Located on a beautiful countryside, outskirt of Hanoi, 17km away from Hanoi downtown, Co Loa Citadel is completely different to other historical relics. This relic is considered as the special cultural cradle of both Hanoi City and Vietnam generally. In the past, Co Loa was the capital of Au Lac Kingdom – An Duong Vuong dynasty (3rd century BC) and of Dai Viet kingdom – Ngo Quyen dynasty (10th century). Co Loa is a vestige and prominent evidence that still exist until now. Co Loa Citadel is regarded as the most ancient citadel with largest size and highest scale, its design is also listed into the most unique citadel in Vietnam’s history of constructing ramparts during the old days.
Co Loa Citadel was built in a spiral-shaped type (hence called Loa citadel – a speaker shape citadel). According to the legend, the citadel has 9 walls, and is surrounded by deep moats which could let boats transfer easily. Nowadays, there are only 3 walls left, with total length of 16 km: the Outer Wall (Thành ngoại) with perimeter of 8km, the Middle Wall (Thành trung) has polygonal shape and perimeter of 6.5 km and the Central Wall (Thành nội) has rectangular shape, perimeter of 1.6 km, used to the residence of King An Duong Vuong with the court, today it’s the place where the temple is built and as well as other historical relics of Co Loa.
It was said that long times ago, the wall was built up simultaneously with the ramparts and all three walls were surrounded by moats. Located at the eastward of the wall, the Đầm Cả (Main Lagoon) has 5 streams with the purpose of bringing water into the Middle Wall and the Central Wall, created a closed circle for making comfortable and flexible infantry bases and sailor bases. Today, the walls’ height is 4-5 meter on average, somewhere is up to 12 meters high, while the wall base is 20-30 meter wide.
At that time, the weapons used in the citadel were only swords, spears, bows and arrows, and the scale of Co Loa Citadel was very solid.
Co Loa Citadel is connected closely with miraculous and interesting legend of the Vietnamese, for example: An Duong Vuong King established its kingdom, constructed the Citadel; the magic crossbow gift from the golden turtle which can kill hundreds of invaders; the sorrowful love story between My Chau (Hung King’s daughter) and Trong Thuy (son of Trieu Da King – enemy of Hung King), etc. Throughout many dynasties, this ancient Citadel together with its historic figures has become a legend in every sub-conscious mind of Vietnamese people.
Traveling to Co Loa historic Citadel Complex, the Thuong Temple (An Duong Vuong Temple) is the most attractive place to visit. It was built in 1687 in Le Hi Tong King’s dynasty, on an old hill that once situated the King’s palace. In front of the temple there is a dragon stone which is carved very sophisticated, describing a pair of dragons stroking their mustaches vividly. Hence, it becomes the typical icon of sculpture art in Le dynasty.
Nowadays, Co Loa Citadel has not only been a cultural heritage but also a lively evidence of the creation, the technique skill as well as the ancient Vietnamese culture in their struggle of protecting Vietnam from its invaders, it also becomes the ideal destination for travelers who want to discover the cultural values, the familiar landscape of a peaceful northern village.
Every year, on the 6th of first month lunar calendar, the Co Loa villagers organize a solemn festival to commemorate those built up the Citadel, especially express their great attitude to An Duong Vuong King – the founder of feudal Au Lac Kingdom. The best way to travel to Co Loa citadel is to take a biking tour and enjoy the peaceful atmosphere and natural landscape of the countryside of Hanoi with moat, rivers, mounds.