Hoan Kiem Lake is a former branch of the Red River. There was a time the Red River flowed back to the West, after the river changed course, the lake belonged to the East like today
Very long time ago, it’s used to be called Luc Thuy Lake since the water color of the lake was greenish all the year round. Until the 15 century, its name was changed to Hoan Kiem according to a legend of The Emperor Le Thai To. The legend said it that the King Le Thai To had a precious sword which helped him during 10 years of his revolt against the Chinese Ming Dynasty. After the victory, once the emperor Le Thai To was boating on Luc Thuy lake, he showed his precious sword to his soldiers, there was a big turtle surfaced and took it away. Immediately, he asked people to drain the lake and find out the turtle but they could not find either turtle and sword. Then, he thought that the valuable sword’s given to help him fight against the enemy and should be returne when the nation’s peaceful. So, Hoan Kiem was named for the lake accordingly (It means Lake of the Returned Sword), also known as Ho Guom (Sword Lake).
Originally, the lake was very large stretching from Hang Dao Street connecting to the Red River, to the area of Hang Chuoi Street. It’s devided into two parts: the right and the left (Ta Vong – Huu Vong). The lake now belongs to the last right part
From the reign of King Le Trung Hung (the 16th century onwards), many Kings of Le Dynasty and Trinh Lord had contributed to make the beauty of this lake. Trinh Giang Lord built Khanh Thuy Palace on Jade Island (in the northern shore of the lake) and built two man-made hills on the East bank of the lake called Mount. Đao Tai and Ngoc Boi.
At the end of the Le Dynasty, Thuy Khanh shrine was destroyed by Chieu Thong. Then, a philanthropist named Tin Trai built Ngoc Son Pagoda which was changed to Ngoc Son Temple by the reign of Thieu Tri 3 (1843). Ngoc Son Temple’s a place to make worship of Van Xuong Shrine (who supervised the literature and civil service examination) and General Tran Hung Dao (the national hero fighting against the Mongols.
In 1864, Nguyen Van Sieu, a famous cultural researcher of Hanoi made renovation all of this area. The complex of Ngoc Son Temple, Pen Tower and The Huc Bridge made the surrounding of Hoan Kiem Lake a sparkling colorful natural picture. Beside that, we could not miss the Turtle Tower which was built on a small island in the middle of the lake.
Everyday, there are many visitors from all over the world coming to Hanoi, and they could not fail to visit the complex of Hoan Kiem Lake – where the sword was returned