Hoan Kiem Lake located in the centre of Hanoi isn't Hanoi's biggest lake, but it seems to represent the “spiritual heart” of the city. The lake is like a magnet, drawing people towards it. In the late afternoon and evening the sculptured park along the banks play host to thousands of people enjoying the view, playing chess, or going for a jog, not to mention the postcard and map sellers and illegal money changers trying to do business with tourists.
Hoan Kiem Lake is also called Lake of the Restored Sword. The name Lake of the Restored Sword is derived from a legend. “After ten years of hard fighting (1407-1417), the Lam Son insurrectionists
led by Le Loi swept the foreign invaders (the Chinese) out of the country of Dai Viet, ending the
Ming's 20–year domination over the Viet people. Le Loi became a national hero, proclaiming himself king, called Le Thai To, and establishing his capital in Thang Long”.
|Hoan Kiem Lake Turtle|
Now that seems to be rather reasonable, historical fact. But then a bit of straight forward history takes a rather bizarre turn “On a beautiful afternoon, the King and his entourage took a dragon shaped
boat for sight-seeing on Luc Thuy (Green Water) Lake, which was located in the centre of Thang Long capital (present–day Hanoi). As the boat was gliding on the lake, suddenly there was a great wave and on top of the wave, the Golden Tortoise Genie appeared, telling the King: Your Majesty, the great work is completed. Would you please return the sacred sword to the King of the Sea?"”
“The precious sword was formerly lent to Le Loi by the King of the Sea and was always beside him throughout his battles and helped him win over the Ming invaders. At the time the Tortoise Genie spoke, the sword hung at the King's waist. It then moved out of the scabbard and flew towards the Genie. The Genie kept the sword in his mouth and dived under the water, and bright lightning flashed up to the sky. Since then, the Luc Thuy Lake has been called the Restored Sword Lake, or the Sword Lake for short.”
The legend of the Hoan Kiem Lake turtle has great significance for Vietnamese people, dating back to the 15th century. It is believed that while cruising the lake, a turtle surfaced and demanded from king Le Loi that he return to the lake a sacred sword used in defeating the Ming. The turtle either grabbed the sword or Le Loi unsheathed and gave it to the turtle, renaming it Hoan Kiem “Lake of Returned Sword”. It is still hotly debated whether the lake contains a single turtle, which reputedly lives up to 700 years, or whether there are five turtles that surface to mark important national events. Apparently, three Hoan Kiem turtles are held in captivity, two in Chinese zoos.
Hoan Kiem Lake According to the legend, emperor Lê Lợi handed a magic sword called Heaven's Will which brought him victory in his revolt against the Chinese Ming Dynasty back to the Golden Turtle God (Kim Qui) in the lake and hence gave it its present name (the lake was formerly known as "Luc Thuy" meaning "Green Water"). The Tortoise Tower (Thap Rùa) standing on a small island near the center of lake is linked to the legend.
Hoan Kiem Lake large soft-shell turtles, either of the species Rafetus swinhoei or a separate species named Rafetus leloii in honor of the emperor, have been sighted in the lake. The species is critically endangered and the number of individuals in the lake is unclear. Near the northern shore of the lake lies Jade Island on which the Ngoc Son Temple (Jade Mountain Temple) stands. The temple was erected in the 18th century. It honors the 13-century military leader Tran Hung Dao who distinguished himself in the fight against the Yuan Dynasty, Van Xuong, a scholar, and Nguyen Van Sieu, a Confucian master and famous writer in charge of repairs made to the temple in 1864. Jade Island is connected to the shore by the wooden red-painted The Huc Bridge.
|Hoan Kiem Lake|
This is another “attraction”, something interesting to see when you’re exploring the Hoan Kiem Lake area. The temple is located basically on the north east side of the lake and is easily recognized by the colorful two towered gateway that serves as it entranceway. The gate itself is known as Tam Quan or “Three Passage Gate” and it leads to Huc Bridge, the infamous red lacquered bridge that is so often associated with modern day Ha Noi.
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The Ngoc Son is also known as the Jade Mountain Temple and was last modified in the 1800’s and was initially built to honor a 13th century military figure Tran Hung Dao, and scholar Van Xuong, Tran Hung Dao was responsible for protecting the northern borders of what is now Vietnam during the Mongol Resistance Wars of the 1250’s. Nguyen Van Sieu was the man that was instrumental in its restoration in 1864. Van Sieu was responsible for the additions of the Tower that sits on a rock mound just inside the Tam Quan.
The tower, named Thap But is a 30 foot high symbolic representation of a “paint brush”, sometimes referred to as the “Pen Tower” In addition to this a part of his design is a shaped rock found close by that is meant to be symbolic of a “writing pad” so illustrating the constant connection seen in Vietnam between the artist and religion in this culture.