Ngoc Son Temple – Attractive destinations associated with the culture and history of Hanoi people
Ngoc Son Temple was built in the 18th century on Jade Island in the center of the ‘Lake of the Returned Sword’ or Hoan Kiem Lake. Legend describes how an emperor was once given a magical sword which helped him defeat the Chinese Ming Dynasty and in doing so saw the return of the Golden Turtle God to the lake. Today ‘Turtle Tower’ stands close to the lake in memory of this legend. There are also endangered large soft-shell turtles swimming in the lake, and to see one of these gentle giants is considered very auspicious. The name of the temple translates to ‘Temple of the Jade Mountain’ and is predominately dedicated to war hero General Tran Hung Dao who defeated an armed force of 300,000 soldiers sent by Mongolian Emperor Kublai Khan in the 13th century to invade Vietnam.
Ngoc Son Temple is the unique architectural ensemble located next to Hoan Kiem Lake. To enter into the Temple, tourists will across The Huc Bridge and walk through Tam Quan, which means three – passage Gate. In the outside of the first gate, two Chinese letters were painted in red color which means Happiness in the right and Prosperity in the left. Behind the first gate is Pen Tower made from stones and located in Doc Ton Mountain. Pen Tower has five stories with the height of 28m. The peak of the Tower has the shape of a feather quill pen pointing toward the sky. The body of the Tower was carved three letters “Ta Thanh Thien”, which means “Writing on the clear blue Sky”.
The Pen Tower aims to emphasize the temple dedicated to literature and poetry. The second gate is surrounded by Taoist symbols. Specifically, on the right hand is a symbol of a dragon, on the other hand, on the left is a tiger. These symbols are characterized for the stability of large construction, which follows the feng shui theory. The last gate has the high wall, roof, and rolling doors. On the roof, there is large stone representing for an inkpot, therefore, this gate was named Dai Nghien (the Writing Pad or the Ink-slab) having the shape of half of a peach. Nguyen Van Sieu put this stone on the roof so that the shadow of the Pen Tower will fall on the ink stone on May 5th each year.
Visit Ngoc Son Temple – a masterpiece in the heart of Hanoi
As mentioned before, if tourists in Hanoi tours want to enter into Ngoc Son Temple, they have to cross through a wooden bridge painted in the red color named The Huc Bridge (the Bridge of the Rising Sun). The Bridge has 32 circular pillars made from concrete, on the other hand, floor and railing of the bridge made from wood. The red Bridge looks very striking on the blue water of Hoan Kiem Lake. Crossing through the bridge, tourists will set foot in Dac Nguyet Lau (Moon Gazing Pavilion). Moon Gazing Pavilion has two floors, in which the second floor has two roofs and two circular windows. In addition, in the south of the Temple, there is a temple named Pavilion Waves, which indicates the meaning of stable standing in the chaotic waves of contemporary culture.
In general, the architecture of Ngoc Son Temple has ancient beauty in harmony with nature. It also is a place containing a lot of historical and cultural symbols imbued with the soul and the thought of scholars at that time. Along with Hoan Kiem Lake and Turtle Tower, Ngoc Son Temple is a typical cultural and historic monument of Hanoi in particular and Vietnam in general. This is an ideal attraction in Hanoi tours for who wants to explore Hanoi Zeitgeist in the past.