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Published: March 4th 2008
Khuê Văn Các
Khuê Văn Các (pavillion built in 1802), the red tower at Văn Miếu, is the symbol of Hanoi. You can see it in the logo of the Hanoi Television or on the paintings and postcards.
One of the must-see places when you visit Hanoi is "Văn Miếu" (the Temple of Literature) - "Quốc Tử Giám" (the first National University of Vietnam) which is nearly 1,000 years old. It's a representative of Confucian ways of thought and behavior, as well as a historical and cultural relic.
In 1070, King Lý Thánh Tông erected several important monuments, including Văn Miếu (the Temple of Literature). The organization of instruction and learning at the Quốc Tử Giám (National University) began in 1076 under the Lý dynasty and further developed in the 15th century under the Lê dynasty. The university was established near the Temple of Literature, and during its more than 700 years of instruction (1076-1779), thousands of talented men in Vietnam were educated there.
The national university was headed by a Director (Tế tửu) and a Vice Director (Tư nghiệp). The professors of the national university had different titles. Most of the students (Giám sinh) had passed the regional exams (Hương). During the course of study, the students paid attention to the discussion of literature and wrote poetry as well. Their text books were "the 4 books", "the 5 pre-confucian classes", ancient poetry and Chinese history. The
students had to learn at the national university from 3 to 7 years. They had a minor test every month and 4 major tests every year. If they completed enough their terms, their study results were approved by the Ministry of Rites to qualify the national exam (Hội). The candidates needed to pass the national exam to sit for the royal exam (Đình) held at the court and answered the questions posed by the King.
At Văn Miếu - Quốc Tử Giám, there are 82 stelae on the back of stone tortoises which recorded the names, places of birth and achievements of successful contestants in the examinations between 1442 and 1778.
Many times I took foreign friends or guests to visit Văn Miếu - Quốc Tử Giám. The most special visit was to take photos of me wearing an Áo Dài (Vietnamese traditional dress). I would like to thank my American friend Jerry and Vietnamese friend Tùng, who spent an afternoon with me at the Temple of Literature and helped me take these great photos. This Áo Dài of red and yellow color is a special design and I wore it with a red turban.
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