Temple of Literature, known as the first university in Vietnam, is one of Hanoi’s most picturesque tourist attractions. It is located at 58 Quoc Tu Giam street, Dong Da district, Hanoi. Now, the building is well preserved and is a typical example of traditional architecture in Vietnam. It is not only an attractive destination for tourists each year but also a sacred place for Vietnamese people to visit before Lunar New Year.
The temple was built in 1070 dedicated to Confucius, sages and scholars. Several years have passed, the temple still remained ancient architectural styles in spite of wars and disasters.
Originally, Temple of Literature was constructed during the reign of Ly Nhan Tong in order to educate Vietnam’s royalty, nobles, bureaucrats and all the people belonging to the elite. However, in 1802, the Nguyen dynasty decided to choose Hue capital is the place for imperial academy. That is the reason why this temple lost its prominence at that time.
During the French colony, the temple was destroyed to make room for the wounded and sick because the hospitals were so full/ Ph: en.wikipedia.org
The overall area of the temple is 54000 square meters with a similar layout to that of Confucius’ birthplace. There are four tall pillars in front of the Great Gate along with two stelae on the either side. Three pathways into the temple have different meanings. The monarch would go through the centre path, the administrative Mandarins would go through the left one and the military Mandarins would go through the right one.
There are 5 courtyards in the interior of the temple. The first two courtyards are quite quiet with the decoration of trimmed lawns and trees. That are the areas where scholars often relaxed and avoided themselves from the bustle of the world outside.
Once you enter the Khue Van pavilion of the second courtyard, you will see the third one. There is a well called Thien Quang, which is known as the well of heavenly clarity, right in front of you. A lot of scholars used this well as a mirror so as to make sure that they look good before coming into the temple.
This is the Thien Quang well and the red Khue Van pavilion of the Temple of Literature/ Ph: flickr.com
In the third courtyard, people will see a lot of steles of Doctors on the back of carved stone turtles, one of the nation’s four holy creatures which represents for longevity and wisdom. The doctors’ steles were built in 1484 under the Emperor Le Thanh Tong in order to honour talent and encourage study. There were more than 100 steles built at that time but now, only 82 steles remain. There are names and birth place of over 1000 successful graduates joining the royal exams.
In the past, people used to rub turtles’ heads with an aim to getting lucky in their exams but nowadays, there is a fence in front of them to preserve turtles from people’s behaviours/ Ph: tripadvisor.com.vn
In the fourth courtyard, there is the House of Ceremonies. The next building is the Thuong Dien where people worship Confucius and his four closest disciples. There are also altars that are placed to worship ten honoured philosophers. Ink well, books, pens and other materials of the students studying at this temple are kept in a small museum near here.
The fifth courtyard was constructed in 1076 as an imperial academy. However, the French destroyed it in 1946. Not until the year 200 was the courtyard reconstructed. It honours the national traditions, education and culture of Vietnam. The new design of it took inspiration from the Vietnamese traditional architecture. There are lots of building constructed afterwards. The front building organises several activities and cultural events. The rear building is dedicated to Chu Van An and the three monarchs contributing most to the temple and academy. There is also a bronze bell and a drum in the square buildings.
In conclusion, the Temple of Literature is a sacred place for Vietnamese people. It keeps a lot of traditional architecture, culture and education of Vietnam. Therefore, it is truly a must-visit place for anyone who love discovering new things in life.