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 Hanoi's Old Quarter: the 36 streets

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Bài gửiTiêu đề: Hanoi's Old Quarter: the 36 streets   Sat Dec 11, 2010 4:50 pm

Khu phố cổ của Hà Nội: 36 phố phường

As the oldest continuously developed area of Vietnam, Hanoi’s Old Quarter has a history that spans 2,000 years and represents the eternal soul of the city. Located between the Lake of the Restored Sword, the Long Bien Bridge, a former city rampart, and a citadel wall, the Old Quarter started as a snake and alligator-infested swamp. It later evolved into a cluster of villages made up of houses on stilts, and was unified by Chinese administrators who built ramparts around their headquarters. The area was named "Dominated Annam" or "Protected South" by the Chinese.

In the early 13th century, the collection of tiny workshop villages which clustered around the palace walls evolved into craft cooperatives, or guilds.

The Old Quarter began to acquire its reputation as a crafts area when the Vietnamese attained independence in the 11th century and King Ly Thai To built his palace there. In the early 13th century, the collection of tiny workshop villages which clustered around the palace walls evolved into craft cooperatives, or guilds. Skilled craftsmen migrated to the Quarter, and artisan guilds were formed by craftsmen originating from the same village and performing similar services. Members of the guilds worked and lived together, creating a cooperative system for transporting merchandise to the designated streets in the business quarter.

Because inhabitants of each street came from the same village, streets developed a homogeneous look. Commoners’ homes evolved out of market stalls, before streets were formed. Because storekeepers were taxed according to the width of their storefront, storage and living space moved to the rear of the buildings. Consequently, the long and narrow buildings were called "tube houses." Typical measurements for such houses are 3 meters wide by 60 meters long.

The Old Quarter has a rich religious heritage. When the craftsmen moved from outlying villages into the capital, they brought with them their religious practices. They transferred their temples, pagodas and communal houses to their new location. Each guild has one or two religious structures and honors its own patron saint or founder. Therefore, on each street in the Old Quarter there is at least one temple. Now, many of the old temples in the Old Quarter have been transformed into shops and living quarters, but some of the old buildings’ religious roots can still be recognized by the architecture of their roofs.

Although the old section of Hanoi is often called the "36 Old Streets," there are more than 36 actual streets. Some researchers believe that the number 36 came from the 15th century when there might have been 36 guild locations, which were workshop areas, not streets. When streets were later developed, the guild names were applied to the streets. Others attribute the 36 to a more abstract concept. The number nine in Asia represents the concept of "plenty." Nine times the four directions makes 36, which simply means "many." There are now more than 70 streets in the area.
Some streets have achieved fame by their inclusion in popular guidebooks. Han Gai Street offers silk clothing ready-made and tailored, embroidery, and silver products. Hang Quat, the street that formerly sold silk and feather fans, now stuns the visitor by its brilliantly colored funeral and festival flags and religious objects and clothing. To Thinh Street connects the above two and is still the wood turner’s street. Hang Ma glimmers with shiny paper products, such as gift wrappings, wedding decorations and miniature paper objects to burn for the dead. Lan Ong Street is a sensual delight of textures and smells emanating from the sacks of herbal medicinal products: leaves, roots, barks, and powders.

Let us turn now to nine of the lesser known streets in the Old Quarter that possess a unique character worth exploring.

Hang Bac Street
A majority of the street names in the Old Quarter start with the word hang. Hang means merchandise or shop. The guild streets were named for their product, service or location. Hang Bac, one of the oldest streets in Vietnam, dates from at least the 13th century. Bac means silver, and appropriately, this street started as a silver ingot factory under the reign of Le Thanh Tong (1469-1497). Village people, called the "Trau Khe silver casters," were brought into the capital to cast silver bars and coins. After a ceremony to transfer their craft from their village of Trau Khe to Hanoi, they set up two temples to honor the founders of their craft. At one communal house, the silver was molten and poured into molds. At the other communal house, the molds were further processed for delivery to the Prime Minister. The crafters went to great lengths to keep their methods secret to avoid counterfeit products.

At the turn of the 18th century, the street took on more varied functions. In addition to the casting of silver ingots, the street attracted more jewelry makers and money exchangers. Money exchangers thrived, since in the old days, paper money was not used. Instead, currency consisted of bronze and zinc coins and silver ingots. When merchants needed a large amount of money for business transactions, they would exchange the heavy metal bars on Hang Bac. During the French time it was called "Exchange Street." Although paper currency was later used, the word for it included the word bac.
Hang Bac also has jewelers of different types: engravers, smelters, polishers, and gold-leaf makers. The first jewelry makers were the Dong Cac guild, which settled during the Le dynasty (1428-1788). They founded a temple dedicated to three brothers who learned their art in China in the 6th century, and who are considered the patron saints of the Vietnamese jewelry making profession.
There are several famous buildings on this street. In the communal house on Hang Bac, there is a stone stele, built in 1783, telling about a Mandarin who forcibly took over the communal house. The locals took him to court and won back their building. The Dung Tho Temple is dedicated to Chu Bi, a Taoist deity. At the end of the French colonial period, this temple had been named Truong Ca, after a person who watched over the temple and served the best noodle soup. One building on this street is the pride of contemporary history-the Chuong Vang (Golden Bell) Theater, which still hosts traditional Vietnamese theater performances. The former traditional-venue theater, the To Nhu (Quang Lac) Theater built in the 1920s, also is on this street but has been transformed into apartments.

Hang Be Street

In the mid-19th century, the guild of bamboo raft makers was located on this street outside the My Loc gate, one of the many sturdy gates to the city. The cai mang raft consisted of 12 to 15 large bamboo poles lashed together by strips of green bamboo bark. Their anterior was slightly raised by heating the wood, and the aft was rigged with three quadrangular sails made of coarse linen dyed with extracts of sweet potato skins.

Bamboo rafts were sensible for Hanoi’s shallow rivers, lakes and swamps, which can not provide solid anchorage or natural shelter from storms. The flat design better weathered the seasonal typhoons that lash the northern part of Vietnam, and is better adapted to coastal and river fishing. The bamboo poles from which the rafts were constructed were sold one block east on Hang Tre Street.

Cau Go Street
Meaning "Wooden Bridge," Cau Go Street is located one block north of the Lake of the Restored Sword, and was in fact the location of a wooden bridge. About 150 years ago, the bridge crossed a thin stream of water connecting the Thai Cuc Lake with the Lake of the Restored Sword. Dyers from the neighboring Silk Street set out their silk to dry or bleached their fabric beside the bridge. Under the French occupation, the lake and stream were filled as health measures and to increase buildable land. The little wooden bridge became a regular street.
On the edge of the lake, women in wide brimmed hats once sold armfuls of flowers to the French for a few coins. Today a flower market exists where the Cau Go alley intersects with the main street. Other historical sites on Cau Go are the secret headquarters and hiding place of the 1930-45 "Love the Country" resistance movement.
Cau Go today is a commercial street specializing in women’s accessories.

Hang Dao Street
This street is one of Vietnam’s oldest streets. It serves as a main axis running from north to south, cutting the Old Quarter in half. In the French Colonial time, Hang Dao Street was a center for the trading of silk products. On the first and sixth days of the lunar month, there were fairs for the sale of silk items. Shops also sold other types of fabric such as gauze, brocade, crepe, and muslin. Almost all the non-silk products were white.

In the beginning of the 15th century, this street was the location of the silk dyer guild from the Hai Hung Province, which specialized in a deep pink dye. Dao, the name of the street, refers to the pink of apricot blossoms, which are symbolic of the Vietnamese Lunar New Year. The demand for this special color was so high that the fabric had to be dyed at other locations as well.

Hang Thiec is the street of tinsmiths. The craftsmen originally produced small tin cone-shaped tips which were used to preserve the shape of the traditional conical hats

By the 18th century, the dye colors diversified. In the 18th-century work Notes About the Capital, the author wrote that "Hang Dao guild does dying work. It dyes red as the color of blood, black as Chinese ink, and other beautiful colors."In the 19th century, Hang Dao was lined by about 100 houses, of which only 10 or so were constructed of bricks. The rest were of thatch. On the side of the street alongside the now filled-in Hang Dao Lake, the foundations of the houses have visibly sunk lower than the road.
By the turn of this century, Indian textile merchants opened shops for trading silk and wool products imported from the West. This street now specializes in ready-made clothing.

Dong Xuan Street / Market Street
This street originally belonged to two villages-the even numbered houses were occupied by the Nhiem Trung village, and the odd numbered houses were occupied by the Hau Tuc village.
The Dong Xuan market, Vietnam’s oldest and largest market, occupies half of the street.
River networks formed the economic hub of Hanoi by providing a system of waterways which fed the city and markets. Located at the confluence of the To Lich and Red Rivers, the Dong Xuan market was once one of the busiest urban areas in Southeast Asia.
The French required merchants to bring their goods inside the fenced perimeter of the market in order to facilitate tax collections. When the number of merchants swelled, the market was enlarged. In 1889, a structure was built over it, and five gates were built leading to it. Each of the five market gates was used only for specified goods. In 1992, the market was renovated and a new facade erected.

Hang Mam Street
Hang Mam is the union of two old streets: an eastern offshoot called Hang Trung and the original Hang Mam. The name is derived from the various kinds of mam, or fish sauces, that are produced and sold here, as well as other sea products. The street was originally on the riverside, close to the day’s catch.
Nuoc mam, or fish sauce, is made from fish that are too small to be sold individually which are placed in clay vats with water and salt. Boiled water is poured over the fish and weights are placed on top of the mixture to compress it. The concoction distills for days, and the result is a clear amber juice that is rich in protein, vitamins and minerals. With aging, the fierce ammoniac odors of the fish become mellow, and like brandy, the flavor improves. The first pressing, which is the clearest and purest, is called nuoc mam nhi, or prime. The sauce was stored in barrels made on adjacent

Hang Thung Street.
In the 1940s, new specialties appeared on the street. A small ceramics industry appeared along with those of memorial stone etching, coffin, and tombstone manufacturers.

Ma May Street
This street also is a union of two old streets. Hang May sold rattan products, and Hang Ma sold sacred joss (paper replicas of money, clothing, even stereo sets) to burn for the dead. Ma is burned in front of the altar of ancestors accompanied by prayers. Around the turn of the century, the streets became one: Ma May.

On the edge of the lake, women in wide brimmed hats once sold armfuls of flowers to the French for a few coins.

In the French time, this street was called "Black Flag Street" because the soldier Luu Vinh Phuc had his headquarters here. Luu was the leader of the Black Flags, a bandit unit operating around Hanoi in the late 19th century. They were essentially pirates who made a living robbing villagers and merchants. In the 1880s, the Black Flags cooperated with the Vietnamese Imperial Forces to resist the French who were attempting to gain military control of Hanoi.
In the middle of the street is the Huong Tuong temple, established in 1450, which honors Nguyen Trung Ngan (1289-1370), a governor of Thang Long, the former name of Hanoi.

Hang Thiec Street
Hang Thiec is the street of tinsmiths. The craftsmen originally produced small tin cone-shaped tips which were used to preserve the shape of the traditional conical hats. A neighboring street, Hang Non, made the hats, and both streets comprised the Yen No hamlet.

Hang Thiec Street also produced oil lamps, candle sticks, and opium boxes. Tin shops sold mirrors, which they still do today, along with sheet metal, zinc, and glass. The street echoes busily with the clanging of hammers against the sheet metal. Workers spread out on the sidewalk shaping metal storage boxes and other objects to custom order.

Hang Thung Street

In the old days, on this block inside the Dong Yen gate, barrels were manufactured. The barrels were used for storing and carrying water and fish sauce. The communal house and the temple of the barrel makers’ guild is located at 22 Hang Thung, but is hidden behind newer buildings. The street is shaded by the leaves of the xoan tree which has a fluffy cream colored cluster flower and bright red berries. The tree has various English names: Margosa, Bead, or China Berry tree. In May, the tiny flowers fall to the ground like yellow confetti. The furrowed bark is often scraped off by local residents, who dry and boil it to make a medicinal infusion as a vermifuge.
The Old Quarter is a precious legacy of Hanoi’s ancient past, but the area is challenged by rapid changes.
Today, handicraft production is increasingly replaced by restaurants, repair shops, and mini hotels. Historic buildings have become mass living spaces and schools as the population increases. Craft workers now constitute nine percent of the neighborhood. Traders make up 40 percent.
With the new economic policies, a dramatic building boom has begun, threatening the charm of the district. Local, national, and international agencies are now formulating plans to preserve the historic ambiance of the Old Quarter.

Meaning of the 36 streets
(just old name but in fact more than there)
by Barbara Cohen
Street Name: Description:
1 - Bat Dan Wooden Bowls
2 - Bat Su China Bowls
3 - Cha Ca Roasted Fish
4 - Chan Cam String Instruments
5 - Cho Gao Rice Market
6 - Gia Ngu Fishermen
7 - Hai Tuong Sandals
8 - Hang Bac Silversmiths
9 - Hang Be Rafts
10 -Hang Bo Basket
11 -Hang Bong Cotton
12 -Hang Buom Sails
13 -Hang But Brushes
14 -Hang Ca Fish
15 -Hang Can Scales
16 -Hang Chai Bottles
17 -Hang Chi Threads
18 -Hang Chieu Mats
19 -Hang Chinh Jars
20 -Hang Cot Bamboo Latices
21 -Hang Da Leather
22 -Hang Dao (Silk) Dyer
23 -Hang Dau Beans
24 -Hang Dau Oils25 -Hang Dieu Pipes
26 -Hang Dong Copper
27 -Hang Duong Sugar
28 -Hang Ga Chicken
29 -Hang Gai Hemp
30 -Hang Giay Paper
31 -Hang Giay Shoes
32 -Hang Hanh Onions
33 -Hang Hom Cases
34 -Hang Huong Incense
35 -Hang Khay Trays
36 -Hang Khoai Sweet Potatoe
37 -Hang Luoc Comb
38 -Hang Ma Votive papers
39 -Hang Mam Pickled Fish
40 -Hang Manh Bamboo-screens
41 -Hang Muoi Salt
42 -Hang Ngang Transversal Street
43 -Hang Non Hats
44 -Hang Phen Alum
45 -Hang Quat Fans
46 -Hang Ruoi Clam Worms
47 -Hang Than Charcoal
48 -Hang Thiec Tin
49 -Hang Thung Barrel
50 -Hang Tre Bamboo
51 -Hang Trong Drum
52 -Hang Vai Cloth
53 -Lo Ren Blacksmiths
54 -Lo Su Coffins
55 -Ma May Rattan
56 -Ngo Gach Bricks
57 -Thuoc Bac Herbal Medicine

Lady and gentleman! We are in front of Van Mieu Quoc Tu Giam.
Temple of Literature is an old cultural monument of the Vietnamese people. It was built in 1070 in the reign of King Ly Thanh Tong for the worship of Zhou Kung and Confucius - the two founders of Confucianism and the education of princes. Six years later, in 1076, the Ly King ordered the construction of the National College in this area where the princes would come to hear lectures, after that people from ordinary families were also admitted. The National College was thus the highest educational institution in ancient Vietnam.
Vietnam's first University was founded in 1076 by king Ly Nhan Tong as a school for the crown prince, and expanded the following year to admit sons of the man in aristocracy chosen by the king. It was later opened to a wider spectrum of society through an examination system that provided the theoretical possibility of social mobility based on merit.
Classes were held in two houses along the sides of what is now the fifth courtyard of the Van Mieu. The yard also held six dormitory houses, each a row of 25 rooms, with two students to a room. In addition, there was a print shop for school texts. At the time, the school and temple were closely integrated.
Requirements for admission varied over the centuries. Selection was at first by royal appointment, later by examination. The first students were simply required to know how to write Chinese characters. Later, prospective students were required to have a Cu nhan, or bachelor's degree from one of the provincial schools.
Students of all ages studied together. Although a decree issued in 1185 set the lower age limit at 15, there was no upper limit. The length of the course of study varied, depending on the interval between royal examinations. While examinations were usually given every three years, on occasion they were held as long as seven years apart.
Instruction was based on mastering the four Confucian classical texts on ethics and literature, and the five pre-confucian classics. Students learned to write poetry, commentaries on texts, and other literary forms.
Classes met four times a month for University entrants, and twice a month for more advanced students. Between classes, students would work on writing assignments and submit them to the teacher. During class those compositions marked "excellent" or "good" would be read aloud for other students to use as models.
Modern Vietnamese critics of this form of education object to its focus on memorization, its lack of attention to practical learning, and its neglect of Vietnamese history in favor of foreign (Chinese) history and culture. They speak of its irrelevance, of "sitting on the bridge in Do and talking about the land of Moc."
At the same time, those who put this education to the service of their nation are revered for their dedication and brilliance. A fourteenth-century scholar whose name has come to be taken as the embodiment of integrity and devotion to learning and country is Chu Van An. Rector of the Quoc Tu Giam for 40 years, he is its only teacher honored with an altar at the Van Mieu.
The poem of his that follows gives a sense of the refined style aspired to by the education of the times.
Spring morning
In the hut in the mountains one is free the live-long day
A clump of bamboos leaning o'er screens from cold mountain air
Green grows the grass and the sky reels in joy
Late lingers the dew in the cups of scarlet flowers
The man alone with the lonely cloud clings to the mountain side
His spirit like water in old wells lies still, unshaken by any tremor
As the sweet pine logs sink to ash the pot for tea stops boiling
A murmur of birds from the deeps of the ravine brings him back from the light sleep of Spring.

The Van Mieu is built in the shape of a parallelogram, modeled after the Temple to Confucius in QuFu, China.
Five courtyards separated by brick walls now make up the interior. In Confucianism, as in
Buddhism, the number five has a special place. There are five essential elements, five basic virtues, five commandments, five sorrows, five cardinal relationships, and five classics.
The elements: metal, wood, water, fire, and earth. The virtues: humanity, righteousness, civility, knowledge, and loyalty. The commandments: against murder, theft, lust, lying, and drunkenness. The sorrows: life, old age, sickness, death, and separation. The relationships: king and subjects, father and son, husband and wife, brothers, friends. The classics: Odes, Annals, Book of Change, Rites and Ceremonies, Spring and Autumn Annals.
A central pathway divides the complex into symmetrical halves as it leads the visitor through the different courtyards to the temple altar. Each courtyard is connected to the next by three parallel gates, or doors, that bear names symbolic of advancing in wisdom. Couplets, contrasting and complementary in meaning, while parallel in structure and harmonious in sound, are inscribed in Chinese characters on the side columns of the gates.
The balance of contrasting elements within the unity of a larger whole is a theme reflected in much of the temple's design. It is a theme common to Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism, three deep currents of Vietnamese traditional and modern life.
Today it is a shrine to brilliant scholars of the past, a place where the occasional student still comes to stuffy and pray for good luck in exams, and a repository of nine centuries of Vietnamese history.
The historical site of the Van Mieu-Quoc Tu Giam covers an area of 55207 square meters including the Lake of literature, Giam park, and the interior courtyards surrounded by the brick “Vo” wall. In front of the Great Portico, there are four high pillars. On either side of the pillars are two stelae commanding horsemen to dismount. The interior of the site is divided into five courtyards.
A walk through the courtyards of the Van Mieu recalls the Confucian scholar's progress in following the path to knowledge.
The journey begins with respect. Before visitors can enter the first gate, they must pass stone inscriptions commanding them to dismount their horses to show respect. Even the king was obliged to dismount, a sign that knowledge was held in higher esteem than royalty or temporal power.
Still outside the temple gate, the visitor passes four pillars bearing inscriptions that proclaim the greatness of Confucius and his doctrine. Each of the two tallest pillars is topped with a mythic beast, the Ly, that has the power to distinguish right from wrong, good from evil. The beasts stand guard to let in the good and keep out the bad.
Entrance to the complex is through the Great Portico, or Gate to the Temple of Literature, a double-roofed two-storey stone structure which may have been built in the later Le dynasty (17th and 18th centuries) to replace the original, perhaps wooden, gateway.
Friezes to the right and left of the gate portray a dragon and a tiger. The dragon is ascending - a flying dragon, symbol of good luck. The tiger, a symbol of strength and power, is descending a mountain, bringing help for humanity.
Over the centuries, the dragon has been the symbol first of royalty, then of the mandarinate. Later the dragon came to symbolize the rank of doctoral degree (tien si), the tiger, the rank of bachelor (cu nhan).
The inscription flanking the right of the entrance reads, "Among the doctrines of the world, ours is the best, and is revered by all culture starved lands". The parallel sentence to the left responds, "Of all the temples devoted to literature, this is the head; the perfume of culture floats throughout the millennia."

The Great Portico leads to the first courtyard, called Entrance to the Way. The central path is straight, the symmetry of both halves reflecting the balance and harmony of life lived according to the Confucian Middle Path, or Golden Mean. The way is graced with lotus ponds and sacred trees like the banyan and frangipani. Virtue and talent were the keys to passage from the first to second courtyards, deeper into the doctrine, as implied by the names of the two side gates at the far end of the courtyard:
Thanh Duc (Accomplished Virtue) is situated to the right of the central gate; Dat Tai (or Affained Talent), to the left.
The center gate is called Dai Trung Mon (Great Middle Gate). This is not only a physical descriptor. Dai Trung is also a reference to books written by two of Confucius closest disciples: the Dai Hoc (Great Learning), and the Trung Dung (Golden Mean). Taken together, they extol the greatness of the Middle Way.
Two carp perch atop the simple gate, making obeisance to a flask of nectar from heaven, a flask of the nectar of Confucianism. These carp symbolize students, on their way to becoming mandarins.

At the far end of the second courtyard stands the Khue Van Cac pavilion, built in 1805, shortly after the newly enthroned Nguyen dynasty had moved the royal college to Hue. Khue Van means Constellation of Literature, and the pavilion (Cac) is meant to reflect that brilliance.
The graceful pavilion is rich in the complementary symbolism of yin-yang. It may be taken as the physical expression of the cosmic Great Primary Principle (Thai Cuc) the union of contrasting parts.
There is high and low, wind and water, sky and earth. The brick platform is square, the symbolic shape for earth; sky is present in the wooden superstructure adorned with four circular suns, outlined in wood, that radiate their light to the four directions.
Dragons crown the roof, making obeisance to the moon. In order for the student to pass through the gate to the next level of knowledge, the virtue and talent of the first stage must be joined to excellence in literary expression.
The two smaller gates leading from this courtyard are called, right to left: Suc Van and Bi Van. Suc Van can be translated Crystallization of Letters, and refers to literary expression that is profound and full of feeling. Bi Van, translated Magnificence of Letters refers to ideas that are well and beautifully expressed.
Parallel sentences on the back pillars of the Khue Van pavilion link this courtyard to the next.

Passing through the Khue Van Cac, the visitor enters the courtyard of the stelae. At the center of which is a square pond called Thien Quang Tinh, (Well of Heavenly Clarity). The well reflects and radiates the brilliance of the Constellation of Literature as it continues the symbolism of the sacred duality: low and high, cool and warm, water and fire, square earth and round sky.
Each of the 82 stelae in the courtyard represents a single examination year, and records the names and native villages of those awarded the Tien si, or doctor laureate degree, that year. The names of 1306 doctor laureates are listed on the stelae.
On each side of the pond, between the double rows of stelae, stands a small shrine where incense is burned to honor the memory of the laureates. The oldest stelae stands in the shrine on the entering visitor's right.
In the Courtyard of the Sages, the visitor reaches the heart of the temple, the altar to Confucius, situated in the Great House of Ceremonies directly opposite the entry gate.
Entrance to the courtyard is through the Dai Thanh Mon, or Gate of the Great Synthesis, which may also be translated the Gate of Great Success. The elements of the Confucian doctrine, the learning of the past, and knowledge of Buddhism and Taoism are brought together here to complete a scholar's knowledge.
The names of the two smaller side doors suggest the beauty and value of the Confucian doctrine as its influence echoes throughout the world. Kim Thanh (Golden Sound), evokes the first pealing of a bell, and Ngoc Chan (Jade Resonance) the last reverberation of the gong.
It was in the Great House of Ceremonies that the king would make his offering to Confucius, and the new doctor laureates would come to kneel and bow to pay their respects.
The building stand on two walls supported by nine pillars, which is crowned by jubilant dragons making obeisance to the moon. The altar occupies the open center. Cranes perched atop tortoises on either side of the altar may be taken as symbols of the union of heaven and earth. The eight wooden standards represent the eight weapons of the scholar mandarins.
Inscribed on the wooden panel over the altar are the words: Teacher of Ten Thousand Generations. To the right are words in the brush strokes of Nguyen Nghiem (father of Vietnam's great 18th
century poet Nguyen Du): Like the sun and the moon, through time - past and present.
Behind the Great House of Ceremonies is the Sanctuary, with statues of Confucius flanked by his four closest disciples: Nhan Hoi, Tu Tu, Tang Sam, and Manh Tu (Mencius). The sanctuaryhouses as well as altars to 10 honored philosophers. In earlier centuries, no one but the caretaker was allowed to enter the Sanctuary, not even the king.
To the right and left of the Great Meeting Hall stand two side buildings, originally used to house altars to the 72 disciples of Confucius, but now used for a shop, museum, and curatorial off ces. Destroyed by shelling in 1947, these buildings were rebuilt affer 1954. Behind the building on the leff were once chambers for the king, a kitchen, and a store-room for ceremonial objects.
The courtyard is still used for live chess games and ceremonial dances during the Tet (lunar new year) holidays.

During the time the Van Mieu served as a University, the students' classrooms, dormitories, and cooking facilities were located here, along with a print shop for school text books.
When the Nguyen dynasty took the throne in 1802, they moved the capital to Hue, taking also the royal college. The Quoc Tu Giam was transformed into a shrine to Confucius' parents, called the Khai Thanh.
At that time there was also an altar to the earth god and housing for officials and the temple guard. Gardens stretched beyond the shrines.
In 1947, accidental French shelling destroyed the buildings of the Khai Thanh.
The Thai hoc building were constructed in October 8th 2000 to honor traditional culture celebrate 1000th anniversary of Thang Long foundation and dedicate to great national scholars.

Education at the Quoc Tu Giam prepared students for the royal examination, the gateway to becoming a scholar mandarin and serving at the court or in a high position in the provinces. Those who did not pass the exam still held a position as part of the nationals educated class, and often returned to their villages as school masters.
Both the examinations and the honors conferred evolved over the centuries. The following description is of examinations in the 15th century.
The multi-stage examination process could take several months. The first step, called the Thi Huong was a regional examination held triennially.
Those who passed then came to Hanoi with their sleeping mats, brushes, and ink stones to sit for the four-part Thi Hoi. A candidate had to pass each part in sequence in order to qualify to sit for the following part.
The first part, called Kinh Nghia, was based directly on the Confucian classics. Examinees were given four subjects from the four canons, and told to choose one. In addition they had to choose one of three questions based on the five pre-confucian classics. Finally, they were given two questions based on the Spring and Autumn Annals, and told to synthesize them.
For the second part of the examination, the Che Chieu Bieu, a candidate had to write as though he were the king, discussing matters of state.
Candidates who passed the second test were then required to write two different kinds of poems on given topics, in the Tho Phu. The Tho was a poem of 28 words, divided into four lines of seven words, the phu a prose poem of 8 seven - word lines.
The final part of the doctoral exam was the Van Sach, in which candidates were asked to comment on how to handle problems facing the country, drawing from their knowledge of the four classics and the history of previous dynasties.
Those who completed all four were conferred the title of doctor laureate (Tien si), and invited to the palace for the Thi Dinh, or palace examination. During this examination, the king himself posed the question and read the responses of the candidates. He then ranked the tien si into three groups, and conferred special distinction on the three most successful candidates of the highest-ranking group.
The new mandarins were offered a hat and gown, given a banquet at the palace, and sent home to their villages in triumphal procession. There they in turn offered a feast to the village, sometimes to their financial ruin.
From 1076 to 1779, the date of the last royal examination held in Hanoi. 2313 examinees were awarded the title of Tien si or doctor laureate. Today 1306 of their names, beginning with the examination in 1442, are still to be found on the 82 stelae at the Van Mieu.
The number of examinees awarded the Tien si degree in any one year ranged from 3 to 61. Ages of the laureates ranged from 16 to 61.
The examinations may have been held on the site of what is now the national library, as suggested by some historians and by the street name, Trang Thi, or Examination Street. With from 450 to 6000 candidates, the area had to have been a large one.
The scholars differed greatly in their contributions to their country. Some were more virtuous than others; some were nothing more than bureaucrats. Yet many were brilliant: mathematicians and philosophers, statesmen and finance ministers, officials renowned for fighting corruption and abuse of privilege.
Literature and public service were not distinct realms. Poets also contributed to the economic life of their times by bringing high-yielding maize from China, by improving techniques for silk weaving and reed mat weaving, and by developing the system of irrigation canals. Many of the most brilliant statesmen were also poets.

Although many dates, including the exact date of the establishment of the Van Mieu, are the subject of controversy, the following chronology can give visitors a sense of important events and changes over time.
1070 - An altar to Confucius and Chu Cong is established in Hanoi. This is the date popularly accepted as the founding of the Van Mieu.
1076 - King Ly Nhan Tong establishes the Quoc Tu Giam, or royal university, first for the royal princes, then for sons of the mandarinate.
1185 - The king sets the lower age limit for admission to the university at 15. There is no upper limit.
1214 - End of later Ly dynasty.
1225 - Beginning of Tran dynasty.
1304 - A sixteen-year old, Nguyen Trung Ngan, passes the examination.
1374 - The king institutes the tradition of offering a cloak to each successful candidate.
1396 - A preliminary examination is held in outlying regions. Those who pass are called bachelors
(cu nhan).
1400 - End of Tran dynasty
1407-1427 - Ming invaders destroy temples throughout the occupied lands, sparing the Van Mieu
out of devotion to Confucius.
1428 - Beginning of later Le dynasty The king establishes regional schools. The best students from each region are selected to come to the capital to study. ln theory, access to mandarin status is thus opened to every male, based on educational merit.
1483 - Restoration work.
1484 - The first stelae to the doctor laureates are erected for each examination year, beginning from 1442.
1511 - Major restoration work is undertaken. Additions include a kitchen, a storage house for
ceremonial objects, and a house for the king to use on his visits.
1538 – Repairs
1662 – Additions
18th century - Eight double-roofed structures are erected to house the stelae.
1762 - Repairs.
1780 - The eight pavilions in the Garden of the Stelae are destroyed, and the stelae scattered. Some historians attribute this to the soldiers of the Tay Son uprising, others to the mandarin lord, Trinh Khai.
1786-1802 - Tay Son dynasty
1788 - End of later Le dynasty
1802 - The Nguyen dynasty ascends the throne and moves the capital to Hue, taking with it the royal university. The buildings of the Quoc Tu Giam are converted to a shrine to the parents of Confucius, called the Khai Thanh. A regional university continues in Hanoi.
19th century (beginning) - The first two courtyards are added to the existing three, and walls are built from bricks unused in the reconstruction of the citadel.
1805 - The Nguyen construct the Khue Van Cac.
18S8 - Beginning of French domination.
1906 - ln November, the French Governor General of Indochina declares the Van Mieu-Quoc Tu
Giam a historic site. ThÑ French call the Van Mieu the Crow Pagoda.
1915 - The last regional examination is given in Hanoi.
1919 - The last royal examination is given in Hue.
1947 - French shelling accidentally destroys the temples to Confucius' parents in the Khai Thanh,
and the houses of the disciples in the Courtyard of the Sages.
1954 - Independence from France
1 960's - The statues are put in storage, other objects placed in an exhibition hall. During the war
years, the stelae are protected from feared U.S. bombing by concrete surrounding walls into which sand is poured, covering the stones.
1975 - Peace, reunification of the country.
1988 - With Innovation, the statues are reopened to public viewing. The Van Mieu - Quoc Tu Giam
Center for Culture and Research is established.
1992 - Restoration of ponds.
1993 - Eight pavilions are built to protect the stelae from further erosion.
2000 - Rebuilding Quoc Tu Giam.

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