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Hanoi Postcard No. 9: The Turtle God of Hồ Gươm

Hanoi's lakes, including Hồ Gươm, are brimming with fish, debris and memories of historical lore. 

According to Vietnamese mythology, Emperor Le Loi gained possession of a powerful sword, named Heaven’s Will, during the 15th century while war raged with China. A soldier and former fisherman caught the sword in his net and gave it to the emperor. It was this gift that helped Le Loi overthrow the Chinese and gain Vietnam’s independence.

After the war, Le Loi was boating on Hồ Gươm when Kim Quy, the Golden Turtle God, surfaced. Le Loi placed Heaven’s Will into the turtle’s outstretched claws and thanked the divine being for its help. The beast swiftly disappeared into the depths to return the sword to the Dragon King who sent it. Le Loi then renamed the lake Hồ Hoàn Kiếm, meaning “The Lake of the Returned Sword.”

It is likely such ancient turtles are the ancestors of their modern relatives. In January 2016, Hanoians were left shell-shocked after learning that Cụ Rùa, the last living Hoan Kiem Turtle, had died.

Some claim that two or three young turtles still live in the lake. Yet without proven sightings, they exist merely as legends, classified as cryptozoological. And so the era of Hồ Gươm’s turtles, from Kim Quy until today, remains bookended by myths. 

Check out the postcard below (click to flip for text):

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<p><img src="//media.urbanistnetwork.com/urbanisthanoi/article-images/2019/07/news/postcard8sgrrrrr.jpg" alt="" /></p>
<p>Do you know how Hanoi’s greatest lake was formed?</p>
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<p><span style="background-color: transparent;">Over 1,000 years ago, the Red River shifted course, creating an oxbow lake that slowly grew into the capital’s largest body of water. But who needs facts when one can wade into the waters of myth to explain its presence?</span></p>
<p><span style="background-color: transparent;">According to folklore, Vietnamese Buddhist monk Minh Khong once worked as a medical practitioner in China. After treating a Chinese emperor, he asked for payment in bronze, which he brought back with him to Hanoi. Upon returning, he </span>melted down the metal, poured it into a mold and formed a giant bronze bell. </p>
<p>When struck, its song was so powerful it awoke a golden buffalo in the emperor’s house. Mistaking the sound for its mother’s call, the animal plodded south and stomped around searching for her. His heavy footfalls gradually formed a hollow that filled with water. Eventually, the resultant lake consumed the Golden Buffalo.</p>
<p>Check out the postcard below (click to flip for text):</p>
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<div class="front"><img src="//media.urbanistnetwork.com/urbanisthanoi/article-images/2019/07/news/postcard8sgrrrrr.jpg" /></div>
<div class="back"><img src="//media.urbanistnetwork.com/urbanisthanoi/article-images/2019/07/news/postcard-8-backrrr.jpg" /></div>
<h3><hr />Related Articles:</h3>
<h3>- <a href="/hanoi-culture/13080-hanoi-postcard-no-2-coming-up-roses" target="_blank">Hanoi Postcard No. 2: Coming up Roses</a></h3>
<h3>- <a href="/hanoi-music-art/12963-hanoi-postcard-no-1-hom-fabric-market" target="_blank">Hanoi Postcard No. 1: Hom Fabric Market</a></h3>
<h3>- <a href="/hanoi-music-art/14649-hanoi-postcard-no-7-the-5th-season" target="_blank">Hanoi Postcard No. 7: The 5th Season</a></h3>
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