Hoan Kiem Lake – A must-see attraction in Hanoi

A national relic and cultural icon in the heart of Hanoi, Hoan Kiem Lake has witnessed many ups and downs in Hanoi’s history. Undeniably, Hoan Kiem Lake is a must-visit destination for travelers when coming to Hanoi.

LOCATION

Hoan Kiem Lake is located in Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi: 

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FACTS & FIGURE

  • Area: 12 ha
  • Length: 700 m
  • Shore length: 1.75 km
  • Mean depth: 1.2 m
  • Max. depth: 2 m (6.6 ft)
  • 3 names: Ta Vong Lake, Luc Thuy Lake, Hoan Kiem Lake

 

THE LEGEND OF HOAN KIEM LAKE

In the past, Hoan Kiem Lake was once known as Luc Thuy Lake (Green Lake) since its water reflects a mesmerizing green color year-round. Legend said that in the 15th century when Vietnam had been under the oppression of the Northern invaders, the Dragon King (Long Vuong) lent a heavenly sword “Thuan Thien” to Emperor Le Thai To (Le Loi) to fight against the enemy. After successfully chasing away the foreign invaders through the Lam Son insurrection, the country entered a blissful era of peace and prosperity, with the mighty rule of Le Loi. One day, when the Emperor was boating on Luc Thuy Lake, the sacred Golden Turtle (Kim Quy) suddenly surfaced and demanded the return of the heavenly sword that Le Loi borrowed. Le Loi gave the sword to the Golden Turtle. As quickly as possible, the Turtle received the sword and dived into the lake. To commemorate this event, Le Loi renamed Luc Thuy Lake Hoan Kiem Lake (the Return of the Heavenly Sword).

SIGHTSEEINGS AROUND HOAN KIEM LAKE AREA

 

Ngoc Son Temple

Built in the 18th century on Jade Island in the center of Hoan Kiem Lake, Ngoc Son Temple is dedicated to the great war hero General Tran Hung Dao, who defeated an armed force of 300,000 Mongolian soldiers sent by Emperor Kublai Khan to invade Vietnam in the 13th century, and the great scholar Van Xuong (Van Xuong De Quan). Ngoc Son Temple has long been one of the most remarkable architectural ensembles of Hoan Kiem District and Hanoi City. The whole complex is well-designed in harmonization with the surrounding landscape. Inside the temple are a large bronze bust and other deities. There are altars dedicated to Tran Hung Dao, some ancient artifacts including ceramics, and a preserved specimen of a giant turtle found in the lake weighing 250kg.

The Huc Bridge

Entering Ngoc Son Temple, visitors will come across The Huc Bridge (The Bridge of the Rising Sun) and walk through Tam Quan (Three-passage Gate). Outside the first gate are two Chinese letters indicating Phuc (Happiness) on the right and Loc (Prosperity) on the left. The Bridge, painted in bright red, which resembles life, hope, and the Sun, has 32 circular pillars made from concrete, wooden floor, and railings, with a touch of parallel and ancient architecture.

The Pen Tower

Behind the first gate of Ngoc Son Temple is Pen Tower (Thap But), a 28m five-storey architecture made from stones and located on Doc Ton Mountain dedicated to literature and poetry. The peak of the Tower has the shape of a feather quill pen pointing toward the sky. Its body is hand-carved with three letters “Ta Thanh Thien” (Written on the clear blue sky), followed by a large Fengshui construction: A second gate with Taoist symbols, also Dragon symbol on the right and Tiger symbol on the left. The last gate has a high wall, roof, and rolling doors. On the roof, there is a large stone representing an ink pot, named Dai Nghien (the Writing Pad or the Ink-slab). 

Turtle Tower

Turtle Tower – a three-storey tower on a large heap of land in the heart of Hoan Kiem Lake, about 350 square meters wide, is a unique combination of local Vietnamese and French colonial architecture and a sacred cultural-spiritual of Hanoi. The tower, built in 1886, gradually narrows to the top since its first two storeys are larger than the third one. The ground and first floors own three doors on the Eastern and Western sides, while two other doors are visible on the Southern and Northern sides. The first and the top floors are fenced with horizontal and vertical rails. A thrilling point lies in the mythical existence of giant hundred-year-old turtles living in Hoan Kiem Lake, by Turtle Tower. In the past, four turtles died: One in 1962 at the Chi Linh flower garden, one is stored in the Hanoi Museum, the other preserved in Ngoc Son Temple, and the last turtle passed away in 2016 and mummified on display at the Vietnam National Museum of Natural History.

Ly Thai To Monument

The Ly Thai To monument is a large bronze sculpture of Emperor Ly Thai To, the founder of the Ly Dynasty and Thang Long Imperial City since 1010, which later became the city of Hanoi. The bronze statue weighs 12 tons, stands at 10.10 meters, and is atop a 20-ton pedestal. The right hand of Ly Thai To holds the Chieu Doi Do (The Decree of the Relocation of the Capital City to Thang Long), and the left-hand points to the location where the construction began. The statue was erected to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the liberation of Hanoi. It is venerated by the local people with flowers and incense. The monument of Ly Thai To is opposite Hoan Kiem Lake, located in Indira Gandhi Park (Dinh Tien Hoang Street), named after the slain Indian prime minister who was a supporter and friend of Vietnam.

 

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