Saturday, 18 June 2016

The 15 Day trip to Vietnam - The Mandarin Route - Day 9 (late afternoon and evening) - Hanoi - the Morning Sunlight brige; the Temple of the Jade Mountain complex and the Water Puppet Theatre performance - The 26th of May 2016

By the end of the afternoon we  waked along the Hoan Kiem Lake, which we were told is very much in the hearts of the Vietnamese people because according to a legend in the early 15th century, during the Ming Chinese occupation General Lee Loi was presented with a magical sword by a divine golden turtle, which lived in the waters of the lake. 

It is believed it was with this sword that Le Loi expelled the Chinese occupants from Thang Long (Hanoi presently) and established himself as Emperor. Some years later the divine turtle reclaimed the sword, this being the reason as to why the lake is known and referred to as Ho Hoan Kiem (the lake of the restored sword).

On an island at the Northern end of Hoan Kiem Lake stands Temple of the Jade Mountain (Den Ngoc Son), which can be accessed by an attractive red painted arched wooden bridge, which dates back from the Nguyen Dinasty in the early 1980s and a series of gates, which have been constructed as in accordance with the Taoist philosophy of harmonious arrangement of elements.

The complex comprises a Pen Tower, the Moon gazing pavilion and the main Temple. People are said to be seen at any given time of day looking out  onto the lake to catch a glimpse of the heads of giant turtles (some of which inhabit the lake) above the water because of it being considered a sign of good luck. 

We didn't stay long as we had to be at the Theatre of Contemporary Arts soon to watch a water puppet theatre performance. Somehow I regret not having taken my camera, as I was carrying my filming one, because I am sure I would have taken a lot more photos than the ones I took with my mobile phone.

I had been looking forward to watching any such performance for quite a while, to be precise since I had seen a short film Christian had made of a water puppet performance in one of his trips to Vietnam, The photos I am including in this article have been taken from the website of the company who performed the series of acts we had the priviledge of watching, because I filmed most of the 50 minute performance and got so carried away that I took very few photos with the mobile phone (which only show the light changes really).

I was mesmerised  by the showmanship, the live traditional orchestra with magnificent singers and traditional musicians and especially the way they highlighted the dramatic moments together with the special effects. I could have spent the whole night watching any of the performing acts, irrespective of whether they were the dance of the phoenix, or the ones related to the agricultural field works.


Originating in the Red River Delta and said to date back almost a thousand years, roi nuoc or water puppetry is clearly among the most authentic expressions of Vietnamese culture. Puppeteers stand waist deep in water and manoeuver them from behind the stage. The tales are told from the  age-old perspective of a peasant culture and include mythical beasts in Viet culture as well as water bufallos, ducks and other domestic animals. 

I spent dinner thinking about the performance I had just watched and wondering when I would be able to see something similar again. 

No comments:

Post a Comment