Hoan Kiem Lake

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"Hoan Kiem Lake, the Lake of the Returned Sword...bordered by temples and restaurants, overhung by massive trees, dotted by the Ngoc Son islet (Tortoise Tower), where the tiny pagoda is topped like Christmas tree with a huge red star*...lies in the heart of the old city, of Hanoi.

Centuries ago, around 1425 A.D., when Le Loi led a popular uprising to drive out the invaders (this time the Ming), a fisherman named Le Thanh cast his net into the lake and pulled up a sword from the depths. The legend goes that the sword, which had belonged to Long Quan, the Dragon Lord of the Lake, had a magical glow. Later, when Thanh joined the rebels who were faring badly in their struggle against superior Ming forces, he gave the sword to Le Loi...who seemed to be the first to notice that the sword was engraved with the words 'By the Will of Heaven'. With this sword, Le Loi routed the Chinese army.

About a year later, after Le Loi was King, he went boating on the lake. suddenly the surface started to boil and a golden turtle rose out of the depths. 'Please be so kind', the turtle said, 'as to return the sword which my master has loaned to you.' The devout King, who knew his mandate derived from sources more powerful than his own merely personal capacities, unsheathed the sword and threw it into the water, where it was snatched up and taken down by the turtle."

* Since 1991 when John returned to Vietnam, the red star has been removed.

Quoted from John Balaban's book, Remembering Heaven's Face, A Story of Rescue in Wartime Vietnam, University of Georgia Press. A great Read!!

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