The Hoan Kiem Lake is in the Old Quarter of Hanoi in Vietnam and, along with the park around the lake, is the main focal point of the city. Local people come to the park early in the morning every day to exercise and then later in the evening to walk and relax.
Like many historic places in Vietnam, there is a legend attached to the Hoan Kiem Lake involving mystical creatures and the Gods of ancient Red River folklore.
About the Hoan Kiem Lake
Hoan Kiem Lake means something along the lines of the ‘Lake of the Restored Sword’. The lake acquired this unusual name because according to legend the ruler of the time, Emperor Loi Le in 1428, was given a bar of metal which a friend pulled from the lake when fishing. The bar of metal was made into a sword which the Emperor used during a war with the Chinese, which he won. Later when strolling by the lake the legend is that a turtle surfaced and asked for the sword to be returned to the Dragon King. The Emperor did as he was asked and the name of the lake was changed from that day forward.
The Hoan Kiem Lake is more than just a body of water with a legend attached to it, the lake has two islands each with historic buildings constructed upon them. The largest of these two islands, the Jade Island, is accessible by the Huc Bridge. The Huc Bridge is painted bright red and is one of the most iconic symbols of the city of Hanoi.
The Ngoc Son Temple is constructed on the Jade Island and like many Chinese style temples it is dedicated to the worship of famed ancestors. The ancestors worshipped at this temple are:
- Tran Hung Dao: A 13th Century military commander who repulsed three invasion attempts by the armies of Kublai Khan.
- Van Xuong: A renown scholar.
- Nguyen Van Sieu: A Confucian scholar who was in charge of renovating the temple in the late 19th Century.
The other smaller and inaccessible island in Hoan Kiem Lake has the (also iconic) Turtle Tower built upon it. This small tower, known locally as ‘Tháp Rùa’, was constructed in 1886 to commemorate the legend of the turtle who asked an Emperor for a sword and got it. The lake still has freshwater turtles in it although, because the lake is a deep green colour and also because the turtles shy away from human beings, you would be very lucky if you ever saw one.
Location of the Hoan Kiem Lake
The Hoan Kiem Lake is located 3 km by road from Hanoi Railway Station.