The Temple of Literature

The Temple of Literature is a Temple of Confucius in Hanoi, northern Vietnam. The temple hosts the Imperial Academy, Vietnam's first national university. It is one of several temples in Vietnam which is dedicated to Confucius, sages and scholars. The temple is located to the south of the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long, now is on top of the historical and beautiful sightseeings of the beautiful capital of Vietnam

The temple layout is similar to that of the temple at Qufu, Shandong, Confucius' birthplace. It covers an area of over 54000 square metres, including the Van lake, Giám park and the interior courtyards which are surrounded by a brick wall. In front of the Great Gate are four tall pillars. On either side of the pillars are two stelae commanding horsemen to dismount.


The gate opens onto three pathways which continues through the complex. The centre path was reserved for the monarch and above the center path there is a big bronze bell, The path to the left is for the administrative Mandarins and the path to the right is for military Mandarins. The interior of the site is divided into five courtyards. The first two courtyards are quiet areas with ancient trees and trimmed lawns, where scholars would relax away from the bustle of the outside world.

 


The bell located above the main gate was used to signify that an important person was coming through and was added to the Van Mieu in the 19th century. The bell was made out of Bronze and could only be touched by monks. On the bell several patterns can be found including an outline of a phoenix, which represents beauty, and a dragon, which represents power. Both of these symbols are used to represent the Emperor and Queen. A bell can be found in all of the pagodas in Vietnam.

- First Courtyard
 The first courtyard extends from the Great Portico to the Dai Trung (Đại Trung), which is flanked by two smaller gates: the Dai Tai gate (Dai Tai Mon) and the Thanh Duc gate (Thanh Duc Mon).

 

- Second Courtyard

The second courtyard contains the Khue Van pavilion, a unique architectural work built in 1805 and a symbol of present-day Hanoi. The Khue Van pavilion is built on four white-washed stone stilts. At the top is a red-coloured with two circular windows and an elaborate roof. Inside, a bronze bell hangs from the ceiling to be rung on auspicious occasions. Beside the Khue Van pavilion are the Suc Van gate (Suc van Mon) and the Bi Van gate (Bi Van Mon). These two gates are dedicated to the beauty of literature, both its content and its form. In the first and second courtyards there are topiaries (bushes that are cut into particular shapes) that represent the 12 zodiac animals.


- Third Courtyard
One enters the third courtyard from the Khue Van pavilion. In the third courtyard is the Thien Quang well (Thien Quang Tinh). On either side of the well stand two great halls which house the treasures of the temple.


- Stelae of Doctors

 

 
In 1484, the Emperor Le Thanh Tong erected 116 steles of carved blue stone turtles with elaborate motifs to honour talent and encourage study. The Turtle is one of the nation's four holy creatures - the others are the Dragon, the Unicorn and the Phoenix. The turtle is a symbol of longevity and wisdom. The shape and size of the turtle changed with the passage of time.
The doctors' steles are a valuable historical resource for the study of culture, education and sculpture in Vietnam. 82 stelae remain. They depict the names and birth places of 1307 graduates of 82 triennial royal exams. Between 1442 and 1779, eighty-one exams were held by the Le dynasty and one was held by the Mạc dynasty. The ancient Chinese engravings on each stele praise the merits of the monarch and cite the reason for holding royal exams. They also record the mandarins who were tasked with organising the exams. It used to be common to rub the stone turtles' heads, but now there is a fence that is meant to prevent people from doing this in order to preserve the turtles.


- Fourth Courtyard

One enters the fourth courtyard through the Dai Thanh gate (Dai Thanh Mon). On either side are two smaller gates: Kim Thanh gate (Kim Thanh Mon) and the Ngoc Chan gate (Ngoc Chan Mon).

On each side of the ceremonial fourth courtyard stand two halls. Their original purpose was to house altars to the seventy-two most honoured disciples of Confucius and Chu Van An (a rector of the Imperial Academy). In the centre of the fourth courtyard is the House of Ceremonies (Dai Bai Duong). The next building is the Thuong Dien, where Confucius and his four closest disciples Yanhui, Zengshen, Zisi and Mencius are worshipped. The sanctuary also hosts altars to ten honoured philosophers. A small museum displays ink wells, pens, books and personal artefacts belonging to some of the students that studied at the temple.


- Fifth Courtyard

In 1076, Emperor Ly Nhan Tong ordered the construction of an imperial academy as a fifth courtyard. Literate mandarins were selected as students. In 1236, the academy was enlarged and named Quoc Tu Vien and later Quoc Hoc Vien. In the Le dynasty it was called Thai Hoc Vien and was developed further. This development included the Minh Luan house, west and east classrooms, a storehouse for wooden printing blocks and two sets of three 25 room dormitories. The Khai Thanh shrine was built to honour the parents of Confucius. In 1946, the courtyard was destroyed by the French in 1946.In the year 2000, the fifth courtyard was reconstructed on grounds of the original "Imperial Academy". It honours the talents, the national traditions and the culture and education of Vietnam. The design of the new fifth courtyard were based on the traditional architecture in harmony with the surrounding sights of the temple. Several buildings were constructed including the front building, the rear building, the left and right buildings, a bell house and a drum house. The Thai Hoc courtyard occupies 1530 m2 of the temple's total area of 6150m2. The front building has a number of functions. Ceremonies in memory of cultural scholars are organised from the front building as are scientific activities and cultural events. The rear building has two levels. The ground floor has a statue of Chu Van An (a rector of the academy) and shows exhibits of the temple and the academy with a display on Confucian education in Vietnam.

The upper floor is dedicated to the three monarchs who contributed most to the foundation of the temple and the academy: Ly Thanh Tong (1023–1072), who founded the temple in 1070, Ly Nhan Tong (1066–1127), who founded the Imperial Academy, and Le Thanh Tong (1442–1497), who ordered the erection of the turtle stone stelae of doctor laureates in 1484. On either side of the rear building are square buildings which hold a drum and a bronze bell. The drum is 2.01 metres wide, 2.65 metres high, has a volume of 10 m3 and weighs 700 kilogram. The bell was cast in 2000. It has a height of 2.1 metres and it is 0.99 metres wide.

 

Being an ancient school of Thang Long and the first university in Vietnam, Temple of Literature is acknowledged as an ancient historical-cultural heritage which gives tourists deeper understanding about Hanoi's years of culture and tradition. The temple now becomes one of the symbol of Hanoi.