History of Hanoi Old Quarter

, History of Hanoi Old Quarter
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In a recent century, the ancient texts of Vietnamese culture have almost disappeared with the domination of Western culture during the French colonial period and the “Opening-door” period in the 1990s and 2000s.

People didn’t seem to care about what could be considered one of the quintessence of millennial Vietnamese culture, and Western cultures soon took over what was considered trendy and modern. The image of “Ong Do” (Scholar of ancient writing) with a pen case, quietly wandering the streets is a sad image of an ancient script that has perished in Vietnam.

However, the situation changed over the past decade or so as the Vietnamese began to re-evaluate the ancient text. The Old Quarter, adjacent to the Hanoi Temple of Literature, has soon become a familiar destination for old men from the northern regions of Hanoi to gather and spread this traditional cultural quintessence to their descendants.

, History of Hanoi Old QuarterMr. Do’s work brightens up a street corner during Tet

The emergence of the “Old Town” and the revival of ancient Vietnamese texts

The Old Quarter was formed about 12 years ago, when a number of Ong Do in Hanoi decided to invite each other to this place to sell and give others their beautiful antique works on Tet holiday, renewing the culture of letter giving. age-old law. The reason for choosing this destination may be because it is one of the most famous destinations in Hanoi for education, as well as a symbol of traditional Vietnamese culture.

At first, there were only a few Ong Do sitting scattered along the fence of the Temple of Literature, but then, by word of mouth, Ong Do in many northern regions of Vietnam began to come to this place. And that is the time when a bustling ancient poem appeared, serving guests every New Year and Spring.

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, History of Hanoi Old QuarterPhoto: @kimberley_le

Hanoi people have begun to get used to the appearance of this special street every New Year and Spring. Dozens of Ong Do, from old to young, even female, dressed in a variety of traditional costumes of ancient scholars, or modern jeans, casual pants, and T-shirts. They “dance” with their pens on paper and other materials, to create truly sophisticated texts in Chinese, Vietnamese, and other modern writing styles.

“Street” or “Market” of ancient texts

This street soon became a text market. More and more Old Masters come to this place to sell texts to both Vietnamese and foreigners, contributing to popularizing the traditions of other countries, as well as satisfying their need to create spectacular text masterpieces.

In fact, money was also a part of this market at the time it first appeared, meaning that the Master received money from visitors to buy calligraphy, but trading took place in different ways than it does today.

At that time, what the Grand Master really sold was not their beautiful writing, but their dignity. Visitors paid to see how Mr. Map created the text, paying for the effort and expertise they put on the text. Therefore, the more skillful and talented the Master, the more money they earn. And the truth is that many Monks refuse to accept money from tourists, because they just want to show their personality on the documents they give. For them, creating masterpieces of ancient texts is more like a hobby than a job to earn money.

, History of Hanoi Old Quarter

Photo: @ngx_lam

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However, the ancient writing street is now somehow a commercial market. Some second-hand men are still willing to give visitors their texts; however, with them are many others, especially young people, who sell their writing as a product, without much cultural significance attached to it. The simple fact is that they are just novices or students of ancient literature who do not have the qualifications to present or sell a cultural product.

Read more: Vietnamese traditional calligraphy on Tet holiday

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