The legendary turtle of Hanoi’s Hoan Kiem Lake died on the afternoon of January 19, a source has told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper.
The turtle was found dead at around 4:30 pm by the staff who take care of the lake.
“After discovering the turtle’s floating body in the water, they immediately invited a biology professor, Ha Dinh Duc, and local authorities to the scene to discuss a solution together,” the source said.
Prof. Duc is a Vietnamese scientist who has spent years researching and tracking down information on the giant turtle in Hoan Kiem Lake (Lake of the Returned Sword).
Nguyen Duc Chung, chairman of the Hanoi People's Committee, also arrived at the scene to handle the incident.
“Firstly we will move the turtle to Ngoc Son Temple to preserve it. In the coming days, local authorities will discuss with scientists ways to perfectly preserve its body, including embalming,” he said.
On January 20, the People’s Committee announced its decision to move the turtle’s body to the Vietnam National Museum of Nature, a museum under the Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology.
The turtle died due to old age as well as the current cold weather in Hanoi, local authorities said today.
The death of the legendary turtle will shock not only Hanoians but also Vietnamese people in general, as the creature had long been a symbol of the capital city, reflecting its culture and longstanding history.
The last time the turtle was spotted alive on the surface of the lake was on December 21 last year, newswire VnExpress reported.
As of 2011, the turtle’s body length was recorded at 185cm, weighing 169kg.
The turtle’s shell reached 100cm, while the length of its tail was 35cm.
Stories of the Hoan Kiem turtle began in the fifteenth century with Le Loi, who became an emperor of Vietnam and founder of the Le Dynasty.
The legend said that Le Loi had a magic sword given to him by Kim Qui (The Golden Turtle God) to repel the invading Chinese forces.
One day, not long after the Chinese had accepted Vietnam’s independence, Le Loi was out boating on a lake in Hanoi.
Suddenly a large turtle surfaced, took the sword from Le Loi, and dove back into the depths. Efforts were made to find both the sword and the turtle, but without success.
Le Loi then acknowledged the sword had gone back to the Golden Turtle God and renamed the lake Hoan Kiem Lake (Lake of the Returned Sword).
The turtle is affectionately known as “Cụ Rùa,” meaning “great grandfather turtle” in Vietnamese.
Hoan Kiem Lake is also known as Guom Lake (Sword Lake).