Hoan Kiem Lake (called Lake of the Restored
Sword) is now located inside a complex of Ngoc Son Temple, The Huc Bridge, and
Pen Tower in the surroundings, making a sparkling colorful natural picture! Ngoc
Son has undergone a lot of renovations, one among which was the addition of Thap
But (translated as Pen Tower) on its hill, which was once called Dao Tai. Three
words were inscribed on the tower: “Ta Thien Thanh” or “write on blue sky”.
Inside the gate a pool resembling the shape of an ink well was added. Beyond the
ink well is The Huc Bridge, which means “where the sun light is absorbed”. The
bridge leads to Dac Nguyet Lau (or “Moon Light tower”) – Ngoc Son shrine. Beyond
the gates to the shrine, there are two walls called Bang Rong and Bang Ho
(dragon and tiger slate), where the names of those who passed the national test
The name of Hoan Kiem Lake is derived from a legendary story in King Le Dynasty
about six centuries ago. The legend has it that during the war against the Minh
aggressors, King Le Thai To was given a precious fairy Sword by the Golden
Turtle God. After 10 years of continuous struggling, the King finally defeated
the Chinese and reclaimed the nation’s independence. After that, on a nice day,
while boating on Lake Luc Thuy, a large turtle came towards him. It immediately
grabbed the sword with its mouth and submerged. The king mourned the lost of
such a valuable sword, yet could not find either the turtle or the sword. He
realized that the God must have lent him the sword to drive back the enemy, but
then that his nation was dependent, the magic sword must be returned. Thus, King
Le Thai To re-named the lake Hoan Kiem Lake or Lake of the Restored Sword.
Since the reign of King Le Trung Hung (XVI century), every King in the Le
dynasty, and Lord Trinh made great contribution the beauty of the lake. Lord
Trinh Giang built Khanh Thuy shrine on Ngoc Island on the north end of the lake.
He also had the two man made hills built across from Ngoc son Shrine. At the end
of the Le Dynasty, Khanh Thuy was toppled by Chieu Thong. A philanthropist named
Tin Trai built Ngoc Son pagoda, which was renamed into Ngoc Son shrine during
the reign of Thieu Tri III (1843) as it was no longer a Buddhist shrine.
Instead, it became a shrine of Van Xuong, a deity, in charge of literature and
the various tests required to become a Mandarin. It has also been a shrine of
General Tran Hung Dao, a National Hero who secured numerous victories against
In the middle of Hoan Kiem Lake lies a Turtle Tower, which reminds Vietnamese
people of great assistance of the Turtle God. King Le Thanh Tong was said to be
used to fish here. Lord Trinh also built the structure to house his entourage
while visiting the lake.
Despite the time’s ashes and dust, the name of a popular historical and
legendary beauty-spot Hoan Kiem Lake is eternal for good as an evidence of a
fairy and heroic Hanoi during the past wars, and a romantic and charming Hanoi