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A turtle emerges from Hoan Kiem Lake in Hanoi, Vietnam, in 2008. Vietnamese folklore says a 15th-centry emperor once fought off Chinese invaders using a magical sword. Later, while the emperor was boating on the lake, a golden turtle god surfaced and reclaimed the weapon.

A turtle emerges from Hoan Kiem Lake in Hanoi, Vietnam, in 2008. Vietnamese folklore says a 15th-centry emperor once fought off Chinese invaders using a magical sword. Later, while the emperor was boating on the lake, a golden turtle god surfaced and reclaimed the weapon. (Courtesy of Wikicommons)

A turtle emerges from Hoan Kiem Lake in Hanoi, Vietnam, in 2008. Vietnamese folklore says a 15th-centry emperor once fought off Chinese invaders using a magical sword. Later, while the emperor was boating on the lake, a golden turtle god surfaced and reclaimed the weapon.

A turtle emerges from Hoan Kiem Lake in Hanoi, Vietnam, in 2008. Vietnamese folklore says a 15th-centry emperor once fought off Chinese invaders using a magical sword. Later, while the emperor was boating on the lake, a golden turtle god surfaced and reclaimed the weapon. (Courtesy of Wikicommons)

A view of Hoan Kiem Lake in Hanoi, Vietnam. Cu Rua, a rare and beloved Yangtze giant softshell turtle connected to Vietnamese folklore and considered by many to be a symbol of the country was found dead in the lake Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2016.

A view of Hoan Kiem Lake in Hanoi, Vietnam. Cu Rua, a rare and beloved Yangtze giant softshell turtle connected to Vietnamese folklore and considered by many to be a symbol of the country was found dead in the lake Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2016. (Paul Alexander/Stars and Stripes)

A rare and beloved giant turtle connected to Vietnamese folklore and considered by many to be a symbol of the country has died in the nation’s capital.

The Yangtze giant softshell turtle, dubbed Cu Rua, was thought to be 80 to 100 years old. It was found floating lifeless Tuesday in Hanoi’s Hoan Kiem Lake. Its name means “great-grandfather turtle” in Vietnamese, though the reptile was female.

Experts are examining Cu Rua to determine the cause of death, BBC News reported. Officials have said the turtle’s body will be preserved, with its shell displayed at the Vietnam National Museum of Nature, according to CNN.

Vietnamese folklore says a 15th-centry emperor once fought off Chinese invaders using a magical sword. Later, while the emperor was boating on the lake, a golden turtle god surfaced and reclaimed the weapon.

Hoan Kiem, which means “lake of the returned sword,” was named after the tale. The lake, located at the heart of the capital, is a popular attraction for residents and tourists alike, who regularly tried to catch a glimpse of the reclusive turtle.

With Cu Rua’s death, only three Yangtze giant softshell turtles — noted for their deep head, piglike snout and dorsally-placed eyes — are known to exist.

“Cu Rua has been the symbol of our land for hundreds of years,” said Hanoi resident Hoang Huynh, 20, according to Yahoo News. “He was a living creature of our capital, and his death caused a lot of pain for Hanoians. Even though he died, his symbolism and legend will live on.”

Some Vietnamese saw the timing of the turtle’s death as a bad omen for the ruling Communist Party, which began its annual congress Thursday.

news@stripes.com


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