Temple of Literature – Hanoi – Vietnam

Temple of Literature – architecture and courtyards

The Temple of Literature is located south of the Thang Loncitadel and has a size of 54.331 m2. This includes the literature lake, Giam park and the courtyards, which means the total compound within the walls as can be seen on pic. In total there are five courtyards in the Temple of Literature.

Courtyard 1 – This one runs from the Great Portico to the Dai Trung gate. Flanked by two smaller gates, which have the mystical names ‘Attained Talent’ and ‘Accomplished Virtue’.

Courtyard 2 – This one is known for the Khue Van pavilion, built in 1805. On the sides of this pavilion are ‘Crystallization of letters’ gate and ‘Magnificence of letters’ gate, which praises the beauty of content and form of literature.

Courtyard 3 – This courtyard has the 82 doctors’ stelae. These are lined up symmetrically on both sides.

Courtyard 4 – Leading to the 4th courtyard is the ‘Great Synthesis’ gate. Flanked by two smaller gates: ‘Jade vibration’ and ‘Golden Sound’ gates. In this courtyard on the left and right side stand two houses, originally forthe altars of the 72 most honored disciples of Confucius and Chu Van An. In the middle is the house where ceremonies took places at festive times. The next building is Dai Thanh sanctuary, where Confucius and his 4 closest disciples are worshiped. The sanctuary also houses the altars of 10 honored philosophers.

Courtyard 5 – This courtyard is originally the first National University. It was used for the instructions and studies of Confucian scholars. Later Kai Thanh shrine was built, dedicated to Confucius parents. In 2000 the Thai Hoc courtyard was constructed here to celebrate the 1000th anniversary of Hanoi Foundation and to honor traditional culture.

Thai Hoc Courtyard

Thai Hoc courtyard was constructed on the ground of the original National University in 2000 to honor traditions of culture and education of Vietnam.

In 1076 king Ly Nanh Tong ordered the construction of the Temple of Literature. He selected literate Mandarins as its students. In 1236 it got enlarged under the Le dynasty. It got reconstructed on large scale, including west and east classrooms, a store house of wooden printing blocks, two lines of three 25 rooms dormitories for students and a house. In 1802 the Nguyen kings made Hue the capital of Vietnam and build another Temple of Literature there. This one here got smaller and smaller after which it became a school. This courtyard was completely destroyed by war in 1946.

The designs of this Thai Hoc courtyard were based on traditional architecture. On all the four sides it has a building and a bell house and drum house.The front building is used for organizing ceremonies in memory of cultural scholars, scientific and cultural activities. The rear building has two floors. The ground floor for displaying the statue of Chu Van An, the then director of this place. The upper floor is dedicated to the three kings who contributed most to this Temple of literature and to the development of Confucian education in Vietnam.

Doctorates Stelae

The Temple of Literature has preserved 82 doctorates stelae, which recorded the names and native places of 1307 graduates of 82 royal exams. 81 exams held by Le dynasty and 1 exam held by Mac dynasty between 1442 and 1779.

The stelae were first set up in 1484 under king Le Thanh Tong to honor the talents and encourage the study of generations to come. The stelae were carved of dark blue stone of different sizes and engraved with elaborate motifs. The works of literature engraved on each stelae in ancient Chinese praise the merits of the king and cite the reason for holding royal exams. Also included on the stelae were the number of candidates and the functions of the Mandarins whose task it was to organize the exams and engrave the names and birthplaces of successful candidates.

The stelae of doctor laureates were placed on tortoise shells. The tortoise is one of the country’s 4 holy creatures, along with dragon, unicorn and phoenix, which can live a long and healthy life. The placement of the doctors’ stelae shows everlasting respect to talent. The shape of tortoise changed with the passing of time.

How to get there

Opening hours are 7.30 am – 18.00 pm. The entry price to visit the Temple of Literature is 30.000 vnd (1,5 USD) per person for foreigners. A taxi from the old quarter in Hanoi to the Temple of literature can vary anywhere between 80k and 130k.

Depending on your driver, car, or company. There are possibilities to pay an organized trip through an agency or your hotel with transport and guide. This would cost you a lot more. For more information see here: http://vanmieu.gov.vn/en

When you are in Hanoi, a visit to the Temple of Literature is highly recommendable.

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