May the gods be with ye on yer way to college

By Pham Van   July 1, 2016 | 05:05 am PT
Yesterday, further inland, nearly one million “futures of the country” embarked on a national scale fight, a fight with so ferocious gravity that even the gods were drawn.

The university entrance exam still reigns as the biggest academic ring in Vietnam with the participation of both first-timers and veterans. The first compulsory step into the leisurely white-collar world as desired by countless generations.

Though the name has been changed (called a high school exam now) and so has the methodology, its value as a ticket to life remains untouched. Any element that could affect the results is valued with the same amount of respect. Knowledge can be exchanged for sweat and tears. Health can be improved with a balanced diet, sufficient sleep, and regular physical activities. And there's luck, which absence can render all attempts worthless. Luck, staying true to itself, still resists any effort to accumulate it for future use through hard work. Unfortunately, people need luck, or to be precise, the feeling that luck is on their side.

In Hanoi, there is a place that is frequented by locals only when a national exam comes: the Temple of Literature - the first university of Vietnam.


After the registering for the exam, test takers flock to the Temple of Literature to pray for luck.


These students traveled all the way from their hometown to arrive in Hanoi at 6 in the morning. After the morning exam, they still managed to spare some time for a pilgrimage to the Temple.


Unlike before, the exam this year is held throughout Vietnam, sparing the Temple the human overload.


A student peeks at the prayers read by his grandmother.


Holding exam access card while praying is the easiest way to gain the gods’ attention.


Murmuring personal information like name and student number is also a way to stand out in gods' list.


Many scrub their hands against the crane couplings in the main chamber. No parts are out of reach of students.


Some go an extra mile, mobilizing all the stationery to take part in the luck absorption process.

Photos by VnExpress/Ngoc Thanh

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