Each morning, at six o’clock, Radio Ha Noi begins its programme with a lyrical song:
“Du co di bon phuong troi, long van nho ve Ha Noi
Ha Noi cua ta, Thu do yeu dau
Mot thoi dan bom, mot thoi hoa binh.
Nho pho tham nghiem rop bong
Tieng ve ru nhung trua he
Va nho nhung cong vien vua moi xay, buoc chan em chua mon loi .
Oi nho Ho Guom xanh tham, in thap Rua nghieng soi bong."
(Wherever we find ourselves in the four points of the compass
Our hearts are turned to Ha Noi
Ha Noi, the capital city so dear to us,
Once showered with bombs, now in peace
We recall the old dormant streets,
The shade trees, the chorus of cicadas at noon in summer,
The newly built parks where the young grass
Is not yet marked by the traces of your steps,
The Sword Lake with its blue waters
Where is mirrored the slanted shadow of the Tortoise Stupa).
The Tortoise Stupa (Thap Rua) used to haunt the nights of Viet Nam’s guerrilla fighters during the two resistance wars and the nostalgic minds of many Vietnamese overseas. Without having been made the official emblem of Ha Noi, it is nonetheless an emotional symbol and a decorative motif evoking the capital city in many Hanoians’ minds - not unlike how the image of the Eiffel tower reminds one of Paris or the Statue of Liberty in New York.
The Tortoise Stupa is built on a tiny islet on the southern part of the Sword Lake, where a few giant tortoises sometimes come to bask in the sun. Let us recall that according to legend, in the 15th century, King Le Thai To after his victory against the Ming invaders, one day took a pleasure trip on this expanse of water. A giant tortoise came to the surface to claim and retrieve the sword that had been loaned to the king by a deity - hence the name given to the lake: The Lake of Restored Sword. In its waters live at present a few giant tortoises whose ages are estimated to be five hundred years.
While the Temple of the Jade Mountain (Ngoc sitting on another islet can be proud of its origins as a Confucian shrine built on the site of a former seigniorial pavilion (16th-18th centuries). The Tortoise Stupa, a square-based coarse little structure, was built around 1886, some time after the colonial conquest of Viet Nam by France. The man who built it was Ba Kim, a petty mandarin (bang ta)in the service of colonial administrators, transmitting and executing their orders concerning the population of Ha Noi, A believer in geomancy, he schemed to bury the bones of his father under the structure after its completion. However, he failed in that attempt.