Forget the piece of flimsy, tiny paper shoved into a cardboard holder.
Now this is a Diploma!
In the central courtyard of the Temple of Literature, Vietnam’s first University built in the 11th century, are 80 of these stone stelae mounted on the back of turtles, erected for each graduating class. Each graduate has their name etched into stone as they pass their strenuous exams after five years of study. And in the spirit of learning, I discovered that Chinese characters were used in Vietnam until the 17th century, when a Portugese missionary phonetically translated Vietnamese into the roman alphabet.
There must be a hidden academic in me somewhere. I love visiting universities. I love the tranquil atmosphere, and the idea that people (well, only men) a thousand years ago traveled thousands of miles overland by foot to obtain knowledge. It was thrilling to visit the first university in Morocco, built in the 9th century, as well touring the very new Kathmandu University, built in 1991. Knowledge and education flourish only in times of peace and prosperity.
And so, a wish for peace and prosperity in this holiday season, and a happy and bright New Year!
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