According to legend, Hoan Kiem Lake is where King Le Loi returned his magic sword to the Golden Turtle.
The Story about Le Loi
Le Loi was born in about 1384 and is one of Vietnam’s greatest heroes. He was the youngest of three sons of an aristocratic nobleman in Lam Son, Thanh Hoa province, in the far south of the country. Le Loi became a landowner and an administrator in his hometown.
From 1407, Vietnam was under the domination of the Ming Chinese, who caused great hardship to the people. Le Loi desired to free his country from Chinese rule after he personally witnessed the destruction of a Vietnamese village by Ming’s military force.
In 1418, on the day after Tet, Le Loi resigned his position and moved into the hills near his home. From here he called on the people to join him and to rise up against the invaders. At the beginning his force numbered about 500 people. Under the leadership of Le Loi they used guerilla tactics, staging raids and ambushes against the Chinese army in the north, to undermine its morale.
The final battle took place in 1426 at Tot Dong near Ha Noi nowadays. The Chinese general, Liu Shan, was captured and executed by the Vietnamese. Then the Vietnamese lured the Chinese army into Hanoi where it was surrounded and destroyed in a series of battles. At the end, the Ming army lost over 70,000 men.
Le Loi becomes King Le Thai To
In 1427, after ten years of war, the Chinese recognized the independence of the Viet people.
Le Loi is looked upon as the perfect embodiment of the just and wise leader. During the short time that he was a king he laid the foundations for the future greatness of Vietnam. Every town has a major street named after Le Loi. In Hanoi his royal name is used for Le Thai To street, where his statue, and a temple dedicated to him, stand.
The Legend of the Returned Sword
Of the many legends and stories told about Le Loi, the most famous concerns his magical sword. Similar to King Arthur and his sword Excalibur, Le Loi was said to have a sword of great power. The legend tells that the blade of the sword, inscribed with the words ‘The Will of Heaven’ (Thuan Thien), came from the Dragon King in his underwater palace. A fisherman, who later joined Le Loi’s army, caught the blade of the sword in his net. The hilt was found by Le Loi himself in a banyan tree. The stories claim Le Loi grew very tall, very powerful when he used the sword and that it gave him the strength of thousands of men.
The story relates how one day, not long after the Chinese had accepted Vietnam as an independent country, Le Loi was out boating on the Green Water Lake (Luc Thuy). Suddenly a large turtle surfaced, took the sword from Le Loi’s belt, and dived back into the depths, carrying the glowing sword in his mouth. Efforts were made to find both the sword and the turtle but without success. Le Loi then acknowledged that the sword had gone back to the Dragon King with the Golden Turtle (Kim Quy), and he renamed the lake ‘The Lake of the Returned Sword’ (Hoan Kiem Lake).
The Turtle Tower
At the center of Hoan Kiem Lake is an islet on which stands a small tower called Thap Rua (Turtle Tower), this structure honors the magic turtle that still guards the sword of Le Loi.
The story goes that around 1886, a Vietnamese mandarin in the service of the French, persuaded the government to allow him to build a tower on the islet. What he kept secret was his intention to bury his father’s remains on the Turtle Islet, a place considered favorable according to traditional feng shui belief. However, the people of the city discovered his plot and they removed his father’s body.
On the top of Turtle Tower there used to stand a version of the Statue of Liberty, placed there by the French. The statue was destroyed when the Tran Trong Kim government took over the city from the French administration in 1945.
Although only a shell of a building, with pointed Gothic arches not at all in the style of Vietnamese architecture, and built by one remembered as a traitor, Thap Rua has become an important symbol of both peace and patriotism to the people of Hanoi. The revolutionary flag was often hoisted here during the era of resistance to French rule. The green area around the tower is where the turtles bask in the sun and lay their eggs
The legend about King Le Loi return the sword is one of the most famous legend in Viet Nam
If you have free time in Viet Nam, Hoan Kiem lake is a symbol that you should definitely visit./.