TEMPLE OF LITERATURE: HISTORY & ARCHITECTURE

The Temple of Literature is often cited as one of Hanoi’s most picturesque tourist attractions. Originally built as a university in 1070 dedicated to Confucius, scholars and sages, the building is extremely well preserved and is a superb example of traditional-style Vietnamese architecture.

Considered the first university of Vietnam, the Temple of Literature is a famous historical relic of Hanoi and offers the cultural quintessence values of different periods.

Van Mieu Quoc Tu Giam (Temple of Literature and Imperial Academy) is a precious historical relic in Hanoi, Vietnam. The complex offers a rich and diverse look into the history and culture of Vietnam since the 10th century.

The history of Temple of Literature 

Van Mieu – Quoc Tu Giam consists of two main areas: Temple of Literature and Imperial Academy. 

The Temple of Literature (Van Mieu) was built in August 1070 under the reign of King Ly Thanh Tong and dedicated to Confucius and famous scholars.

Meanwhile, in 1076, King Ly Nhan Tong built the Imperial Academy (Quoc Tu Giam) dedicated to the king’s children and noble families. It was considered the oldest university in Vietnam, symbolizing the tradition of studiousness of the Vietnamese nation.

In 1253 under King Tran Thai Tong, the Imperial Academy was expanded and accepted even the children of commoners who had outstanding academic abilities. In 1484, King Le Thanh Tong organized an exam and set up steles for those who passed the doctorate exam.

Under the Nguyen Dynasty, another Imperial Academy was built in Hue (check here to see Hue) when they moved the capital there. Since then, the Temple of Literature has been repaired, restored, and preserved.

The architecture

The Van Mieu – Quoc Tu Giam relic complex is currently located in more than 54000 square meters, including many different small architectural works.

The entire relic is separated from the outside space by malleable bricks. And the inside is divided into five layers of space, with each layer having different architectural works.

After many renovations, this relic complex includes Ho Van, Van Mieu Gate, Dai Trung Mon, Khue Van Pavilion, Thien Quang well, Doctor stele, Dai Thanh Mon, and Thai Hoc house.

The complex is divided into five zones, and each area has separating walls and a gate. 

Van Mieu Mon (Van Mieu Gate)

Our trip started at Van Mieu Gate, a two-story gate architecture with three doors. The upper floor has three letters that indicate the name “Van Mieu Mon” in ancient Chinese characters.

Dai Trung Mon (Great middle gate)

After Van Mieu gate, we headed to Dai Trung Mon, the second gate of the Temple of Literature.

This gate consists of 3 compartments built on a high brick foundation and roof tiles in ancient communal houses.

Before and after Dai Trung Mon is a spacious area with trees and small parallel roads, creating a sense of depth, elegance, and quietness. 

Khue Van Cac (Khue Van pavilion)

The second area features the Khue Van pavilion – an architectural work constructed in 1805 during Nguyen Dynasty.

The pavilion has two floors, with the attic is built on a square platform with a width of 6.8 meters each. Its wooden architecture has red tile roofs overlapping two layers above, forming an exceptional 8-roof construction.

Also, the four sides of the attic wall have round windows representing the images of the shining star.

Khue Van Pavilion was where Confucian scholars gathered to comment on the literary works of the students.

With unique architecture and symbolic meaning for Vietnamese literature and education, the pavilion was chosen as the symbol of Hanoi city.

Thien Quang Well and Doctor stele

After Khue Van Pavilion, we visited Thien Van Well. 

On both sides of the well are two rows of large stone steles about the examinations from 1442 to 1779.

Each stele is a unique work of art and has great spiritual significance. Specifically, 82 doctorate steles on the backs of the greenstone turtles recognize and honor the 82 valedictorians in the examinations of Vietnam’s feudal dynasties. Also, on each stele, you can see the information of the doctor who passed the exam that year. In addition, there is information about the exam, the dynasty, and the philosophy of the education of that period.

Dai Thanh Mon (Gate of Success) and the Shrine area

Stepping through Dai Thanh Mon, we came to a vast courtyard paved with Bat Trang tiles leading to the center area of ​​Quoc Tu Giam relic. 

We saw the shrine area – Dai Bai Duong, where houses the Hall of Ceremonies and the Sanctuary to Confucious.

Thai Hoc Hall

In the fifth courtyard, we explored the Thai Hoc hall and the classrooms. There are altars honoring famous professors on the ground floor and ancient kings on the upper floor.

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