Sunday, February 02, 2014

Lunar New Year at Hanoi

We go around to the pagodas and temples to see how the Vietnamese celebrate Lunar New Year.  One of the most popular sites is the Temple of Literature. On the second day of the New Year, we went with some Vietnamese friends.  The place was so crowded that our taxi was not allowed to stop in front of the gate. We had to fight through hundreds of motorbikes parked on the side walk just to get to the front gate.  

The gate is similar to many similar ones in China, complete with couplets in Chinese characters.  But few Vietnamese can read them nowadays.  Increasingly, the Chinese characters are replaced by the Romanized Vietnamese script.  Only old temples still have Chinese characters. 

People bring their children here to worship Confucius. To pray for success in studies. Thousands of people mill around, outside, inside, ... everywhere.  We learn that many Vietnamese study Chinese in high school, and they know part of the history of Confucius.  Vietnamese history is studied as part of history, but not as a separate subject.  It seems many young Vietnamese may not be very familiar with the details.  

Many traditional practices are alive and well.  Two men place Chinese chess on a huge chessboard in open air right in front of the big hall where people worship Confucius.  Chess is slow, and many of the spectators can not really follow the play.  But many people watch intently. 

Many young people write their wishes on special red boards.  It is probably safe to assume that many of the wishes are related to academic success.  

Long lines form in front of the hall on the right of the main hall.  It turns out to be people seeking calligraphy on, again, success in studies.  Many of the people requesting the calligraphy do not look like students.  Parents are often more concerned about the academic achievement of their children than their children themselves.  It is the same for the Chinese. 

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