Prominent for its tranquil environment and iconic gigantic turtles, the beauty of Hanoi’s Hoan Kiem Lake has enthralled many tourists and locals alike. However, the lake is more than just a captivating scenery – it is the place of a legendary tale that revolves around an emperor and a magical sword…
We are starting a new series of articles on the tales and legends that shape our destinations.
Situated in Hanoi, Hoan Kiem Lake draws locals and tourists searching for a relaxing escape from the noise and bustles of the Old Quarter’s streets. Deemed as the heart of Hanoi, the lake is regarded as a legendary spot, which further amplifies much of its prestige and makes it remarkable amid several other lakes in the northern region.
The Legend of the Returned Sword
According to the legend, in early 1428, Emperor Le Loi acquired a magical sword from the Dragon King to fight against Chinese oppressors. A fisherman, who later joined Le Loi’s army, had captured the blade of the sword in his net, while the hilt was discovered by Le Loi in a banyan tree. The blade of the sword was apparently engraved with the words ‘Thuan Thien’, which translates to ‘the will of heaven’. The tale claims that Le Loi enormously grew and possessed the strength of many men combined whenever he used the sword.
One day, after the victorious battle against the Chinese army, Le Loi went out boating on the beautiful Green Water Lake (Luc Thuy). However, much to his astonishment, an enormous golden turtle suddenly appeared to him. The turtle later explained that he was sent by his master, the Dragon King, to reclaim the sword. As a result, he returned the sword to the turtle, who then dived back beneath the jade waters, carrying the glowing sword in his mouth. Afterwards, Emperor Loi named the area Hoan Kiem Lake, meaning ‘Lake of the Returned Sword’, to commemorate the surprising encounter.
In other variations of the legend, the golden turtle seemingly grabbed the sword and disappeared into the depths of the lakes to return the sword to its original owners. Ultimately, countless attempts were made to retrieve the sword but without success.
The Amazing Sites of Hoan Kiem Lake
Exploring Hoan Kiem Lake, visitors are given the chance to discover astounding places such as: The Turtle Tower, Ngoc Son Temple, the Huc Bridge, and more.
Today, the Turtle Tower (‘Tháp Rùa’ in Vietnamese) stands close to the lake in memory of the popular legend. Built in a pleasant stance with nature, the tower maintains a certain sophistication and charm due to its French influences and authentic Vietnamese architecture.
The Huc Bridge, also commonly referred to as ‘the bridge where the light is absorbed’, serves as a connecting point between Hoan Kiem Lake and Ngoc Son Temple. Painted in a vibrant red color and constructed by fine wood, the Huc Bridge is truly a wondrous gem that perfectly mixes with its abundant green-filled surroundings.
Furthermore, touring Hoan Kiem Lake would not be complete without a visit to Ngoc Soc Temple. Meaning ‘Temple of the Jade Mountain’, the temple is dedicated to General Tran Hung Dao, patron saint of physicians La To, and scholar Van Xuong. In essence, the splendid architecture of Ngoc Soc Temple is a prime example of merges between natural landscapes and intricate manmade architecture.
Hoan Kiem Lake is one of the many renowned attractions in Hanoi. The lake is a best-loved destination of tourists due to the harmonious blend among its lush nature and stunning architecture. Exploring this spectacular location, travelers can experience the serene bliss it offers, which ideally counterbalances the lively Vietnamese Capital city.