Located in the central part of Hanoi, Hoan Kiem Lake is called No.1 tourist attraction in Hanoi. It means the lake giving back sword. Hoan Kiem Lake is 700 meters long from south to north and 200 meters wide from east to west. It is surrounded by a number of verdant and green trees, Surrounding Hoan Kiem Lake, many green and verdant trees are planted, affording a pleasant shade and providing a marvelous place for rest. The water of Hoan Kiem Lake is clear and its surface is as smooth as that of a mirror. Hoan Kiem Lake is elegant and quiet with the depth of about 1.5 meters. In the lake, there is a temple and Turtle Pagoda. The Turtle Pagoda stands on the Turtle Mound in the southern part of the lake. The Turtle Pagoda is small and exquisite with a star on the top of it. The Turtle Pagoda and its reflection on the water add radiance and beauty to each other, creating an attractive scene. Now, there are lights on the Turtle Pagoda. When the festivals come, the Turtle Pagoda looks more glorious, delicate and elegant, which are much more beautiful than that in ordinary times. The temple stands in the northern part of Hoan Kiem Lake, for the worship of the gods of Buddhism and deities in the traditional tales of local people. A red wooden bridge connects the temple with the lake bank. On the end of the bridge, there stands a tower. The name of Hoan Kiem Lake originates from an ancient legend. It is said that in the year 1418, before the revolt of Lê Thái Tổ (the Founding Emperor) of Lê Dynasty in the history of Vietnam Lê Lợi (ruled 1428-1433), he got a sword in this lake, on which two characters “Shun Tian” (meaning following the mandate of heaven). Ten years after that, when Lê Lợi, who had become a hero-Emperor of Vietnam by that time, came back to boating in this lake, he saw a golden turtle come out of the water and swim to the boat he took. Lê Lợi drew the sword to behead the turtle. However, the golden turtle gripped the sword with its teeth and dived into the bottom of the lake. Lê Lợi asked people to unwater the lake to find the sword. But the golden turtle and the sword were never seen again. People all said that the golden turtle got the sword back. As a result, this lake was named “Hoan Kiem Lake”.
There are various stories about Hoan Kiem Lake (meaning retuning sword lake), but every story contains the part that hero-Emperor of Vietnam Lê Lợi got this divine sword and used it to fight against the invaders of the Ming Dynasty of China (this war lasted from 1418 A.D. to 1428 A.D.). This story is like the Legend of King Arthur of Vietnam version. When Emperor Lê Lợi finally beat Chinese and overthrew the rule of Chinese emperor, he took a boat back to the center of Hoan Kiem Lake and gave the sword back to the divine turtle. It is said that as soon as the divine turtle got the divine sword back, it dived into the water and disappeared with the sword. That is the origin of the name of Hoan Kiem Lake.