Considered as the heart of Hanoi (physically and symbolically), Hoan Kiem Lake is one of the must-see sites for your Hanoi Tour. Let’s go back in time with us and see how special it is, I’m sure you will like it!
Legend of the name
Deep inside the green of tree and water is a long history of the lake, from the early days of Vietnam. In 15th Centary, the lake was named as Ngoc Thuy Lake (Greenish Water Lake) because the water is always green all around the year. Hoan Kiem Lake or Sword Lake is just the new name coming from a famous legend related to Le Loi’s magical sword which is similar to King Arthur and his sword Excalibur.
Le Loi, one of Vietnam’s greatest heroes, was born in 14th Century. At this time, Vietnam was under the domination of the Ming (from China), who caused a lot of hardship and misery to Vietnamese people. Le Loi pledged to free his country from Chinese rule after personally witnessing the destruction of a Vietnamese village by a Ming military force. He, therefore, founded a small insurgent army in Lam Son, Thanh Hoa province to take back the country’s independence in spite of the lack of troops and support.
At that time, there was a fisherman named Le Than in Thanh Hoa province. One day, when he was fishing on the river, he accidentally caught a metal bar. At first, he threw it away because he thought that it was just a normal thing. However, after that, he kept catching it three times continually. With a closer look, he realized that it was something special, maybe it’s a blade of a sword so he kept it by his side. On the other day, Le Loi had to hide from the enemies in the forest and he discovered a hilt (the other part of the sword) shining on a tree. Then, he also decided to kept it.
Shortly after that, Le Than joined Le Loi’s army. One day, when Le Loi visited Le Than’s hut, the blade and the hilt suddenly shined. When they were combined together, the words ‘The Will of Heaven’ (Thuan Thien) appeared and let Le Loi know that it was the gift from the heaven to help him defeat the enemy. With the magical power from the sword, Le Loi won on the battle and took back independence for Vietnamese people.
When peace was prevailed, one day, when Le Loi went sailing on the boat, suddenly a giant golden turtle surfaced and shouted: ‘Return the sword t the Dragon King’. Without hesitation, Emperor Le Loi threw the sword to the lake. The turtle took the sword and dove down the water. From then on, it was renamed as ‘The Lake of the Returned Sword’ (Hoan Kiem Lake).
In the past, there are plenty of huge turtle inside the lake and it’s a good luck for anyone can see a turtle rise above the water. Besides, Hanoians often gather around the lake to do exercises or practice taichi. Recently, from Friday night to Sunday night every week, all of the roads surround the lake are closed and a lot of people come here to play traditional games, to listen to music and even drawing. Also, it’s really common to see couples holding hands at night and students looking for foreigners to practice English.
Other things to see
* Ngoc Son Temple
This temple was built in the 19th century as Buddhist pagoda, and then a temple for the cult of a deified Chinese warrior, Quan Cong, and then for the Spirits of Literature and the Soil. This shrine is now dedicated to Tran Hung Dao, the 13th century Vietnamese military national hero and scholar Van Xuong. The temple's architecture now reflects the Chinese style favored by the Nguyen rulers of that time.
* The Huc Bridge
To get inside the temple, visitors have to walk through The Huc Bridge (The Huc – keep the sunlight). This bridge was constructed by Nguyen Van Sieu in the arched shape of a sickle-moon or an ivory comb with 16 rows piles in 1884. The bridge now is just a replica because it was rebuilt in 1916 after the war from 1947 to 1954.
* Pen Tower
Pen Tower is 10m high and resembles a writing brush. The three words on the tower means 'Writing on the sky'. The mountain represents for difficulties that the students have to overcome.
* Turtle Tower
To really enjoy the view and the stories behind the lake as well as other places of interest in Hanoi, it’s a good idea to try a tour with local tour guides who are enthusiastic and eager to show you everything of Hanoi. Here are some tours including Hoan Kiem Lake that GoAsiaDayTrip offers:
Go with GoAsiaDayTrip to enjoy the full Hanoi experience and know more about Hoan Kiem Lake!