The Mandarin ducks of Ba Be Lake: an ode to love and beauty

Uyen Uong - Featured

Spring at Ba Be Lake is a magical time. It’s the perfect time to see Mandarin ducks, the flamboyantly colored birds that migrate from the north to escape the winter cold.

Mandarin Duck

From spectacle to symbolism

These ducks, present from mid-February to the end of March, fascinate by their beauty. The male, with his brightly-colored plumage, and the more discreet female form a united couple, a symbol of love and fidelity in Vietnam. Popular language has kept many traces of our colorful bird:
  • Uyên ương: A married couple.
  • Uyên ương tơ: A young couple in love.
  • Cầu uyên ương: An “S”-shaped bridge symbolizing the union of two souls.
  • Vòng uyên ương: A necklace with two pendants in the shape of Mandarin ducks, offered to couples.
  • Tranh uyên ương: A painting depicting Mandarin ducks, often given as a wedding gift.

An inseparable couple

Uyen and Uong, as they’re affectionately known, are never apart. They sleep, eat and swim together, a model of marital bliss. Their presence at Vietnamese weddings symbolizes the union of the spouses and their commitment to remain united.

A lucky charm

The Mandarin duck is also a symbol of fertility and happiness. Giving a pair of ducks to a couple wishing to have a child is a common tradition. Its presence in a home is considered a lucky charm, bringing joy and prosperity.

Legendary love

The Mandarin duck is also present in Vietnamese folklore. There are many stories and legends about these birds and their symbolism.

Let me tell you the legend of the mandarin duck and the fairy

Long ago, in a peaceful village in Vietnam, there lived a young man named Trương Chi. Poor as Job, his only possession was his immense beauty. One day, while strolling nonchalantly, he spotted an extraordinarily beautiful fairy, Mỵ Nương, descending from the sky to bathe in a lake.

Instant love at first sight! Trương Chi fell in love with her at first sight, and so did she. And so began a love story worthy of the greatest fairy tales. They married and lived happily ever after, as if in a daydream.

But, as in every good story, there is always a villain. One day, a cruel village mandarin, an arrogant and unscrupulous bigwig, fell under the spell of Mỵ Nương. Desiring to possess her at all costs, he ordered Trương Chi to give him his wife.

Trương Chi, a courageous man and mad lover, flatly refused. The mandarin, furious at his refusal, had him killed without mercy.

Mỵ Nương, inconsolable and devastated, went to the lakeside where she had met her lost love. There, she miraculously transformed herself into a Mandarin duck, the symbol of eternal love. She swam across the lake singing a sad song, expressing her pain and immense sorrow. One day, a kind-hearted fisherman heard the melancholy song of Mỵ Nương. Touched by her sadness, he caught her and took her home. Mỵ Nương lived with the fisherman for many years, telling him the tragic story of her lost love.

When Mỵ Nương died, his soul once again took the form of a Mandarin duck and flew up to heaven. The story goes that, in the afterlife, she was finally reunited with her beloved Trương Chi, and they now live happily ever after, far from injustice and evil mandarins.

Moral of the story? True love is stronger than death, even in the face of insurmountable obstacles. It’s a force that crosses time and space, capable of overcoming all hardships.


There are other versions of this love story… Tran Trong Kim and Nguyen Thi Minh Khai’s (or Le Van and Nguyen Thi, depending on the version) is a veritable concentrate of love, tears and magic, all sprinkled with a zest of Mandarin duck.

Under the Tran dynasty, these two lovebirds fall for each other like pepperoni pizza fresh from the oven. But their families are enemies, as ruthless as hungry ninjas. Marriage is out of the question!

That’s where the Mandarin duck comes in. A bird like no other, capable of miracles. Wounded or magically appearing (we’re not sure), he bides his time. And when the lovers are on the verge of despair, paf! The duck steps in and fixes everything.

The result? Tran Trong Kim and Nguyen Thi Minh Khai (or Le Van and Nguyen Thi) finally get married, and live happily ever after, accompanied by their lucky duck.

All of which goes to show that love is stronger than anything, even enemy families. And if you’ve got a Mandarin duck in your family, take good care of it! He just might save your ass one day…

Uyen Uong - Ho Ba Be

Ba Be Lake, a natural sanctuary

Let’s come back down to earth, or rather to the shores of Ba Be Lake, for a chance to spot yellow-headed ducks (scientific name: Anas penelope – Eurasian Wigeon), a migratory bird species that is rarer than Mandarin ducks in Vietnam.

In addition to Mandarin ducks, Ba Be Lake is home to a rich and varied biodiversity. It’s the largest natural freshwater lake in Vietnam, with 500 hectares and 10,000 hectares of virgin forest. A true haven of peace for nature lovers.

So, if you’re looking for a unique experience, come and watch the Mandarin ducks of Lake Ba Be. Be enchanted by their beauty and discover the deep symbolism attached to them.

A word of advice: get up early to observe the Mandarin ducks in their natural habitat. Enjoy the calm of the morning and the beauty of the landscape for an unforgettable experience.


Photos : Dan Tri online magazine
From : Dịp hiếm ngắm nhìn chim uyên ương khi du Xuân hồ Ba Bể

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