Giant turtle statue proposal fails to float Hanoi's boat

By Doan Loan   March 29, 2017 | 12:33 am PT
Giant turtle statue proposal fails to float Hanoi's boat
Hanoi's Hoan Kiem Lake. Photo by Vietnam News Agency
It could be Vietnam’s Eiffel Tower or Statue of Liberty, or it could just get in the way - you decide.

A Hanoian man's proposal for a bronze and gold statue of a legendary turtle god to be erected in the capital by Hoan Kiem Lake has drawn widepread criticism.

Ta Hong Quan, a local artist, said the city could raise money from private sources to build an 11-foot statue weighing up to 10 tons along the walking area of the iconic lake.

Quan said he first submitted the idea to the city's People’s Committee in 2011, but has never received a response. Late last year, he sent the proposal directly to city chairman Nguyen Duc Chung.

Chung has not commented on the idea either.

Quan recently approached local media to draw public attention to the plan, which he said is "more suitable" than the culture ministry's suggestion early this month to build a Kong statue in Hanoi, after the "Kong: Skull Island" blockbuster.


Proposed locations for the statue around Hoan Kiem Lake.

The turtle is one of the four holy animals, according to Chinese beliefs, together with the dragon, qilin and phoenix.

In Vietnam, the turtle god is worshipped and part of many legends. One says that it helped An Duong Vuong, a Vietnamese ruler during the third century BC, build his spiral, shell-like Co Loa Citadel.

Hoan Kiem (Returned Sword) Lake was thus named after a legend that says a golden turtle god showed up in the lake to take back the sword it had given to King Le Loi in the 15th century to help him fight Chinese invaders.

“Vietnam now lacks a recognizable icon with strong traditional values, like France’s Eiffel Tower or the Statue of Liberty in the U.S.,” Quan said.

He said if the plan is approved, a competition should be launched to find the best design.

Historian Duong Trung Quoc supported the idea but said it must be executed with great caution because it could collide with the city’s urban planning, and also because it has to successfully serve its spiritual purpose.

“Officials should listen to the experts and the public to make the right decision,” Quoc said.

Actually, thousands of members of the public have given their opinions on the idea in a survey conducted by VnExpress.

The survey asked readers if they thought it was a good idea for a statue to be built by Hoan Kiem Lake, and out of more than 13,200 responses received in less than a day, 78 percent said “no.”

Many said it would be a waste of money, and that the “clear and beautiful” space around the central lake should not be obstructed by an artificial project.

The lake and its Turtle Temple are a picturesque symbol of Hanoi. The lake used to be home to a rare giant  turtle which was loved by many Hanoians. It died in January last year due to pollution.

Some said the money should be used to clean up the lake and raise another turtle in there.

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