Thursday, November 09, 2006

Hanoi City Tour: Hoan Kiem Lake

Hanoi is home to about 20 lakes and one of the most popular and picturesque is Hoan Kiem Lake. Situated at the edge of the Old Quarter, the lake is surrounded by broad tree-lined boulevards, giving it an old-world charm and beauty.

It is a popular hangout spot for all of Hanoi, from young couples in love to elderly folks practicing their tai-chi. It is also a place where children play and fly kites while intellectuals enjoy a quiet game of chess while sipping sweet, hot Vietnamese coffee.

As with most other sites of interest in this city, the lake comes with its own history - The Legend Of The Restored Sword.

In 1418, a fisherman named Le Than was busy drawing in his fishing net in Luc Thuy lake when he found a blade that had got caught in the net. He knew that the blade was an enchanted gift from the gods, so he offered it to his commanding general Le Loi who then fashioned a powerful sword from the blade.

Now, Le Loi was a very influential farmer who, along with most of the peasants in the region, was growing discontented with the presence of the Chinese army in their land. So he formed an insurrection army and led the resistance against the Ming aggressors. With the enchanted sword by his side, Le Loi was virtually invincible in every battle he fought in. After ten arduous years of war, Le Loi and his army finally achieved victory and regained national independence.

Upon victory, Le Loi proclaimed himself as Binh Dinh Vuong (King of Pacification) and returned to the lake district to pay tribute to the gods there as he believed the sword had brought him much luck and strengthened his destiny as King.

One day, aboard a royal boat, he took a cruise on Luc Thuy Lake when a giant turtle emerged out of the water and swam towards him. Calling out to his soldiers, the king withdrew his sword, and pointed the sword in the direction of the turtle.

Suddenly, before the king or his men could do anything, the turtle caught the sword in its teeth, snatched it away from his grasp, and submerged into the lake with it. The soldiers started jumping into the water to go after the turtle, but the King forbade them to give chase.

The king thought that during the resistance against Ming aggressors, the gods had offered him the enchanted sword to help him defeat the enemy. Now that peace has returned to the land, the gods had sent a genie in the form of a giant turtle to retrieve the sword.

Hence, he named the lake Hoan Kiem (Lake of the Restored Sword) and then built a small shrine called Thap Rua on a small island in the middle of the lake. It has been said that descendants of the turtle genie still live in the lake and have been seen to climb up to the Turtle Shrine whenever the season changes.

Legend has it that the giant turtle still lurks in the murky depths of the lake and the rare event of its emergence from the water bodes good fortunes for the people and the country.


Shah said...

Simply beautiful. U should get a job with the Vietnam tourism promotion board...if there is one.

Amazonman said...

Thanks buddy for your kind comment. I really appreciate it. I really enjoyed Hanoi. Hope you will too.

Asther said...

Wow... do you remember all those history behind each monuments & carvings? Do you write them down or simply you've got that excellent high-speed, mega-gig-bytes in your head??? Hahaha... I normally will forget the moment I step away from one place. So, I've to jot the details down in a small notebook whenever I travel.