Ancient Hall of Fame

One interesting part of the Temple of Literature in Hanoi, Vietnam, is the third couryard where you find a pool in the middle named The Well of Heavenly Clarity that is flanked by rows of large stone stelaes. There are 82 of these stelaes, and each record the names and native places of more than 1,300 graduates who passed 82 triennial exams between years 1442 and 1779. These were set up to commemorate the achievements of those who had passed the royal exams, and to encourage the present and future generations to study.

The stelaes of the doctor laureates were placed on top of giant stone turtles. Turtle is one of the sacred animals in Vietnamese culture and it’s a symbol of longevity. Placing the stone stelae on top of the turtle symbolizes the everlasting respect to talent. I thought it’s interesting that these stone stelaes are still there almost 300 years later. So these doctor laureates’ accomplisments indeed are recognized for quite a long time.

The photo below captures an interesting practice we observed there. Some folks would come and rub the head of the stone turtle. The practice supposedly brings good fortune (especially to those about to study for exams I guess)…

Rubbing turtle's head