Chu Van An(1292 -1370) was born in Quang Liet Village, Thanh Liet Commune, Thanh Tri District, Hanoi. History records indicate he achieved the most honorable position of his time. He was studious and founded a private school. Chu Van An was invited to work as a mandarin-head master of Quoc Tu Giam School. When he passed away, King Tran Nghe Tong decided to give him a posthumous name “Van Trinh” in recognition of his excellent morals and talent. Then the King ordered that Chu Van An be worshipped in Van Mieu like other Confucian deities. This privilege bestowed on Chu Van was very unusual in his time.
In the hearts of the residents living in Thanh Tri District, his modest way of living was as a good example to everyone of all time. Consequently, Chu Van An was worshipped as a tutelary god in a spacious temple near To Lich riverside. In addition, to show their respect for him, they address him as “Duc thanh Chu-Chu Saint” or “Duc thanh Van-Literature Saint”.
It can be said that: “ a dead person is a completely dead if he or she leaves no contributions to mankind”. In fact, 700 years after his death, Chu Van An is still thought of as a talented, and virtuous educator.
Chu Van An- a brilliant philosopher:
The history book “Dai Viet Su ky Toan thu-Complete Annals of Dai Viet” states that: “ He stayed inside reading books; he was a man of great learning; many students heard of that then came to ask to study from him, his students then occupied high positions in court”. His students were not only taught to become talented but virtuous as well. No matter what position they occupied, they always kept his teachings in their minds and tried to be good men of the nation. According to Chu Van An, the goal of education is not merely for knowledge but virtue.
Chu Van An-An upright man not to yield to violence
Chu Van An is not only remembered for his talent but also moral integrity, as a result, he has many other admirers apart from his students. He always heightens decency and the ability to work independently. He demands that his students be honorable and brave not to yield to violence. His teachings focused on the responsibility for people and the nation. When he was a head master looking after training students, he always followed state affairs. When the nation witnessed a chaotic political situation, many bad mandarins abused their power and stole state property. Chu Van An decided to submit a petition to the King, requesting that seven bad mandarins be executed. The petition reflected his righteousness and courage and served as a reminder for everyone to raise their voices to protect reason.
Chu Van An’s enormous contribution to Vietnamese education.
His personality is reflected by his “Reformed teaching methodology”. He was an exemplary educator. He stressed that teachers had to create big changes in their students’ careers and do more for the nation. He founded a private school in Huynh Cung Village (now in Thanh Tri District). His school was open for all students regardless of their social status. After the foundation of the school, education under the Tran dynasty became more exciting. Chu Van An devoted his whole life to education for the development of the nation, not for any private benefits.
Approximately 700 years since his death, many of documents about Chu Van An have been lost; the Temples in which he is being worshipped have changed remarkably in their appearance. However, the image of Chu Van An is still in the hearts of people, especially the residents in Thanh Tri District, as a upright, talented educator and Confucian philosopher.
The Administration and residents in Thanh Tri District have proved a sense of responsibility for the conservation of the temple to Chu Van An. The conservation work has been carefully done to keep the original condition. With an investment of more than 7.8 billion VND from State budget and another 700 million VND as a donation from locals and visitors, the temple was restored. After the restoration, the temple still looks ancient with traditional architecture. The conservation of the temple reflects the respect that Vietnamese have for Chu Van An, an exemplary educator of all time.
Particularly, Thanh Tri residents feel proud that the temple was constructed in their homeland, Thanh Liet Commune. Every year, on the 4th of Lunar New Year, The People’s Committee of Thanh Tri hold Khai But ceremony (Begin a new year by writing) to commemorate Chu Van An, as well as, to show respect for traditional fondness for learning. Many other ceremonies to honour the great educators of Vietnam are organized in Thanh Tri District, the homeland of Chu Van An, including:
-‘Mua Khai truong’(The ceremony to start a new school year) on August 15th(Chu Van An’s Birthday)
‘Le hoi ve nguon’(Novenber 26th , the ceremony to commemorate Chu Van An’s Death)
-‘Le hoi mua thi’(the ceremony to pray for a lucky school year)
- Vietnamese Teachers’ Day on November 20th : the ceremony to commemorate Chu Van An
The above-mentioned ceremonies reflect deep respect of the residents in Thanh Tri and Hanoi paid for Chu Van An. This gives proof of long-lasting existence of Chu Van An in the hearts of Vietnamese people, especially the residents in Thanh Tri District.
Source: Seminar “Chu Van An, life and career”
Translator: Chuong Van