23/09/2009 | 14:09:00

Hanoi – A millennial culture

A great number of  celebrated and talented poets, musicians and scientists were born in Hanoi. Many celebrities from other provinces have settled down and made a name for themselves in this imperial land with a thousand- year-old culture. It is indeed a land that lures talents and well-treats scholars, and the number of belletrists here is as many as leaves in spring.

Under the Ly dynasty, Ly Thuong Kiet, a talented general from An Xa ward on the Red River alluvial plain, wrote the famous poem “Mountains and Rivers of the Southern Empire” (Nam Quoc Son Ha). The poem was considered the country’s first independence declaration, thus helping raise soldiers’ morale and enabling them to defeat the Tong invaders.

Although Thang Long was not the native land of the founder of the Tran dynasty (1225-1400), the successive kings were born in the capital and were deeply influenced by the culture of this land King Tran Nhan Tong (1279-1293) was considered a great poet with the immortal verses.

Even stone horses have become exhausted after two resistance wars,
Yet, the country will stand as firmly as a tripod golden urn”
.

Since Ly Cong Uan set up the capital in Thang Long in 1010, the education was established and developed. The Confucianism education was founded since the King Ly Thanh Tong reign with the founding of the Temple of Literature in Thang Long (1070), followed by the formation of the National College by King Ly Nhan Tong in 1076, which ushered in a thriving educational development in Vietnam. Over 138 years, the Ly dynasty organised six exams (the Great Exams) and many other exams like Thi Lai Vien, the calligraphy, and law, etc. exams to recruit yamen’s clerks.

Confucian education continued to develop during the Tran dynasty (1225-1400). In 1253, the National College was reorganised into the National Institute. Thang Long also had schools founded by great scholars such as Tran Nhat Duat, Chu Van An, where students from other localities were trained.

Education under the Le dynasty was highest achieving during King Le Thanh Tong’s reign (1460-1497). The King promulgated educational measures; extended the House of Learning: stipulated again the exam system; organised solemn ceremonies to call out the names of laureates; bestowed dresses, crowns, pennons and escutcheons on laureates on their return to their native villages; and erected stone stelae to inscribe the names of PhDs. Many talents like Luong The Vinh, Vu Huu, Than Nhan Trung and Do Nhuan, etc, appeared in this period.

There were six exams during the six decades of the Mac reign, with 460 PhDs including 11 first-rank laureates such as Nguyen Binh Khiem, Giap Hai and Pham Chan, and especially a woman PhD - Pham Thi Hue. Education and exams continued developing under the restored Le dynasty, with 121 exams and 2,241 PhDs including 37 first rank laureates. From the 15th-17th century, many types of schools were opened in Thang Long to teach mandarins’ children, like the Chieu Van Quan, Tu Lam Cuc, Trung Thu Giam and Sung Van Quan, etc.

Music also developed in Thang Long under the Tran dynasty. The great music served the kings and mandarins, which included tom-toms, flutes, cymbals and great wooden bells. Small music for people from all walks of life consisted of lutes (dan cam), the sixteen-stringed wither (dan tranh), pear-shaped lutes (dan ty ba), seven – and two-stringed musical instruments, and various kinds of flutes. There were tunes in this time, such as “Nam Thien Nhac”, “Ngoc Lau Xuan”, “Dap Thanh Du”, “Mong Du Tien”, and “Canh Lau Truong”.

Chu Van An, a native of Tranh Tri district’s Thanh Liet commune, was a great teacher of the capital city under the Tran reign. Many of his students were renowned, contemporary men, such as Pham Su Manh and Le Quat, Chu Van An was also a poet and physician, the author of numerous works on medicine.

Under the Le dynasty (1428-1527), a number of kings were born in Thang Long and became outstanding poets. King Le Thanh Tong, born in 1442, was one of them. He was the founder of the famous “Tao Dan Nhi Thap Bat Tu” Poets’ Association, author of the authology entitled “Hong Duc Quoc Am Thi tap” (Collection of Poems in National Language under Hong Duc Time), and editor of the books “Thien Nam Du Hoa Do” (A Map of the Southern Sky), and “Dai Viet Su Ky Toan Thu” (Complete History of the Great Viet).

Thang Long people under the Le reign liked music very much. An inscription on a stele in Dong Cac Communal House in Chinh Hoa Year (17th century) saying about music and dance at this time reads: “In festivals, young men and  women in beautiful green and rose silk dresses, dance and sing together to the tune of bugles and flutes”.

Doan Thi Diem, who was famous for the immortal work Lament of a Wife Whose Husband Has Gone to War (Chinh Phu Ngam), was the daughter of a woman from Ha Khau ward (now Hang Buom Street). Dang Tran Con, a poet of her time, was a native of Ke Moc (also known as Nhan Muc village) in Hanoi. Poet Nguyen Gia Thieu, who was the author of the famous work entitled Lament of a Woman in the Harem (Cung Oan Ngam Khuc) and Collection of Poems on the West Lake (Tay Ho Thi tap), was also born in Thang Long.

Ngo Thoi Nham, the author of The Reunification of the Nation under the Royal Le Dynasty (Hoang Le Nhat Thong Chi) and other works, was a native of Thanh Tri district’s Ta Thanh Oai village in the suburb of Hanoi. Nguyen Huy Luong, born in Phu Thuy village (Gia Lam district), was also a good writer who became well-known with Hymn to the Glory of the West Lake (Phu Tung Tay Hoa), Nguyen Gia Phan, born in Tu Liem district’s Yen Lung, was a celebrated physician and author of numerous valuable books on medicine.

Ho Xuan Huong, alias the “Queen of nom poems”, was born in Thang Long capital in the late 18th century. She was the author of satiric poems that have been handed down for many generations. She became a unique literary phenomenon in the treasury of the national culture.

The Wife of the Sub-Prefect of Thanh Quan, one of the most famous woman poets of the country, was born in Nghi Tam-a village by the West Lake. She wrote poems about her native place and the country, including “Nostalgia of the Old Thang Long Citadel” (Thang Long thanh Hoai co). “Tran Bac Pagoda” (Chua Tran Bac), and “Going through Ngang Pass” (Qua Deo Ngang), which include such nice verses like.

“The coot nostalgic for its native land.
The moorhen feeling sorrow for its homeland utters pitiable chants”.


Perhaps there was no one in Hanoi who did not know “Deity Sieu” and Saint Quat” Deity Sieu, whose real name was Nguyen Van Sieu, was a native of Thanh Tri district’s Kim Lu village. He was born in 1799 and known as an infant prodigy with many anecdotes. A talented improviser, he was once dispatched as an envoy to China under the Qing dynasty. He wrote a great number of books on literature, history, philosophy and geography, the much talked of being Phuong Dinh Du Dia Chi (Phuong Dinh Geography).

Cao Ba Quat, alias Saint Quat, was a native of Phu Thi village in Gia Lam district. Known as being intelligent, he excelled at making paralleled sentences and poems.

In addition to native-born poets and writers of Hanoi, there were a great number of talented celebrities hailing from other provinces who made a famed carrier here – to name only those who appeared before the August Revolution (1945).

One should mention first of all the kings of many reigns who had not been born in Hanoi but had the merit of building up dynasties here such as the kings under the Ly and the Le reigns. Apart from the talent of governing the nation, they were also very good at poetry.

King Hung Dao, or Tran Quoc Tuan, was the author of “Van Kiep Tong Bi truyen” (Tener Secretly Handed Down to Thousands of Years), “Binh Thu Yeu Luoc” (Risumi of Military Tactics) and the most famous “Hich Tuong Si” (Proclamation to Officers and Soldiers). General Tran Nhat Duat was gifted in music and dance, who composed songs to encourage his soldiers’ fighting spirits. The singing to the accompaniment of castanets was uninterruptedly heard in his residence.

National hero Nguyen Trai born in Thuong Tin district’s Nhi Khe village in Thang Long capital’s suburbs, had a strong attachment to this place through his military exploits and excellent work of literature such as “Proclamation of Victory over the Ngo” (Binh Ngo Dai Cao) and “Vietnam’s Geography” (Du Dia Chi).

Master Bung - Phung Khac Khoan had spent many years in the capital city. He excelled at prose, poetry and improvisation. There were a lot of anecdotes about this stay as an envoy in China.

After the 1945 August Revolution, Hanoi was once again chosen as the capital of independent Vietnam. Talents from the four cardinal points continued to flock here.

In literature, arts and music, many persons of Hanoi origin have made contributions to their native land. Nguyen Dinh Thi, for example, did well in poetry, literature and painting. Nguyen Tuan left behind many immortal works about  Hanoi such as “After December 19th Night”, “Flower Village”, “Hanoi Valiantly Fought the Americans”, etc. To Hoai, who was born and have lived in the city for almost a century, wrote “Old Stories of Hanoi”, “Sand and Dust under Whose Feet” and “People of the Streets”. Van Cao composed Tien Quan Ca (Vietnam’s National Anthem) in Hanoi. He was also known as a talented and famed painter. Nguyen Huy Tuong and Hoang Dao Thuy also produced excellent works. In the field of music, one should name pianist Dang Thai Son and his mother, pianist Thai Thi Lien, and singers Thu Hien, Thanh Hoa and Le Dung. People’s actress Chu Thuy Quynh is famous dancer and choreographer. Actress Quach Thi Ho is known for a dao (ceremonial singing). Professors Ho Dac Di and Ton That Tung figured in medicine. Professor of acupuncture Nguyen Tai Thu came from Canh village (in Hanoi)’s suburban districts). Professors Tran Dai Nghia, Pham Huy Thong, Luong Dinh Cua and Nguyen Van Hieu, etc… made their names in science.

For a millennium, Thang Long-Hanoi has been a nursery for talents nation wide. They rallied here, then shed brilliant lights all over the country.

Hanoi is a land of learning that has trained many talents for the country. Many educators,  poets and writers have gathered round the capital city.

The history of education in Hanoi may date back to more than two thousand years when the Han (Chinese) script was  introduced into the country though it only really blossomed under the independent and sovereign feudal reigns. This shows how Hanoians prize learning as well as their tradition of venerating teachers and having respect for morale philosophy:

“Golden swords fell intro the West Lake,
Great is one’s father’s merit and fervid is the loyalty to one’s teacher”.


The first, large school of national status, also one of the greatest schools in the region at that time and now still exists to the heart of the capital city  is Van Mieu-Quoc Tu Giam (the Temple of Literature–National College).

This one thousand-year-old school situated right at the centre of Hanoi is Vietnam’s first national university. It was built in the autumn of the eight lunar month, the second year (Than Vu year) under the Ly Thanh Tong reign (1070). The King had the statues of Confucius. Tu Cong and Tu Phoi built and the statue of Confucus’s seventy two disciples painted and worshipped all the year round. The crown prince was educated here (according to “Dai Viet Su ky Toan thu) (Complete History of the Great Viet).

In 1076, King Ly Nhan Tong recruited men of talent among the literary mandarins to Quoc Tu Giam. Under the Tran dynasty, Quoc Tu Giam became Quoc Hoc Vien (the National Study Institute). Under the Le dynasty, chiefly the Le Thanh Tong reign, it was upgraded into Thai Hoc (Great Study) Institute, King Le Thanh Tong had many books printed and reformed the examination system. Since then, great importance has been attached to Quoc Tu Giam where 82 doctoral stelae were erected and kept as a stamp of an education and training centre through many dynasties.

Hanoi, since the old times, have boasted many patriotic and kind-a hearted teachers who trained many talents for the country, typical of whom is Chu Van An. He is a native of Quang Liet village’s Van hamlet (now Thanh Tri district’s Thanh Liet commune). He was good at learning but never went in for examinations to become a mandarin like many other scholars of his time but only stayed home tutoring pupils. He built a school in Huynh Cong village, which attracted a great number of students; many of them later became reputed like Pham Su Manh, Le Quat, etc.

Thang Long was not only a seat of exams to select talents for the country but also a cradle that gave birth to many doctors of letters and laureates such as Dr Tran Lo, alias Luong, a native of Binh Vong (still called Bang) village in Thuong Tin district who graduated in 1502; Dr Nguyen Kieu, a native of Phuc Xa (still known as Su) village by the West Lake. Ngo Thi Nham, from Thanh Tri district’s Ta Thanh Oai (To) village, graduating doctor when 30 years old and Nguyen Gia Phan, a native of Tu Liem district’s Yen Dung village, graduating doctor in 1775 when 26 years old.

Many villages of old Thang Long were also famous among the country folk as “lands of learning” such as Ke Moc, namely Nhan Muc, in Tu Liem district, typified by the popular saying “Quan Ke Moc, thoc Me Tri” (so many mandarins who came from Ke Moc and so much paddy in Me Tri). Ke Moc is the native village of Dang Tran Con, reputed author of “Chinh Phu Ngam Khuc” (Complaints of a Warrior’s Wife). This is also the birthplace of Nguyen Van Sieu, a teacher and author of many valuable books left for the future generations.

Under the French domination, Hanoi was an early seat of tertiary education establishments country-wide. For example, the Indochinese University Institute opened in 1907, the Medicine and Pharmacy College in 1913 and later on, the Veterinary and Teacher Training Colleges, etc. Up to 1942, Hanoi had a number of other high education institutions such as the Law, Agro-Forestry, Public Works. Fine Arts College and the College of Sciences.

Apart from that patriotic scholars formed Dong Kinh Nghia Thuc (Dong Kinh Private School) in Hang Dao street in March 1907 to stir the patriotic movement and promote the learning of the national language. In 1936, the National Language Dissemination Society was established to broaden knowledge and arouse the national pride of people in Hanoi and the rest of the country.

Hanoi boasts a school linked to the patriotic tradition: the Buoi School (now renamed Chu Van An) whose teachers became the nation’s leaders like Vo Nguyen Giap and Pham Van Dong, and many generations of students who joined the revolutionary movement.

After the victory of the August Revolution in 1945, Hanoi took the lead in the literacy movement to eradicate illiteracy for the toiling people. Thanks to their knowledge, Hanoians, particularly the intelligentsia, have made great contributions to the victorious war against the imperialists for national liberation and unification.

With the present economic growth and social stability, a great number of education centres for the country as well as for the whole Southeast Asia will emerge in many places in Hanoi’s inner city and suburban district like the Lang-Hoa Lac area./.

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