Tứ Trụ – In front of the Temple of Literature are these four tall pillars with Chinese inscriptions & two stelae from which horsemen dismounted.
Standing before the Great Portico of the Temple of Literature (Cồng Văn Miếu) which was built in 1070 & reconstructed during the Trần Dynasty (1225-1400) & in later dynasties but the ancient architectural styles have been carefully preserved.
Vietnam’s first university, ‘Quốc Tử Giám’ the Imperial Academy was established here & built by Emperor Lý Nhân Tông especially for the bureaucrats, nobles, royalty & members of the elite as he recognised that education was of utmost importance. A bronze bell hangs above this main gate signifying that a person of importance is passing through & affiliated to the Văn Miếu.
Archway meant for the Monarch is decorated with a gold gilded Dragon motif wooden panel. The Imperial Academy was later opened to the public as there was a shortage of universities in Hanoi & remained opened from 1076 to 1779.
The Great Portico is flanked by two other smaller gates; the centre gate was reserved for the Monarch, the right gate for the administrative Mandarins & the left gate for the military Mandarins.. This temple complex was dedicated to Confucius, a venerated teacher, politician & philosopher & has the same structure as the Temple of Qufu in Shandong, the birthplace of Confucius in China.
We passed through this gate (Cồng Đại Trung) from the First Courtyard to the Second Courtyard, approaching Khuê Văn Pavilion. The first two courtyards are quiet areas with ancient trees & trimmed lawns where the scholars could relax & get away from the busy outside world.
Khuê Văn Các – The upper portion of the wooden pavilion is painted a vermillion red with two circular windows topped by an elaborate roof. A bronze bell hangs from the pavilion’s ceiling & it is rung only on auspicious occasions.
We are now in the Third Courtyard after crossing the Khuê Văn Pavilion (Khuê Văn Các) which was uniquely built in 1805 on four whitewashed stone stilts. Thien Quang Well (Giếng Thiên Quang) lies in the middle with the great halls (Bia Tiến Sĩ) on either side, housing treasures of the temple.
Young Graduates having their portraits taken by the professional photographers.
This section here is the ‘Doctors Stelae‘ which was erected in 1484 by Emperor Lê Thánh Tông. Originally there were 116 such Turtle steles but only 82 remain today. They bear the names of 1307 successful candidates of 82 triennial royal exams held between 1442 to 1779 in honour of their talent & to encourage learning. In Vietnamese culture, the turtle symbolizes longevity & wisdom.
Another batch of happy graduates are having their portrait taken within the Third Courtyard with Khuê Văn Pavilion as the backdrop.
I am about to cross Đại Thành Gate (Cồng Đại Thành) into the Fourth Courtyard. There are several pavilions & halls within this complex, where study sessions & the strict exams of the Đại Việt took place.
Looking through Đại Thành Gate into the Fourth Courtyard which was a flurry of activity as different groups of Graduates prepared to have their photos taken.
The House of Ceremonies (Đại Bái Đường) with two dragons sitting on the ridge of the roof. According to ancient origin myth, the Vietnamese people were descended from a dragon & a fairy. So the Vietnamese believe that the dragon brings rain essential for agriculture & it also represents the emperor, prosperity & power of the nation.
Love the colourful Áo Dàis & the enthusiasm of these young people, the very future of Vietnam.
A Bronze pair of Crane-like mythical birds guard the altar in the middle. In Vietnamese culture, the colour red is auspicious & represents happiness, love, luck & celebration.
A long corridor of vermillion pillars with gold embellishments & wooden plagues with Chinese proses in gold lettering. Gold is associated with wealth, prosperity, royalty, happiness & change.
An ornamental incense holder with two twining Dragons, in front of the Thượng Điện for devotees to place the lighted joss sticks in worship of Confucius (551-479B.C.) & his disciples.
Within the Thượng Điện Confucius & four of his closest disciples Yanhui, Zengshen, Zisi & Mencius are worshipped.
Beautiful traditional wooden doors within the Thượng Điện.
Thái Học Gate (Cồng Thái Học) brings us to the Fifth & final Courtyard – the Thái Học Courtyard.
The Thái Học Courtyard was constructed in 2000 where the Quốc Tử Giám or Imperial Academy formerly stood. This section was destroyed in 1946 during the French occupation & was re-built to honour talent, the national traditions of culture & education in Vietnam. It consists of a front building, rear building, left & right buildings, a bell tower & a drum tower on each side & some other peripheral buildings. This front building is where ceremonies in memory of cultural scholars, scientific & cultural activities are held.
An Orchestra performs at regular intervals featuring some bamboo instruments, playing traditional music in honour of the Royal founders & Confucius.
Entrance to the rear building at the Thái Học Courtyard with the Altar to Chu Văn An, rector of the Imperial Academy, facing the main doorway.
Altar of Chu Văn An, a venerated rector of the Imperial Academy.
Overview of the first level of the rear building at Thái Học Courtyard.
This upper level of the rear building is dedicated to the three monarchs who contributed most to the foundation of the temple & the academy. Right in the middle is Lý Nhân Tông (1066-1127) who founded the Imperial Academy & Lê Thánh Tông (1442-1497) who had the Doctors Stelae erected & Lý Thánh Tông (1023-1072) not in the picture, who founded the temple in 1070.
On the second level overlooking the tiled roof of the rear building & the Bell Tower.
Lầu Chuông – This Bell was cast in 2000 & has a height of 2.1m & width of 0.99m
View of the rear building from the Drum Tower all within the Thái Học Courtyard.
Lầ Trồng – this drum weighs about 700kg, is 2.01m high & 2.65m wide, with the volume of 10m³
The temple complex covers an area of over 54000 sq m & it includes the Văn Lake, Giám Park & the interior Courtyards which are surrounded by a brick wall.
The Temple of Literature is truly an interesting visit, as it is well-preserved & holds a lot of history & gives insight into the lives of the literati in Hanoi during the centuries past. It is also featured on the back of the 100,000 Vietnamese Dong banknote. Every year, just before the New Year celebrations Tết, calligraphers would gather outside the temple & write well wishes in Chinese Han characters. These are either given away as gifts or used as home décor for special occasions.