The Temple of Literature in Ha Noi (2011)

Fidel Castro died yesterday aged 90. The 20th century revolutions seem far away, fading into blurred images of heros and villains, horrors and hopes of better futures. While the islanders mourn, the Cubans in Miami celebrate… The Vietnamese have also had their share of ups and downs in the turbulent and often violent process of “building socialism”, as I discovered during a series of assignments in both north and south in 2011. After a week in the Mekong Delta, I worked on drafting a report while staying in a smart hotel in Ha Noi. Happily there was enough time to explore the city too.

Not far from the heart of the old city, half hidden from the red banners and noisy streets, there is a wonderful Temple of Literature (Van Mieu) which bears witness to hundreds of years of teaching and learning in Viet Nam. It was built in 1070 and dedicated to the “cult of Confucius.” These are some snaps from my visit.

There are 82 stone turtles supporting scrolls honoring the achievements of great scholars

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“Reviewing what you have learned and learning anew, you are fit to be teacher” (Confucius)

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Decorated bell

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Forgot to note what these banners proclaim!

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An ornate giant pot in one of the courtyards at the Temple

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Miraculously, the temple wasn’t destroyed during the American bombing raids in the 1960s and 1970s… In Vietnam I worked together with Ms. Huong who was born in same year as me (1956) and who remembered fearful nights as a teenager in the city in those days, with the B52s overhead and the anti-aircraft guns blazing. Thousands of kilometers away I was watching Johnson and Nixon on the TV trying to justify the destruction – to stop the “red peril” and the domino effect of communism in South-East Asia – and taking part in demonstrations against the war! They were my formative years…

 

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