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An experience we will never forget
March 24, 2012

Hoan Kiem Lake

Hoan Kiem Lake, also known as "Lake of the Restored Sword", is located at the heart of  Old Quarter,  famous for its temple rising on emerald water and the charming red wooden bridge.

Right in the southeast fringe of the Old Quarter is Hoan Kiem Lake, Hanoi’s heart and soul. There are numerous lakes in the city, but this is a gem. It was formed long time ago as the residual part of Red River arm. The lake used to be called “Luc Thuy” (Green Water) due to its year-round emerald water.

Hoan Kiem Lake embraces elegant and mystical beauty. Its water boasts a distinctive color, maybe of alga or of the blue sky above and surrounding verdant trees mirrored in it. The lake has two fantastic islets: Rua (Tortoise) Islet and Ngoc (Pearl) Islet. The first rises offshore at the centre and houses a historical temple, Tortoise Temple. The latter is accessed by a stunning red bridge called the Bridge of Rising Sun. Another Chinese-style temple, Ngoc Son Temple, was built there. On the north shore of the lake lie the five-story But Tower and Nghien Mount, which were erupted in 1864 and regarded as everlasting symbols of Hanoi.

• Why the name of Restored Sword?

The present name “Hoan Kiem” or “Restored Sword” is associated with a legend about King Le Thai To. In mid 15th century, the emperor was given a magical sword of Long Quan (God of the Water) to defeat Minh invaders. One fine day after that glorious victory, while the King was boating around the lake, a giant tortoise emerged from the water and asked to take back the sword to Long Quan. As the country was already in peace and thriving, the King gave it back without hesitation. Since then, the lake has been renamed “Restored Sword Lake” to show aspirations of Vietnamese people for peace (without war and weapons).


From legend to reality ...

Turtle does live in the lake, said to be a Rafetus Swinhoei soft shell species. This is one of the four individuals in the whole world, classified by IUCN as one of the most endangered.

According to the Dr. Ha Dinh Duc, this turtle is more than 700 years old and to locals she is the incarnation of Kim Quy or Gold Turtle God. Surprisingly, she usually emerged out of the water in significant days of the city. If you are lucky enough, you may get the chance to see her.   

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