MangoVine
Adventures in East Asia

Giant Turtles at the Ngoc Son Temple and Hoan Kiem Lake

Today seemed to be a day for tourist worshipping as we also visited the Ngoc Son Temple and Hoan Kiem Lake. Hoan Kiem Lake (which translates as "Lake of the Returned Sword" or "Lake of the Restored Sword" is in the historical centre of Hanoi.

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According to legend, Emperor Le Loi (founder of the Le Dynasty) had a magic sword given to him by Kim Qui, the Golden Turtle God, which he successfully used in his revolt against the Chinese Ming Dynasty. Whilst out boating, a large turtle surfaced and took the sword before returning to the depths. Efforts to retrieve the sword were furtile and Le Loi then acknowledged the sword had gone back to the Golden Turtle God and renamed the lake Hoan Kiem Lake - "The Lake of the Returned Sword".

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The Tortoise Tower (Thap Rua) which stands on a small island near the center of lake is linked to the legend.

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Near the northern shore of the lake lies Jade Island on which the Ngoc Son Temple (Jade Mountain Temple) stands. This is the site we actually visited, accessing the island via the wooden red-painted Huc Bridge (The Huc, meaning Morning Sunlight Bridge) which connects it to the shore.

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The temple was buzzing with both tourists and worshippers, and aside from the altar, the preserved body of a soft-shell Hoan Kiem Turtle that had died in 1967 is on display.

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Its a massive six foot three inches long with the scientific name of Rafetus leloii. The species is critically endangered and although the number of individuals in the lake is unclear, like the lottery, we watch and hope in vain to catch sight of one.

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More photos on the Ngoc Son Temple and Hoan Kiem Lake, Hanoi Flickr set

Sources:

Hoan Kiem Lake on wikipedia.org
Hoan Kiem Turtle on wikipedia.org


This entry posted in : Attractions. History. Tourism. Vietnam.

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