Hoan Kiem Lake( Sword Lake) is a lake in the historical center of Hanoi, the capital city of Vietnam. Hoan Kiem Lake was once a part of the Red river (song Hong). Through thousands of years of changes in the geography, the lake moved eastward to its present position many kilometers from the river.
The lake was once called Luc Thuy or Green Water because the water was green year round. In the fifteen century, the lake was named Ho Hoan Kiem, based of a legend that is quite similar to King Arthur and the Lady of the Lake’s legend. 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 when he used the sword and that it gave him the strength of many 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 fro
m 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).
At the northern end 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. 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. Nowadays, Thap Rua and Hoan Kiem Lake have become important symbols of both peace and patriotism to the people of Hanoi.