LIFE Published January21, 2016 By Czarelli Tuason

Cu Rua: Vietnam’s Sacred Turtle Reportedly Dies

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Cu Rua at Hoan Kiem Lake, Hanoi
(Photo : By: Stringer | Getty Images)

People in Vietnam are reportedly mourning over a rare giant soft-shell turtle, named by locals as Cu Rua, after being found lifelessly floating on Hoan Kiem Lake, Hanoi on Tuesday afternoon allegedly due to old age and bad weather.

According to CNN on Thursday, Cu Rua is believed to be about a hundred years old and is celebrated as the "great-grandfather turtle" of Vietnam, connected to an ancient Vietnamese folklore.

Legend has it that Vietnamese Emperor Le Loi of the 15th century stopped a Chinese invasion with the use of a magical sword, which was said to be taken by a mythical turtle after the emperor's victory. Lake Hoan Kiem is named after the tale, which is known as Ho Hoan Kiem or the "lake of the returned sword."

"But more than that, the turtle also had a significant historical, cultural and spiritual value for the Vietnamese," noted Hanoi-based wildlife expert Douglas Hendrie.

Cu Rua is reportedly one of the four remaining species of the Yangtze soft-shell turtle, known as the Rafetus swinhoei. One is placed in a different lake in Hanoi, while the two others are in Shanghai, China.

The death of Cu Rua is considered a bad omen by some Vietnamese as it preceded the 12th Congress of the Communist Party of Vietnam, which is set to begin on Thursday, where a new leadership is expected, reported BBC News on Wednesday.

Many Vietnamese flocked over Hoan Kiem lake to take a final glimpse of Cu Rua, who will reportedly be preserved through embalming, while others took to social media their mourning.

"The turtle was a sacred animal for us Hanoians," said Nguyen Viet Nam posted on Facebook. "Such sadness, such regret."

"So the Hoan Kiem Lake turtle has died," said another Facebook user optimistically. "Maybe it is not a sign of bad luck. Maybe it is a sign of renewal and end of slow backwardness."

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