Temple of Literature (or Văn Miếu Quốc Tử Giám in Vietnamese) is the first national university of Vietnam. It reveals the study spirit of the Hanoian in the past. This is still a special relic complex of the capital, where converges intangible cultural heritage and tangible cultural heritage, history and art, science and education values. Especially, Temple of Literature is the pride of Vietnamese in general and Hanoian in particular. As far as it preserves quintessence of feudal period and the traditional values of country.
Temple of Literature history
Nowadays, the Temple of Literature is a place of learning rather than a religious site. The historian can find out many materials about Vietnamese education history. Philosophers can find the evidence to prove the role of Confucianism in Vietnam. Art researchers discover quintessence of national art from the shapes and patterns of the stone turtles. Vietnamese people come here to find the name of an ancestor in the academy. Besides, it is also one of the must-see destination in any trip in Hanoi with a large number of domestic and international visitors travelling to Hanoi. On the traditional New Year (Tet holiday), people usually organize the poetry community here. The people gather to express their wishes and the scholars (Ông Đồ). Their brush and ink will help express them in scripts. Before any importation examination, the students come here to pray for luckiness.
Actually, ‘Văn Miếu’ is the Temple of Literature but ‘Quốc Tử Giám’ is the Imperial Academy. After the great transfer of the capital in 1010 from Hoa Lu (present-day Ninh Binh Province) to Dai La Citadel (present-day Hanoi). The Ly dynasty concentrated on building a strong social organization and education and training talents for the country. In the autumn of the year Canh Tuat (1070), Emperor Ly Thanh Tong decide to build Temple of Literature. As a Confucian temple, where worships ‘Khổng Tử’ (Confucius), scholars and sages. Under King Tran Minh Tong, Chu Van An with lofty soul and immense knowledge became a rector of the Imperial Academy. He was an outstanding teacher in the national education. After his death in 1370, the king erected his monument at Van Mieu – Quoc Tu Giam.
Launching and development
In 1076, King Ly Nhân Tông ordered to construct ‘Quốc Tử Giám’ or Imperial Academy where provided talents for the country. Originally only princes, the royal members and aristocrats were studied at the university. In 1253, under King Ly Nhan Tong, Temple of Literature the university was opened to talented commoners.
The imperial Academy starts from 1076 to 1779. When Nguyễn dynasty decided to move from “Thang Long” (Hanoi) to Hue where there is a new imperial academy. Temple of Literature became a school of the Hoài Đức District. Its name changed to “Thai hoc” house, then “Khai Thanh” to worship Khổng Tử’s parents.
Imperial Academy – Temple of Literature inside
During the period of 1945- 1954, they used many parts of the temple to make room for the sick and wounded. In early 1947, only some stones of Literature Temple was still stable after the French attacks. In 1999, Hanoi city decided to renovate of “Thai Hoc” with its area of 1530 m² in the total complex of 54.331 m2. Becuase of domination from China, the temple follows a standard Confucian layout consisting of ‘Hồ Văn’ (Van Lake), ‘Vườn Giám’ (Giam park), and the inner surrounded by brick wall.
The vestige of Văn Hồ (Literature Lake) is in front of Temple of Literature and on the opposite side of Quoc Tu Giam street. Giam Lake stays along the west of the inner. In front of the Great Gate, there are four high pillars. On either side of the pillars are two stelae commanding horsemen to dismount. Even the king forced to dismount which but knowledge still had the most important position, even higher than royalty or temporal power.
Temple of Literature complex and description
There are three pathways through the complex. The central gate was reserved for royal members. The path to the left was for the administrative Mandarins and the path to the right was for military Mandarins. The interior of the site is seperate into five courtyards.
Van Mieu Mon – First Courtyard
The first courtyard extends from the Great Portico ‘Văn Miếu Môn’ to the Dai Trung (Đại Trung). There are two smaller gates: the Dai Tai gate (Đại Tài Môn) and the Thanh Duc gate (Thành Đức Môn).
Dai Trung Mon – Second Courtyard
The second courtyard is running from ‘Đại Trung Môn‘ to the ‘Khuê Văn Các‘. It has a unique architectural work built in 1805 during the reign of Gia Long. The first Nguyễn emperor shortly after he moved the capital from Hanoi to Huế and a symbol of present-day Hanoi. The next two side gates are the ‘Cửa Bi Văn‘ (Magnificence of Letters Gate) and ‘Cửa Súc Văn’ (Crystallization of Letters Gate), which lead to three courtyard.
Khue Van Cac – Temple of Literature
Thien Quang Tinh – Third Courtyard
In the third courtyard is the Thien Quang Tinh ((Well of Heavenly Clarity). On the sides of the lake are the ancient doctor’s graveyards, or Stelae Pavilions. King Le Thanh Tong established the 82 remaining stelae of the 116 originals n 1484 and added to until 1779. Each headstone of them displays the name of the person that passed a high-level examination.
Dai Thanh Mon – Fourth Courtyard
The central gate to the fourth courtyard is the Dai Thanh gate (Đại Thành Môn). On either side are two smaller gates: Kim Thanh gate (Kim Thanh Môn) and the Ngoc Chan gate (Ngọc Chấn Môn).
This courtyard consists of two larger works in parallel layout. In the centre of the fourth courtyard is the House of Ceremonies (Đại Bái Đường). The next building is the Thượng Điện, the worshiping place of Confucius and his four closest disciples Yanhui, Zengshen, Zisi and Mencius.
Imperial Academy – Fifth Courtyard
In 1076, an imperial academy as a fifth courtyard was constructed in order of Emperor Ly Nhan Tong. It includes the front building, the rear building, the left and right buildings, a bell house and a drum house.
Scientific activities and cultural events are organised in the front building. The rear building has two levels including the ground floor to worship Chu Văn An (a rector of the academy). It also shows exhibits of the temple and the academy and upper floor to be dedicated to the three monarchs The persons contributed most to the foundation of the temple and the academy: Ly Thanh Tong, Ly Nha Tong and Le Thanh Tong. The left and right buildings are an office Scientific and Cultural Center for Temple of Literature.
With the outstanding and rare values, Temple of Literature has long been recognized as one of the most iconic historical-cultural heritages in Vietnam. These 82 steles have been recognized as world documentary heritage by UNESCO since March 2010. More importantly, Temple of Literature represents the fondness of learning and the tradition of exploring knowledge of Vietnamese people. Although Hanoi is developing day in day. Temple of Literature has still had special values with Vietnamese people, especially the young.
Tours for Temple of Literature: Hanoi City Tour