October 2020 marks the 100-year anniversary of the Huế Monument for the Dead. The structure, now more commonly referred to as Bia Quốc Học, is one of many locations that define the city’s aesthetics. Yet, many residents and visitors aren’t familiar with its historical significance.
The Origins of the Quoc Hoc Stele
The purpose of the Monument for the Dead was in honor of the 92,000 Vietnamese soldiers who fought under the French army in World War I between 1914-1918. Approximately 12,000 of those deployed died during battle. In 1920, local architect Tôn Thất Sa designed the Monument for the Dead, which was unveiled by emperor Khải Định and governing superiors of the French colonial era.
The Bia Quốc Học is Situated opposite the Quốc Học school for gifted and also sits between the emblematic Huong river and Lê Lợi street which connects the railway station to the city centre. The monument has witnessed various events that shaped Vietnam’s story in the 20th century – war, political changes and periods of economic hardships and prosperity.
The Quốc Học Stele Today
Bia Quốc Học continues to overlook the people of Huế. Every morning at sunrise, free aerobics classes are held on its steps and square. Students often congregate around it during intervals between classes. It is also a key location for the Huế festival where it serves as a platform for the biannual áo dài exhibition and other related performances.
While its construction was in memory of a difficult period in Vietnam’s past, it today symbolises the modern day cultures of Huế and its people in more prosperous times.
Bia Quốc Học (Đài tưởng niệm Chiến Sĩ Trận Vong)
Lê Lợi Street (Opposite the Quoc Hoc High school)
Written by Luke Digweed
Photos by Thao Trinh for Hue Grit Tour unless stated.
Exploring Hue by Tim Doling (2018) The Gioi Publishers.