West Lake’s Twin Dragons, Hanoi

One of West Lake’s Twin-Dragons

photography by: Omri Westmark

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According to the lore, the Vietnamese people are all the descendants of dragons, and as such, this mythical creature is highly revered across the country. As part of Hanoi’s millennial celebrations, a pair of sculpted dragons was installed in a centrally located park, representing the city’s unbreakable affinity with its legendary protector. Since then, the Twin-Dragons were relocated to the shores of the West Lake, where they are currently awed by the few tourists who pass by every now and then.

For centuries now, dragons have been playing a major role in Vietnamese folklore, revered by the masses for their purported virtues, including the ability to bestow farmlands with much-needed rainfall. It is for this reason and others that these beasts are often portrayed as a national symbol of prosperity and strength.

 

The nationwide veneration of dragons is so long established, that the Vietnamese capital’s former name “Thăng Long” literally means “an ascending dragon”. In 2010, as part of Hanoi’s 1000th anniversary, the city paid tribute to its favorite critter by erecting a pair of dragon statues in Bách Thảo Park, better known as the botanical gardens of Hanoi.

 

After the festivities have ended, however, city officials demanded the removal of the sculptures and shortly thereafter, the two dragons found a new home, along the shoreline of West Lake, Hanoi’s largest body of water. Jutting out of the lake’s murky waters, the Twin Dragons are each 8.5 meter tall and 15.6 meter long, roughly twice the size of a full-grown killer whale.

 

Comprise a 60-ton skeleton of concrete and steel, the dragons are intricately decorated with a hodgepodge of teapots, pieces of ceramics as well as molten bottles, heated to more than 1,300 degrees Celsius. Their-greenish, serpent-like torso is also covered by a whopping 4,000 cups and 6,000 plates, each of which is engraved with patterns of famous landmarks in Hanoi.

 

But as it turns out, it is what the dragons hold in their maw that makes them exceptionally propitious. Lying between each dragon’s fangs is a 57-kilogram sphere, representing a pearl, albeit being far larger than its life-size counterpart.

 

Legend has it that a pearl-carrying dragon is a sign for wisdom and fortune, something for which the sculptures’ aquatic location was chosen, as during their installation process, a couple of pearls were deliberately tossed from the mouths of the dragons into the lake, imbuing the city with good omen for generations to come.