Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Hue Temple of Literature - A unique symbol of Vietnam’s past educational system

If the Temple of Literature in Hanoi is known as the first university in Vietnam and aslo called Van Mieu Quoc Tu Giam in Vietnamese language, Hue Temple of Literature is regarded as a worship temple founded by the Nguyen Dynasty to dedicate to celebrated scholars of Confucianism.

During the old time, various Temples of Literature were built by the Nguyen Lords in the capital and moved to three different places: Trieu Son Village, Luong Quang Village and Long Ho Village. Hue Temple of Literature , also called Van Mieu Hue in Vietnamese language, is a worship temple founded by the Nguyen Dynasty to dedicate to celebrated scholars of Confucianism.

Hue Temple of Literature
In 1808, Gia Long and his Imperial Court decided to choose a low hill beyond the Thien Mu Pagoda, on the left bank of the Perfume River, i.e. the current position, to built a new imposing and striking Temple of Literature. The construction of the Temple of Literature was commenced on April 17th, 1808 and finished on November 12th, 1808.

The Temple of Literature faces south. All main constructive works were built on the top of the hill, three meters higher than the surrounding land. In front of it was the Perfume River, in the back was villages, hills and mounts spreading from Truong Son Range. 

All items of Hue Temple of Literature were erected on a square surface of 160m long on each side enclosed by La Thanh (surrounding wall). There was once a complex of 50 big and small constructions including 32 steles which bore names of doctors and four other steles.

Hue Temple of Literature

The Temple of Literature was many times renovated and many sub - constructions were built, especially in Minh Mang and Thieu Tri's time. From Minh Mang's time onwards, National Examinations were held so that steles bearing the names of successful candidates were erected here. These "Tien si de danh bia" - "Steles bearing doctors' names" were gradually erected on the yard of the main temple from 1831 to 1919, the year in which the last National Examinations was held in Khai Dinh's time.

Hue Temple of literature
"Steles bearing doctors' names" in Hue Temple of Literature

As destroyed by the war and weather, the remains of the Temple of Literature are now the 34 steles of great cultural and historic value. On these steles are names, ages and places of birth of 239 successful candidates in National Examinations organized in the Nguyen Dynasty.

Today, visiting Hue Temple of Literature, tourists can see the unique symbol of Vietnam’s past eductional system. They can understand more about the tradition of knowledge appreciation, scholars administration and study encouragement of our ancestors during the feudal times.

Quoc Hoc Hue - first and oldest high school in Vietnam

Founded on October 23, 1896 according to an imperial decree issued by the Thanh Thai King’s reign, Quoc Hoc Hue is known as the century old high school. It’s also the first and the oldest high school in Vietnam. In the past, the school was for children from royal and noble families.

Quoc Hoc Hue high school

Known as the first and also the oldest high school in Vietnam, originally Quoc Hoc (National high school) was the school for children from royal and noble families. On the site that used to be former squadron headquarter - a royal navy headquarters, French colonialists built this school to train those who would serve the feudal colonial government. 

Therefore, at that time, French was the main subject for students and the school's gate was titled “Phap tu Quoc Hoc truong mon” (French National High School's Gate). Now it's named Hue National High School and is a high-profile school that all students must pass a competitive entrance exam to get the admission.

Quoc Hoc Hue high school in the past
Quoc Hoc Hue High School in the Past

Founded in 1896, after more than 100-year history, Quoc Hoc today is still a well-maintained French colonial-style construction. The school is a complex of five blocks of classrooms, big football field, basketball court, five badminton courts, a swimming pool, a medium stadium and also a block of dormitory. It's considered the largest and also the most beautiful high school campus in Vietnam.

This surrounding makes a great picture of red French designed building in harmony with green background of a lot of large shady trees and stone benches. Especially in spring, when “diep anh dao” (a kind of cherry blossoms) is in bloom, the whole picture is filled with pinky dots above red thatched tile.

Students often call that period of time “Pinky cloud season” and regard it as the most special moments of a year. These are the reasons why Quoc Hoc is also called “Pinky school beside Perfume River Bank” in the song with the same name. Lucky if one has a chance to drop by the school during that season.
Quoc Hoc Hue high school today
Quoc Hoc Hue High School Today

Quoc Hoc is not only famous for its charming scene; but it also gains prominence for tradition of patriotism, industriousness, academic achievements and respect for the time-honored values of teacher-student relationships. Several Vietnam political leaders have been learning here, including: Nguyen Tat Thanh (President Ho Chi Minh), General Vo Nguyen Giap, Prime Minister Pham Van Dong, etc. 

In addtion, the school is famed for its students who are well-known poets (Xuan Dieu, Huy Can, To Huu, Luu Trong Lu etc.), scientists (Ta Quang Buu, Ton That Tung, Dang Van Ngu, etc.), musicians (Tran Hoan, Chau Ky, , Nguyen Van Thuong, etc.) or sculptor Diem Phung Thi and so on. The school also has students getting high prize in many International Competitions.

Tourists in Vietnam travel visiting Quoc Hoc High School should remember that the school doesn't allow entrances during class's time, which ends at 5.15 pm everyday (though it might be easier to go through the two side gates, in fact). What's more, the students are very eager to talk to foreigners, especially English speakers and French speakers.

That's the place for those who want to take photos of natural background, understand more about French colonial architecture and watch female students in white long traditional dress “Ao dai”, sparkling in the nice background.

Dong Ba Market – A symbol of Hue’s culture

Paying a visit to Hue city, the poetic ancient citadel of Vietnam, visitors in Vietnam travel should not miss an interesting place inside the city. It is Dong Ba Market - one of the romantic Hue’s symbols, bringing characteristics of Vietnamese ancient capital’s culture.

Dong Ba market is the preservation of ancient distinctiveness. Tourists in Vietnam travel can see all the typical features of a traditional Vietnamese market, for example, the sampan landing, the bus station and the bazaars. 

Dong Ba market is considered as a paradise for snapshots of daily activities as well as for shopping with everything from souvenir items to bronze goods, Hue sesame sweetmeat, conical poem hats, just to name a few. You’d better come to explore this market if you want to find interest in Vietnamese culture or food.

Dong Ba market
 Image that you are roaming around this food market, you may find your visit to this city to be added with new colors. Around 100 kilometers north of Truong Tien Bridge, Dong Ba Market is situated near the eastern corner of the Citadel, in the north bank of the romantic Perfume River, near the place where the Dong Ba Canal merges with the Perfume River.

Story of naming and location
Visitors joining tours in Vietnam may be confused when they find several things here named “Dong Ba” in Hue city. Actually, Dong Ba is both the name of the largest market in Hue and of a small canal connecting the market with the busy river port of Bao Vinh, Lo Street and Thanh Ha. 

Dong Ba is also the name of the first steel bridge across the Dong Ba River and Dong Ba Street. The market was originally located outside the citadel's Chanh Dong Gate (also commonly called Dong Ba), where today stands a park at the end of Phan Dang Luu Street. The market was burnt down in the summer of 1885. In 1887, King Dong Khanh had it rebuilt and named it Dong Ba. In 1889, King Thanh Thai had it moved to the current location at the crossroads of the Huong (Perfume) River and the west bank of the Dong Ba Canal. 

Due to the convenient location, the market has always been very popular. In 1987, the market was under its greatest restoration, in which it was enlarged into a total area of 47,614 m2 with 9 ranges of  sales houses, car parking place, motorcycles, bicycles shedding station, and so forth.

Dong Ba - the biggest market in Thua Thien-Hue
Dong Ba marketYou are eager for purchasing craft products as Hue’s gifts for your dearests and fearest? Well, Dong Ba market is the right place to spend your precious time in this city. Not only being a largest-sized market in the past, Dong Ba market retains its role till now. 

It has always been providing "stage" for the traditional crafts in Hue, and sells to all those who are fond of; examples are Phu Cam conical hats, Hien Luong scissors, bronze articles of the Duc guild, Phuoc Tich pottery, Bao La rattan and bamboo products, Ke Mon jewelry, Nam Thuan sweets, Tuan tea, Huong Can mandarins, Luong Quan-Nguyet Bieu pomelos, and Tinh Tarn lotus.

Besides, for those who are interested in Southeast Asian food, the market supplies a lot during daytime, such as clam rice, beef noodles, shrimp cakes, pancakes, bean puddings, sour shrimps, and My Lai shredded lean meat, which are popular Hue’s daily dishes. If you stay here on the occasion of the Lunar New Year, you can share the custom of the locals by buying "five-color" cakes, which are small & square cakes made of bean and rice powder.

The name “five-color” derives from the cakes’ 5 colors of wrapping papers. When biting the cake, you can feel that it seems to immediately melt in the mouth, which is of uniqueness of Hue’s specialty. Hence, it’s advised that you try these as much as possible during your time in Hue, or else you will miss them so much after coming back to your country!

Cultural values
Dong Ba marketNowadays, travelers in Vietnam tourism visit Dong Ba Market not only because they can buy myriad goods and local specialties, but because in their hearts it is a symbol of Hue's culture. 

What was the most delicate material cultural traits of the city can be found here in the local traditional products, like Phu Cam conical hat, Hien Luong scissors, etc., and the mentioned delicious specialties, such as mussel rice, rice noodle with beef, leaf cake, shrimp springroll, khoai cake, dau van pudding, etc. that people could not help tasting!

Even though Hue city has a lot of new markets emerged, and one no longer has to go far for shopping, Dong Ba remains the biggest and most significant market in both Hue and Central Vietnam. Tourists coming here may not be able to get out soon since they are so much absorbed by the interesting Hue’s typical goods.

Today, Dong Ba Market plays an important role in the field of Hue’s economic development. If you are in Hue, Dong Ba Market should not be ignored. It will help you understand more about Vietnamese food or culture in general and Hue’s food or culture in particular.