Mon. Apr 15th, 2024

The historic Van Mieu-Quoc Tu Giam (Temple of Literature-Imperial
Academy) in Hanoi hosted a special ceremony on February 25 to receive
certificates recognising the site as a special national heritage and
its 82 stelae as World Documentary Heritage.

Deputy Prime
Minister Nguyen Thien Nhan and a representative from UNESCO presented
the certificates to Hanoi authorities and the Van Mieu-Quoc Tu Giam
Centre for Cultural and Scientific Activities.

The ceremony
included an enactment of the ritual to honour laureates of royal
examinations who returned to their home villages to report to ancestors
about their academic accomplishment, a screening of a documentary film
about the temple, and a musical and dance performance.

The Quoc
Tu Giam and Van Mieu complex was recognised as a special national
heritage site last October. The 82 stelae (the stone slabs inscribed
with the names of laureates in court exams held from the 15 th to the
18 th century) at the complex were recognised as part of the World
Documentary Heritage by UNESCO in March 2010.

The 82 stelae were
a focus of a conservation workshop held earlier the same day by the Van
Mieu-Quoc Tu Giam Centre for Cultural and Scientific Activities.
Participants in the seminar expressed their concern for the
deterioration of the stelae being brought on both by exposure to the
elements and by people.

The structure covering the stelae are
becoming dilapidated, and the stelae themselves are often touched or
rubbed or even sat upon, the seminar heard. There is a long tradition
of high school and university students rubbing the heads of the
tortoises supporting the stelae for luck around exam time.

Among
measures discussed to better protect the stelae, participants favoured
building umpired glass perditions around them, although some felt that
would be inconsistent with the historic, garden-like setting of the
temple.

The Centre for Cultural and Scientific Activities has
currently set up cordons and assigned guard to protect the stelae as a
temporary measure.

The centre has undertaken efforts to preserve
the temple setting, cleaning up the grounds and garden, improving water
drainage, installing lighting system, and expanding inner walkway.

Built in 1070 as a Confucians temple, the temple served as the
country’s first university, educating royalty, mandarins and other
members of the elite.

The Dai Viet Su Ky Toan Thu (Complete
History of the Great Viet) records that the Temple of Literature was
built during the reign of King Le Thanh Tong who established the
tradition of carving the named of the laureates on stelae atop
tortoises. The practice dates to 1484, but of the 116 built between
1142 and 1778, only 82 remain.-VNA

By vivian