Travel period May 2015
Vietnam’s First National University
We love walking when we travel and Hanoi’s ancient “Temple of Literature” really isn’t that far out from the old quarter. We got to sample Hanoi life on the streets and a real feel of the city. It was easy enough to find but make sure you take a map with you.
A Brief History of Temple of Literature
The Temple of Literature is one of Hanoi’s most picturesque and visited attractions. It was built under Ly Thanh Tong’s dynasty in 1070 to honor Confucius – back then Confucianism was the main philosophy in Vietnam. The building is extremely well preserved and is a superb example of traditional-style Vietnamese architecture.
It became Vietnam’s Imperial Academy in 1076 under the Ly dynasty and further developed in the 15th century under the Le dynasty. In the early days the university only accepted aristocrats, the elite and royal family members as students.
Their studies were focused on literature, poetry, and Chinese philosophy. Today, the temple honors Vietnam’s finest scholars, and signifies the beginning of a uniform educational system in Vietnam.
The Temple of Literature is a vast, rectangular complex that is divided into five courtyards.
Constellation of Literature Pavilion
Passing through the Main Gate, a huge courtyard with gardens greeted us. The first two courtyards are where scholars would relax amidst beautiful gardens with ancient trees and trimmed plants.
The second courtyard is easily recognizable by the Khue Van Cac pavilion (Constellation of Literature Pavilion). The wooden and red pavilion is built on four white-washed stone stilts, and has an elaborate roof with two circular windows and a brass bell.
Constellation of Literature Pavilion was the place where the king and the officials gathered. They discussed and analyzed the essay of the students passing the national examination. Nowadays, people recognize Constellation of Literature Pavilion as the symbol of Hanoi – Vietnam’s capital.
The Well of Heavenly Clarity
Walking past the Constellation of Literature Pavilion, we found ourselves in the third courtyard, home to a large pond known as the Well of Heavenly Clarity.
On both sides of the well are many Stelae (an upright stone slab or column typically bearing a commemorative inscription or relief design, often serving as a gravestone) of Doctors.
The Stelae are turtle statues, carved out of blue stone, that have the names and birthplaces of all 1307 graduates from 82 separate Royal examinations. Known to live a long and healthy life, the turtle is one of the country’s four holy creatures, along with the dragon, unicorn and phoenix.
House of Ceremonies
The fourth courtyard is called the Sage Courtyard, and features a statue of Confucius and a house of ceremonies. In the center of the courtyard is a building that houses altars.
The House of Ceremonies, is where the ceremonies and rituals took place. There is an ornate table with offerings and incense. On each side of the table are bronze cranes standing on the back of turtles. The turtles represent heaven and earth, it also symbolizes longevity.
From the House of Ceremonies, we made our way into the sanctuary. This is the place where Confucius and his four closest disciples, namely Yanhui, Zengshen, Zisi and Mencius are worshiped. The sanctuary also houses altars to 10 honored philosophers, and the smell of incense fills the entire space.
The Imperial Academy
Finally, we came to the fifth and last courtyard of the temple. It is called the Thai Hoc courtyard, that is home of the Imperial Academy. Destroyed by the French in 1946, this courtyard was reconstructed in the year 2000 based on traditional architecture.
Today, there are several exhibits with a statue of Chu Van An, one of the Academy’s rectors, and a beloved figure in Vietnamese history, for his dedication to teaching. There are also numerous cultural events held at the hall in the courtyard, as well as displays of old uniforms that the scholars wore while studying.
On both sides of the rear building, you can find a large drum and bell tower. The drum is 2.65 m high and weighs 700 kg.
We enjoyed visiting the Temple of Literature, this was one of Hanoi’s highlights. If you happen to be in Hanoi and are a fan of culture and history, then this is the perfect place for you. Satisfy your cravings for knowledge and your affection to history and visit the place.
Location: 58 Van Mieu street, Hanoi
Opening hours: Daily 08:00 – 17:00
Entrance Fee: VND 30,000
Note: The information provided in this post was correct at time of publishing but may change. For final clarification please check with the relevant service.