Vietnam, a country steeped in rich cultural traditions and vibrant history, has a treasure trove of folklore and myths that add an enchanting layer to its physical beauty. Among the many legends, none is more popular and intriguing than the story behind the breathtaking Halong Bay.
In Vietnamese, “Ha Long” directly translates to “descending dragon,” a name that originates from a local legend describing the formation of this UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Legend of the Descending Dragons
According to ancient folklore, during the early days of Vietnam as a country, its people were under threat from fierce invaders from the north, approaching via the sea. Sympathetic to the plight of the Vietnamese, the Jade Emperor – a significant figure in Vietnamese mythology, often regarded as the ruler of heaven and all realms of existence – called upon the Mother Dragon and her children to descend upon earth and aid the people in their fight.
As the formidable invaders commenced their assault on the mainland, the Mother Dragon and her offspring materialized, surprising the enemy with their divine fire and giant emeralds. The dragons unleashed these emeralds from their mouths, which scattered across the sea, forming an unyielding defensive wall that left the attacking fleet in ruins.
These emeralds, it is said, morphed into a myriad of islands and islets of varying sizes and forms. Their formidable presence on the battlefield led to the ultimate downfall of the invaders from the north, allowing peace to finally return to the Southeast Asian country.
Halong Bay Today
Thousands of years have passed since this legendary battle, but the emerald wall, now in the form of lush islands and limestone karsts, still stands in the Gulf of Tonkin. This stunning seascape of Halong Bay spans an area of over 1,500 square kilometers and is populated with nearly 2,000 islands and islets covered in greenery, many of which are hollow with enormous caves.
Today’s Visitors to Halong Bay can witness this enchanting landscape, where the emerald waters and towering islets create a mystical atmosphere that aligns perfectly with the ancient tale. Journeying through the bay, one can almost envision the dragons descending from the heavens, the emeralds scattering, and the peace that returned to this beautiful land.
From cruising through the bay, exploring the numerous caves, to visiting the floating villages, the legend of the Descending Dragon is felt in every corner of Halong Bay. It provides a unique narrative to the scenery and acts as a reminder of the strength, resilience, and the mythical charm of Vietnam.
Vietnam’s allure lies in its stunning landscapes and mouthwatering cuisine and its rich tapestry of stories spanning centuries. The legend of Halong Bay is a testament to this, adding a mythical dimension to one of the country’s most extraordinary natural wonders. So, when you gaze upon Halong Bay, remember – you’re not just looking at a beautiful seascape but a historic battlefield where dragons defended a nation, making it a truly unique and magical travel destination.