There are many significant cultural artifacts around Hoan Kiem Lake in Hanoi but perhaps the most important and sacred is Ngoc Son Temple. It has witnessed many of the ups and downs of the capital and has become a popular tourist destination.
Ngoc Son Temple (Temple of the Jade Mound) is located on an islet in the middle of Hoan Kiem Lake. According to the ancient documents still preserved in the temple, it was built in the autumn of 1841.
The temple came under comprehensive repair in 1865 by Nguyen Van Sieu, an eminent scholar of the old Thang Long Capital. Other projects were also newly built or upgraded that created a new complex of relics with a harmonious architecture. These include Ngoc Son Temple, The Huc Bridge, Thap But (Pen Tower) and Dai Nghien (Ink Slab)
The Pen Tower was built with stones and its peak was built in the shape of a brush. On its front side it is inscribed with three words “Ta Thanh Thien” (writing on the sky). The Ink Slab, also built with stones, is held up by three frogs. This is a unique feature and is compared to another famous relic in Hanoi, the Van Mieu (Temple of Literature) – Quoc Tu Giam (National University) where the doctoral steles were placed on the backs of tortoises. Since their creation, the Pen Tower and the Ink Slab have become sacred symbols relating to the national literature and university examinations to discover talented people. Students often visit this site to pray for good luck in their studies.
The Huc Bridge (or Sunbeam Bridge) is a typical example of the architecture at Hoan Kiem Lake in general and Ngoc Son Temple in particular. It is a vermillion-colored arch bridge with 15 spans and 32 pillars that crosses Hoan Kiem Lake to reach the main Ngoc Son Temple. The temple entrance, called Dac Nguyet Lau (Moon Viewing Tower), has a beautiful design with its ancient features kept intact. Inside there are two structures connected to each other: the temple facing the north is reserved to worship General Tran Hung Dao and Van Xuong, and the Tran Ba (Preventing waves from crashing) Pavilion facing the south with intricate and poetic architecture.
There is also a statue of Buddha Amitabha at Ngoc Son Temple, which is proof of the diversity of the people’s spiritual life and the co-existence of different religions in Vietnam.
Together with Hoan Kiem Lake and the Tortoise Tower, Ngoc Son Temple is a pleasant place to enjoy Hanoi’s age-old culture.
(Source: Vietnam Pictorial)