From the BBC in Britain today:
Cu Rua: Vietnam mourns revered Hanoi turtle
By Nga Pham BBC News, Bangkok
Vietnam is mourning an ancient turtle revered as a symbol of auspiciousness, whose death has shocked the country.
Thought to be one of only four living Yangtze giant softshell turtles, it was found floating in the Hanoi lake where it lived. Cause of death is unclear. …
The reptile – known as Cu Rua (great-grandfather) – will now be embalmed.
“Cu” is the Vietnamese word used to refer to old and revered people, giving some indication of the special place he occupied in the hearts of Hanoi’s inhabitants.
And not only Hanoians – people from all over the country also used to come to Hoan Kiem lake in Vietnam’s capital to try to catch a glimpse of him. Some even waited for days.
Social media in Vietnam has been flooded with posts lamenting his death, which came on a gloomy windy and wintry Tuesday afternoon.
Facebook user Nguyen Viet Nam said: “The turtle was a sacred animal for us Hanoians. Such sadness, such regret.” …
Douglas Hendrie, a Hanoi-based wildlife expert, says Cu Rua was one of only four known living specimens of his kind in the world.
“But more than that, the turtle also had a significant historical, cultural and spiritual value for the Vietnamese,” he adds.
Legend has it that the turtle – believed to be more than 100 and the oldest in Vietnam – was the incarnation of a mythical creature living in the lake in the 15th century.
Local legend has it that Le Loi, a real figure from Vietnamese history who would become emperor of Vietnam, borrowed a magical sword from the Dragon King to fight against Vietnam’s then Chinese oppressors.
After claiming independence for the Viets, he came to the lake and returned the sword to its divine owner via its disciple – a giant turtle which surfaced to take it from his hands before disappearing beneath the jade waters.
The lake duly became known as Hoan Kiem, or the Lake of the Returned Sword.
Scientists are not yet sure what killed Cu Rua – pollution, climate change or simple old age – but his body is being examined by experts. The authorities have already announced that it will be preserved.