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We visited Vietnam from one end to the other or from the Chinese Border to the Southern tip some 12 years ago. A very memorable trip and a fascinating discovery of a very beautiful country with great people, food and culture. I grew up in the area of the Vietnam war known in Vietnam as the American War. Vietnam has known many occupiers, the chinese was 900 years and the French until their defeat in 1954 at the famous battle of Dien Bien Phu and then the Americans until their defeat in 1975. In all cases the occupiers were defeated and expelled.

We visited Hanoi the Capital of the country and it is a charming city, lots of old French Colonial buildings and history. In Hanoi in the middle of the city is a large park with a lake Hoan Kiem and an old Temple. The waters of the lake are murky and by the lake is the statue of the Vietnamese Emperor Le Loi who liberated the country from Chinese oppression.  The lake has a charming legend about a wise old turtle named Cu Rua, the name means Old Great Grand Father.


Cu Rua now enters the pantheon of the famous embalmed leaders like Ho Chi Minh, Mao and Lenin.


The house of Cu Rua on Hoan Kiem lake in Hanoi. 

According to the legend, in early 1428, Emperor Le Loi was boating on the lake when a Golden Turtle God surfaced and asked for his magic sword, named Heaven’s Will. Le Loi concluded that the golden turtle god had come to reclaim the sword that its master the Dragon King Long Vuong had given Le Loi some time earlier, in order to fight and defeat the Chinese Ming occupier. The Emperor gave the sword back to the turtle after his victory against the Chinese. Emperor Le Loi renamed the lake to Hoan Kiem to commemorate this event, from its former name Luc Thuy meaning “Green Water” to this day the water is green and opaque. The Turtle Tower (Tháp Rùa) stands on a small island near the centre of lake and is said to be the home of Cu Rua.

Cu Rua belonged to the large soft-shell turtle family, the species name Rafetus Le Loi in honour of the emperor, it had been sighted in the lake for many years. The last known individual was found dead on January 19, 2016. There are three remaining turtles of the species in the world.

Near the northern shore of the lake lies Jade Island on which the Temple of the Jade Mountain (Ngoc Son Temple) stands. The temple was erected in the 18th century. It honours the 13th-century military leader Tran Hung Dao who distinguished himself in the fight against the Chinese Yuan Dynasty.


Cu Rua carrying the sword Heaven’s Will on its back.