As part of an International Human Rights course at John Marshall Law School, we are exploring Vietnam with 12 students, Professor Dana, Teresa Do, and Dean Ruebner and family. Our trip consists of 15 days of law study meetings, and touring major cultural landmarks. Late last night, we arrived in Hanoi, one of Vietnam’s largest cities. After nearly 24 hours of traveling, we were all pretty exhausted, so it was straight to bed. We woke up bright and early today to play tourists for our full day tour of the city. Our day started off with a visit to the Temple of Literature, the site of Vietnam’s first university, which dates back to 1070.
The Temple highlights the importance Vietnamese society has placed on education, and the professors are highly respected. The complex is divided into five courtyards, with different paths that would originally have been reserved for the Emperor and his mandarins. One of the courtyards contains stone steles mounted on the backs of turtles, inscribed with the names of the university’s first graduates. Another holds the statue of Confucius, the “King of Philosophy,” guarded by two beautiful bronze storks, standing on turtles.
After the Temple, we took a short bus ride over to Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. “Uncle Ho,” as he is referred to by the locals, was a man of the people. His legacy outlasts his life, and he’s remembered to be one of the most modest and influential people in the country. Ho Chi Minh lead the Viet Minh Independence Movement, from 1941 onward, and established the communist-ruled Democratic Republic of Vietnam. Although he officially stepped down from power in 1955 due to health problems, Ho Chi Minh remained a highly visible figure and an inspiration to those Vietnamese fighting for a unified, communist Vietnam. The Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum contains his preserved body and each day, thousands of people wait in line for hours to pass by his body and pray. Our group was among those thousands today.
The Presidential Palace, locally known as the “Yellow House,” was Ho Chi Minh’s residence for a short while. He moved out of it because he preferred to live in a more modest dwelling while the country was in shambles. The Presidential Palace today is used to welcome dignitaries and for official ceremonies only.
After visiting the Museum of Ethnology, which is dedicated to Vietnam’s 54 ethnic minority peoples, we ended our day near Hoan Kiem Lake, just a few short blocks from our hotel. Here we were entertained by a live water puppet show. Water puppet shows were originally developed by the rice farmers in Red River Delta of North Vietnam. When the rice fields would flood, villagers would entertain each other with these shows. The puppet show we saw detailed the classic Vietnamese cultural traditions, and was very beautiful. Below is a picture of the show’s interpretation of the “Tay Nguyen Highland Dance,” which also looks remarkably like Teresa Do’s yoga poses.
Below are some pictures from Hoan Kiem Lake and the entrance to Ngoc Son Temple.
Tomorrow we look forward to law study meetings. Our blog will be updated by our fellow classmates. Stay tuned!
Lauren & Jordan