Temple of Literature in Hanoi should come when arrive to Hanoi
Temple of Literature was built in 1070 (the second year of Than Vu in the reign of the Emperor Ly Thanh Tong) to worship the sages and philosophers of Confucianism. It also was a Royal school of which the first student is prince Ly Can Duc, who was the son of the Emperor Ly Thanh Tong. In 1076, the Emperor Ly Nhan Tong founded Imperial Academy beside Temple of Literature as role of a school which was for the sons of the kings and the members of the nobles in the court.
In 1253, the Emperor Tran Thai Tong changed the name of Imperial Academy to National Academy to extend and take in competent students who are sons of civilians. Under the reign of the Emperor Tran Minh Tong (1314-1329), Mr. Chu Van An was appointed to the rector of National Academy and teacher who directly taught the princes. As soon as his death, in 1370, the Emperor Tran Nghe Tong permitted to worship him next to Confucius in Temple of Literature. In 1785, the king Le Hien Tong renamed Imperial Academy to Thai Hoc Vien. In the early of Nguyen dynasty, Imperial Academy was built in Hue, Thai Hoc Vien was renamed to Khai Thanh Shrine.
Seen from outside, the whole area of Temple Literature- Imperal Academy was surrounded by the wall built from the popular architectural materials in the later Le dynasty to make formal and ancient space. Inside the wall, the ancient architectures appear under the luxuriant foliages of old trees that makes the different scenery to attract visitors.
Ahead of the Temple, on the opposite side of Quoc Tu Giam street is a large lake called Literature lake. In the past, there was Kim Chau mound in the middle of the lake, on which a local communal house call Phan Thuy was built to hold the meeting of confucian shoolar. Now it does not exist but there is still a stele on the mound which was made in the 18th year of Tu Duc(1865) to record the repairing of the Temple.
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The inner area of the Temple is devided into 5 courtyards flanked by ancient wall
The first courtyard: This extends from Van Mieu gate to Dai Trung gate. To go to Van Mieu gate, visitors ought to go through Nghi Mon Ngoai including 4 big pillars of which two pillars are higher than the others. There are 2 Nghe Chau statues on the top of the higher pillars and 2 Phoenix statues on the top of the others. The heads of the statues turn on 4 sides. On the trunks of pillars are covered with embossed Han cript parallel sentences. And on both sides of this shrine are 2 Stelae commanding horsemen to dismount.
Going through Nghi Mon Ngoai, visitors come to Van Mieu gate (Nghi Mon Noi) including 3 archs, of which the arch in the middle includes 2 floors. The under floor is very large and has stairs to the upper. There is only an arch that is opened outside the first floor with 2 wooden doors. The upper of these doors is semicircular with a couple of reliefed dragons. The second floor is smaller, likes a triumphal arch which has 2 parts and 8 roofs. On this floors, 3 arches are opened and there is a bell hung in the middle arch. Surround this shrine are gallery and banisters.
From Van Mieu gate, following the straight brick road, vistitors come to the second gate called Dai Trung which includes 3 compartments, tile roof with 3 rows of pillars and 2 small gate called Thanh Duc and Dai Tai. The horizontal wall prolongs 2 sides to surrounding wall and combines with the wall of Van Mieu gate to make a square frame in which the solemn and fresh air with trees makes visitors feel relaxed.
Then, the brick road continuously leads visitors to Khue Van Cac. It is built in 1805 with 2 floors and 8 roofs. The first floor includes 4 brick pillars and 4 blank sides. The other is made of wood with tile roof . There is a rounded window on each side of wall with symbols which representative for Khue stars lighting in the sky. In both sides of Khue Van Cac are Bi Van gate and Suc Van gate of which the name is to praise the value of literature. Khue Van Cac is considered as a original architecture and the symbol of Vietnamese culture an literature.
The third courtyard in Temple of Literature includes Thien Quang well and stelae of Doctors. Thien Quang well called Van Tri or Literature pond, is a square pond and full of water all year round. The water surface is serene and likes a mirror in which the pavilion of Khue Van Cac and old trees reflect to make fanciful scenery. In the old days, people believed that the square pond and rounded window in Khue Van Cac were symbolic of the Earth and Heaven. So, the quintessence of both Earth and Heaven is in this sanctuary.
The brich road surrounding Well of Heavenly Clarity leads to the area of stelae of Doctors built on 2 sides of the well. This is considered to be a important relic in Temple of Literature, includes 82 stelae in which records information and achivements of Vietnamese Confucianism Doctors in the imperial examinations during the reign of the Le and Mac dynasties from 1442 to 1779. All the stelae were manipulated in the same shape: flattened and dome. The stelae were put on the back of turtles to show the immortal quintessence and the value of culture and history during more than 300 years. These are valued historical soure for the younger generation to look into the life and career of Vietnamese celebrities. With the rear value, 82 stelae was recognized as international documentary heritage in UNESCOs’ Memory of the World Programme.
Going through Dai Thanh gate, visitors will come to a large yard which is paved by Bat Trang brick. This yard is the beginning of the fourth countyard. In both 2 sides of the yard are 2 building called Ta Vu and Huu Vu. Each buildings has 9 compartments, which were built in high foundation, roofed by Vietnamese tile.
It’s Dai Bai Shrine combining with 2 building Ta Vu and Huu Vu to make U-shape structure, where the kings and members of the nobles came to worship Confucian in the spring and autunm. Dai Bai Shrine includes 9 compartment with 6 rows of pillars built on the foudation which is higher than surface by 30cm and bricked surrounding. The roof is carved relief dragons and decorated by stylized foliage. Now, the altar is put on the middle compartment of Dai Bai Shrine. The other compartments are empty. Surround the altar are horizontal lacquered board and parallel sentences to praise Confucianism and the sages.
Behind Dai Bai Shrine is Dai Thanh Shrine including 9 compartments, each compartment has 3 sides of wall. In front are doors closed to cover 5 compartment. The others includes solid doors. In the middle compartment is big alter to worship Confucian.
The fifth countyard is Thai Hoc Vien where educated talents to work in the court. Due to the march of time with historical events, the old building was broken down. In 1999, the new Thai Hoc Vien was built with large architectural scale that harmonic with the landscape of the front area. Thai Hoc Vien has the uninterrupted composition and the floor is bricked by Bat Trang brick.
The last countyard are Tien Duong and Hau Duong area built in 1999. Tien Duong includes 9 compartments with 40 iron-wood pillars and brick wall at the gable. This area is to exhibit documentations about tradition of hard learing and extremly respecting the teacher of Vietnamese. Tien Duong connects with Hau Duong by Ong Muong including 2 gates leading to compartments for bells and drums. Hau Duong includes 2 floors made of wood. The first floor has 9 compartment, 2 lean-tos and 72 iron-wood pillars, where is used to respect Mr. Chu Van An- Vietnamese famous doctor and exhibit documentations about Temple of Literature and Vietnamese Confucianism education. The second floor is to worship the kings who had the deal to build Temple of literature and contributed to Vietnamese Conficianism education. They are the Emperor Ly Thanh Tong, Ly Nhan Tong and Le Thanh Tong.
Nowadays, Temple of Literature is where cultural activities are held such as science workshop, major exhibition, celebration to commend people who come first in University exam and award academic certificate for Professsors, annual book fair, Vietnamese verse day...
With the great history and culture, Temple of Literature was recognized as national special relic in May 2012. This is an attractive destinaton for the tourists to vistit, learn about Viestnamese history and culture. Temple of Literature is worth to become the symbol of Hanoi with thoudsands years of culture.
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