Location: Ngoc Son Temple is on Hoan Kiem Lake, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi.
Characteristic: Hoan Kiem Lake was already considered the most beautiful lake in Hanoi when Ngoc Son Temple was built on an island in the 19th century. Initially, the temple was called Ngoc Son Pagoda and was later renamed Ngoc Son Temple, since temples are dedicated to saints.
At the northern end of Hoan Kiem Lake is a small island with the Ngoc Son (“Jade Mountain”) Temple. The temple supposedly dates back to the fourteenth century, although the current buildings were probably built in the eighteenth century. The temple is dedicated to the hero Tran Hung Dao, who defeated a force of 300,000 sent to invade Vietnam by the Mongol Emperor Kublai Khan. There are also altars dedicated to the scholars Van Xuong and La To, the patron saint of physicians.
The island and its temple are reached by a red wooden bridge called The Huc, which translates to “Flood of Morning Sunlight”. Either end of the bridge is guarded by large stone gateways with Chinese characters written on them.
The temple consists of a main building housing the altars as well as some shops, along with a pavilion in front of the altars. A large bronze brazier sits in front of the main hall, holding burning incense sticks. Inside is the first of two altars. On it sit the two scholars along with several other deities. Behind this altar is the high altar dedicated to the hero Tran Hung Dao. In a room off to the side of the front altar is a preserved specimen of the lake’s giant tortoise.
Hanoi’s most visited temple sits pretty on a delightful little island in the northern part of Hoan Kiem Lake. An elegant scarlet bridge, Huc (Rising Sun) Bridge, constructed in classical Vietnamese style and lined with flags, connects the island to the lake shore. The nearby Martyrs’ Monument was erected as a memorial to those who died fighting for Vietnam’s independence.
Surrounded by water and shaded by trees, the small temple is dedicated to General Tran Hung Dao (who defeated the Mongols in the 13th century), La To (patron saint of physicians) and the scholar Van Xuong. Inside you’ll find some fine ceramics, a gong or two, some ancient bells and a glass case containing a stuffed lake turtle, which is said to have weighed a hefty 250kg.