Magic
I never heard that about meditation and trees with Buddhism before, very interesting. This is quite the series.