Long time ago, Minh invaders dominated Vietnam, treating the people with great cruelty. In Lam Son, a rebel army arose and tried to defeat the invaders, but lacked the strength to expel them. Seeing the people’s suffering, Duc Long Quan decided to send down a magic sword to help them defeat the enemy.
At that time, in Thanh Hoa province, there lived a fisherman named Le Than. One night, Le Than felt something heavy in his net. He thought he had caught a large fish, but found only an iron bar. Disappointed, he threw the bar away and fished elsewhere. When the iron bar resurfaced, he tossed it back. The third time this happened, Le Than took a closer look at the bar. Realizing it was the blade of a sword, he decided it was a sign that he should join the resistance.
One day, General Le Loi passed near Le Than’s house. In the dark house, the iron sword blade shone very brightly. Le Loi took a closer look and saw the words “Thuan Thien” carved into the metal. But at this time, nobody realized the old sword’s value.
Overcome by their stronger enemy, Le Loi and his troops were forced to retreat. When walking through the forest, Le Loi suddenly saw a light at the top of a banyan tree. He climbed the tree and found the hilt of a sword. Recalling the sword blade in Le Than’s house, Le Loi took the sword hilt with him.
Three days later, when he was reunited with Le Than, Le Loi put the sword blade near the hilt. They fit and fused perfectly. All of the resistance fighters realized this was an important omen. Holding the sword, Le Than told his commander: “God has granted you this sword to perform a great act. We will offer our blood and bones to serve you and this divine sword to reclaim our country!”
Turtle Tower in the middle of the lake
From that day forth, the resistance forces were invincible. The fame of the Lam Son army spread, and the Minh were forced to retreat. Little by little, Le Loi’s troops managed to push the invaders from their country.
When peace was regained, Le Loi took a boat tour around Ta Vong Lake near the imperial city. On that occasion, Long Quan sent a golden turtle to reclaim the magic sword. When Le Lois boat was in the middle of the lake, a huge golden turtle rose out of the water. King Le Loi ordered the oarsmen to slow down. He felt the sword at his hip move.
The golden turtle rose higher out of the water and said: “Your majesty, please return the sword to Long Quan!”
King Le Loi withdrew the sword from its scabbard. Immediately, it flew through the air towards the golden turtle, which grasped the shining sword in its mouth and disappeared beneath the water.
Later, King Le Loi explained to his subjects: “Due Long Quan lent us a divine sword to banish the Minh invaders.
Now that our country is at peace, he sent a turtle to reclaim it!” From that day onwards, Ta Vong Lake was known as “Hoan Kiem Lake”, or “Returned Sword Lake”.
The Hanoi Opera House is a stunning example of French colonial architecture in Hanoi. The French built this site over 100 years ago. Two French architects named Broyer and Harlay modelled the building on the Gamier Opera House in Paris. The result was a classic European building revised to adapt to the climate and economic conditions of Vietnam.
Hanoi Opera House at night
The building spans 2,600 square meters and measures 87 meters in length and 30 meters in width, with a total height from road-level of 34 meters. Compared to the population of Hanoi at the time, the Hanoi Opera House was a huge construction that could accommodate 870 guests. The original design featured a large interior stage and an audience hall that measured 24 by 24 meters. The middle floor featured various small chambers, for those with more expensive tickets. A central staircase leads to a large hall on the second floor. There are side staircases and corridors on both sides. Behind the Opera House is an administrative room and 18 dressing rooms, two rehearsal rooms, a library and a meeting hall. When it first opened, the Opera House often hosted classical art genres such as opera, concert music and theatrical art for French officials and wealthy Vietnamese people.
The Opera House became familiar to Vietnamese people since it was the setting of various historical milestones of the August Revolution and the early years of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. The first meeting of the Vietminh Front took place in Opera Square on August 17, 1945. Just a fe,w days later, Viet Bac liberators marched into Hanoi and stopped here to be welcomed by local Hanoians celebrating the victory of the August Revolution. After Independence Day, on September 16; 1945, the Golden Week took place in the square of the Hanoi Opera House. On March 5, 1946, the National Assembly of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam hosted the first plenum in the Opera House. Exactly one year after the Declaration of Independence ceremony, on September 2, 1946, there was a meeting to celebrate the first anniversary of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. This was the first time that Uncle Ho entered the Opera House. A series of National Assembly meeting sessions were held in the Opera House until the inauguration of Ba Dinh Hall. Until today, the Opera House hosts crucial meetings and conferences and quality artistic performances by both domestic and international artists.
Beyond its magnificent architecture, the Hanoi Opera House prides itself on representing the historical and cultural values of Vietnam in general and Hanoi in particular.
The 82 stone stele in the Temple of Literature are an invaluable gift from our ancestor
Scholarship and talent are honored in the Garden of Mandarin Stele in Hanoi’s Temple of Literature
One of the capital’s most popular tourist sites, the Temple of Literature is a site of special national significance that encapsulates the culture and heritage of Hanoi. One of the temple’s outstanding features is the garden of mandarin stele, which is home to 82 carved stone tablets that list the names of over 1,000 outstanding scholars from the 15th to 18th centuries.
The Temple of Literature was constructed in 1070 during the Ly Dynasty. Five years later, the royal court hosted its first national exam, yet it was not until 1484 that Emperor Thanh Tong of the Le Dynasty ordered the erection of the stele listing the names of top scorers from the exams of 1442 onwards. Until the Nguyen rulers constructed another Temple of Literature in Phu Xuan (Hue), the dynasties of the Preliminary Le (1428 – 1527), Mac (1527 – 1592) and Renaissance Le (1533 – 1789) hosted 121 royal court exams, yet only 91 stone stele were erected. Of these, 82 have survived and list 1,304 exam winners. In 2010, UNESCO honored these 82 stele as a World Heritage of Memory in Asia – Pacific.The man who laid the foundations for the garden of the royal court stele in the Temple of Literature was Emperor Le Thanh long, known for his many talents, knowledge, kind heart and appreciation for the talents of others. According to ancient beliefs, stone is the essence of the earth and a material that can withstand the ravages of time. Hence, to be memorialized on a stone stele was an extreme honor for exam winners, and motivation to study hard and set a shining example for the nation.After the erection of the first 10 stelae in 1484 and the excellent examples of two Confucian scholars Than Nhan Trung and Do Nhuan, more stele were erected following court exams in the Preliminary Le dynasty. By 1521, this dynasty had erected 20 stone stele, 13 of which remain. However, in the subsequent Mac dynasty, only one royal exam stele was erected in 1529 despite the rulers’ high regard for talent and the holding of 22 royal court exams. During the Renaissance Le Dynasty, the number of new royal exam stele reached a record of 68.The Duke of Bat Duong Tri Trach was a revered mandarin in the Renaissance Le dynasty who passed the royal court exam in 1619. In 1653, as the Lofty Governor of the Ritual Ministry, he oversaw the restoration of 26 damaged stelae for 26 royal court exams between 1580 and 1652. It was not until 1717 that additional stone stelae were erected in the Temple of Literature. This time, at the behest of Emperor Le Du Tong and Lord Trinh Cuong, Executive Chamberlain Nguyen Quy Due, who was the third runner-up in the 1676 exams, led the restoration of 21 stele for 21 royal court exams between 1656 and 1715. Following these two major periods of stelae erection, subsequent stelae were erected after national exams until 1779 under the reign of Canh Hung. Between 1580 and 1789, the Renaissance Le dynasty held 73 royal court exams and erected 69 stele, 68 of which have survived.
“Talents are the vitality of a nation. Full vitality denotes strong national status and prosperity. A decay of vitality heralds weak national status and misery.” This statement was written by Chamberlain Than Nhan Trung as he worked for Emperor Le Thanh Tong to compose a speech to mark the erection of the first royal exam stele in Thang Long’s Temple of Literature in 1484. Over 500 years of ups and downs, this statement remains true. Talented people are the treasures of each nation, and at the core of each nations success during its development and protection.