Thursday, January 19, 2006

Literature, Lakes and Legends

The Temple of Literature

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Originally built in 1070 in the Ly dynasty, the temple is a shrine to Confucius and his disciples responsible for spreading his teachings. Six years later, Quoc Tu Giam or School for the sons of the Nation was established for the princes. The school later admitted sons of mandarins and finally commoners were allowed to attend but, only after they passed a rigorous examination at the regional level. Today it is a a place to memorialize the most brilliant scholars of the nation's past.

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Lake of the Returned Sword

The crimson curve of the Huc, the bridge of the Rising Sun, archs over the emerald waters of Hoan Kiem, the Lake of the Returned Sword,to the Ngoc Son temple.

During the 15th century, the great king Le Thai To (Le Loi) led his armies in battle against Chinese invaders beneath the blade of a powerful sword, bestowed upon him by the gods. After 10 years defending his people, he finally defeated the Chinese and reclaimed Vietnam's independence. With the war over, the king and his courtiers took a leisurely boat ride over the calming waters of the Green lake (as it was known) when suddenly a giant turtle surfaced. The king drew his sword, pointing it at the creature. The turtle immediately took hold of the sword with its mouth and plunged to the depths, returning the sacred blade to its divine owners.

Mourning the loss of such a valuable sword, the king ordered that the lake be drained and the sword recovered, but when it had been emptied, both the turtle and sword were gone. Realizing that the sword had been a gift to help the king defend his country, he renamed the green waters the"Lake of the Returned Sword."

This story is retold in thousands of schoolbooks, and in popular performances at Hanoi's water-puppet theaters. It is believed that giant turtles still live in the lake, although they very rarely surface.

Personally i'd prefer the "watery tart" of King Arthur, but turtles are cool, too.

Ngoc Son Temple: A Study in Red

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A woman praying in the courtyard of Ngoc Son, a shrine dedicated to the patron saint of literature who was often called upon for help by those taking the various tests required to become a mandarin. It is also memorializes a national hero responsible for many victories against the Mongols.

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Inge said...

Your pictures of the Ngoc Son Temple are amazing, you really have an eye for detail.

Jean said...

Je suis ému de revoir ces images de la pagode du Petit Lac , de l'Epée restituée .
J'ai fait exactement les mêmes photos que vous , prises sous le même angle , à la même distance , y compris celles de la grotte à La Baie d'Allong .