Northern Hai Duong province on February 23 hosted a “khai but” ceremony, a Vietnamese tradition of starting a piece of calligraphy or drawing to celebrate the New Year, at a temple dedicated to the nation’s renowned teacher Chu Van An, in Chi Linh township.
The ceremony was attended by teachers and students from universities and schools in many northern provinces.
A book fair for the Year of the Dog (Xuan Mau Tuat) 2018 was also kicked off following the ceremony. It will run through March 3, or the 16th of Lunar January.
“Khai but”, literally translated as pen-opening, is practiced annually at the temple to promote the tradition “ton su trong dao” – piety to teacher, an important part of Vietnamese culture.
Teacher Chu Van An was born in Thanh Liet commune, Thanh Tri district, Hanoi in 1292, during the reign of the Tran dynasty. In the early life, he passed the doctoral examination – “Thai hoc sinh” – but refused to become a mandarin.
Instead, An opened a school and began his career as a Confucian teacher. His teaching played an important role in spreading Confucianism into a Buddhist Vietnam at the time.
Under the reign of Emperor Tran Minh Tong (1314 – 1329), he became a teacher at the imperial academy. Under the reign of Emperor Tran Du Tong, he was raised to a high-ranking mandarin. But he later resigned because the king refused his petition of beheading seven sycophant mandarins. He then retreated to Phuong Hoang Mountains in Hai Duong and led the life of a recluse.
Under the pseudonym of Tieu An, which means a secluded lumberjack in the forest, he spent the rest of his life teaching local students, compiling poetry, writing books and treating patients.
After he passed away in 1370, King Tran Nghe Tong ordered a statue of Chu Van An to be built for worship in the Temple of Literature, making him the only man in the country's history to be bestowed with such an honour.
Phuong Hoang (Phoenix), a cluster of 72 mountains, has become a shrine to both teachers and students nationwide. A temple complex dedicated to him in the mountains has been renovated, drawing thousands of visitors every year.VNA