Experts mull preservation of Hanoi’s doctoral steles

Following an April 7 ceremony in Hanoi to accept a UNESCO certificate of recognition for the capital city’s doctoral steles at Van Mieu-Quoc Tu Giam (Temple of Literature), experts began discussing how best to preserve the relics.

A ceremony is held in Hanoi to accept a UNESCO certificate of recognition for the capital city’s doctoral steles at Van Mieu-Quoc Tu Giam (Temple of Literature),

The certificate names the steles, located at Vietnam’s first university, as a world documentary heritage. 

However, caretakers of the ancient artifacts are facing difficulty in deciding how to restore and preserve the cultural relics for generations to come.

Currently, the stone steles are located outdoors where they are exposed to harsh weather conditions and the arrival of more and more tourists each year. This has put the artifacts increasingly at risk of damage.

Following the UNESCO recognition ceremony, many proposals were put forth to preserve the historic works including setting up a wooden fence or building a glass enclosure to house them.

However, no definitive decision has yet been made, said Mr. Dang Kim Ngoc, director of the Center of Culture – Science of Van Mieu – Quoc Tu Giam.

“Administrators should select the [preservation] project which has the least impact on the historical-cultural heritage [of the steles],” said Dr. Dang Van Bai, former head of the Cultural Heritage Department.

Professor Trinh Khac Manh said those in charge of preserving the steles should also apply modern technology such as creating a computer database and translating content written on the steles into other languages. 

Experts added that the Center of Culture – Science of Van Mieu – Quoc Tu Giam should write warnings on ticket as a public reminder of the relics’ cultural significance.

The doctoral steles are considered “stone history sets” of Vietnam’s Confucian education system.

After the completion of numerous royal examinations, in 1482 King Le Thanh Tong (who reigned from 1460 to 1497) ordered the erection of stone steles inscribed with the names and native homes of the first laureates of the royal exams since they began in 1442.

Between 1442 and 1779, 124 doctoral examinations were held, but now only 82 stone steles are preserved in Van Mieu – Quoc Tu Giam. The steles are situated on the back of stone turtle statues, the symbol of “immortality of the national quintessence.”

They not only record the names of people who passed doctoral exams during nearly 300 years of Vietnamese history, but also reflect life, society, political context, and the spirit of previous centuries in the country.

They are also highly valuable due to their unique sculpture and calligraphy.


Related article:
Vietnam’s doctoral steles receive UNESCO recognition

By Hoang Lan – Translated by Kim Khanh

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