Van Mieu steles endangered by human touch

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Eighty-two stone steles at Van Mieu - Quoc Tu Giam (Temple of Literature - first National University) in Hanoi are in danger of being irreparably damaged because of the large number of people who are touching them.

Temple official Nguyen Hai said last Thursday that more than 70,000 people visited the place over four days of the Tet (Lunar New Year) festival from February 14-17.

"People visiting the Temple of Literature during Tet has for long been a cultural feature.

"Recently, however, many people have come to touch the stone steles and stone tortoises to wish for good luck and this can damage the precious structures," Hai said.

The situation has developed over the past few years and this year, the temple built an iron fence to prevent visitors from touching the stone tortoises and steles, but a large number of people broke the fence on Lunar New Year's Day, he added.

Last December, the cultural activity center at Van Mieu - Quoc Tu Giam sent documents to UNESCO for recognition of the stone steles of doctoral candidates in the Le - Mac dynasties (1442- 1779) as a world cultural heritage.

However, the damage being caused currently to the structures will soon destroy them, experts have cautioned.

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