Hanoi, capital of Vietnam is a city full of treasures. From French architecture to Chinese architecture, you’ll see all. Due to the colonization in 1887-1954, the French brought this beauty of these Colonial Sites which carries the charm of Hanoi in Vietnam. Also, there were some contributions from the Chinese also.
One of the real gems of Hanoi is the Temple of Literature which is considered as Hanoi’s most picturesque tourist attraction. It is not only the most beautiful Chinese art but also has a rich history and culture to satisfy your travel basics.
It is Vietnam’s first university and was made under the dynasty of Emperor Ly Thanh Tong in 1070. It was made to honour Cofucious (Khong Tu) by the emperor.
Initially the university admission was exclusively for the noble families, royal families, aristocrats and to educate their offspring’s. It was only after 1442, it started enrolling other deserving students. It started a revolution and genius students from all over the world headed to this university to learn Confucianism which includes Literature, Poetry.
After most of the scholars got a name and fame from the university, it was 1484 when the emperor Ly Thanh Tong ordered for stone stele to be made and to record in the engraving the names and achievements of all the scholars which could be found on the top of turtle statues.
The turtle statues were used because the turtles are a symbol of longevity and wisdom. Hence, the name of scholars on the tortoise stele will make their identity last forever according to their belief.
Students began to enroll themselves at the Imperial Academy in 1076. Once selected, the course time varied from three to seven years. The basic knowledge given was mostly Chinese-influenced and involved reading widely about Chinese history as well as classical Chinese literature and poetry. The Academy conducted four major tests per year and minor tests each month.
Scholars had to give a regional exam which was certified by the ministry of rites. The students who cleared this exam would be named in the academy.
The lucky scholars after the completion got the opportunity to give National exam and if the scores were high in this exam, they would be giving the Royal exam which was invigilated by the Emperor himself.
The status of scholars from this institute was very high and honorable. In case a student failed at any exam, he/she had to wait three more years for the exam.
The Main temple
The general structure of this temple is divided in five walled courtyards which are connected by gateways. The five here represents the five elements of our nature: Wood, Fire, Water, Earth and Metal.
These were the common knowledge given to the scholars and according to Confucianism, there are some rules to follow which was taught to the scholars that are:
· Ruler and Subject
· Father and Son
· Elder brother and Younger Brother
· Husband and Wife
· Friend and Friend
The main tip to visit this temple is the dress code. As this is the temple and a place of knowledge, hence no visitors should be disrespectful in terms of dress code. No hat, earphones, goggles, short clothes or torn clothes are tolerable. This place has altars of Confucius which is worshiped by lots of people.
The First Courtyard
The first courtyard of the temple or ‘The Great Middle Gate’ or Dai Trung Mon extends till Dain trung area. The courtyard was for scholars to relax under the trees and sit over the manicured lawns. The temple courtyard was stressed to be constructed in such a way that it portrays motivation and culture as well.
There is ‘Thanh Duc’ gate on the left which means accomplished Virtue and also a ‘Dat Tai’ gate on right which means accomplished Talent. According to Confucianism, left is important than right. Hence, virtue is important than Talent was portrayed.
There are carps made on the top of the gate which describes a Chinese Story: “Many carps swim upstream against the river’s strong current in a contest held by god, but only few are capable of the final leap over the waterfall. If a carp successfully makes the jump, it can transform into a powerful dragon.”
The first courtyard is full of landscape gardens, lawns, statues and other peaceful subjects required for a student to relax.
The Second Courtyard
The second courtyard is famous for the Khue Van Pavilion (Pavilion of constellation). It was built in 1805 under Nguyen Dynasty and the main idea with the constellation was to represent the brightest stars as scholar’s development and prosperity.
This courtyard is also full of landscapes, gardens, lawns for the students to relax and study peacefully. It represents the symbol of Hanoi.
On the top of pavilion, there are squares and circles which make a combination and represents yin and yang harmony. This is the Chinese belief and philosophy about the opposite forces and how they generate each other. The circle represents the sky and the square represents the earth.
The Third Courtyard
This courtyard is also known for the Thien Quang Well (Well of heavenly clarity). This well is located in the center of the courtyard. This courtyard was for the scholars who were studying in the university to become a doctor. There are 82 doctor steles in the courtyard which are still safe out of original 91.
The main idea for the well was for students to have a clear mind and to purify the environment for the students to think well and productive. It also served as a mirror for the students to dress properly before entering the premises.
It is not allowed to touch the turtles on which the steles of 1307 graduate from 82 royal families and others names and birthplaces. But earlier, it was believed that it will bring good luck to students if the rub the heads of turtles.
The Fourth Courtyard
The fourth courtyard is referred as Dai Thanh Mon (The temple of great success). It is the place where doctors and students come to bow for knowledge and wisdom blessings. There is Dai Bai Durong (House of ceremony) where the emperor and other visitors make their offerings to Confucius.
There are altars of Confucius and his four greatest disciples, where the visitors can pray and offer incense and other things for blessings. There is a pair of crane and turtle which represents longevity and eternity.
There are also shops for drinks, incense sticks and to buy souvenirs.
The Fifth Courtyard
This is the main attraction of the temple as well as the main part. This is the place where actual academy was situated. In 1076, Emperor Ly Nhan Tong ordered the construction of an imperial academy as fifth courtyard. It was destructed by the French in 1946 and was reconstructed as a temple in 2000.
The ground floor still has numerous cultural events held in the hall. It also displays things and uniforms scholars used and wore while studying there.
The upper floor is dedicated to the emperors who put their efforts and contributed a lot towards this Academy. Ly Thanh Tong, Ly Nhan Tong and Le Thanh Tong are the three emperors who contributed the most towards this academy.
There is also a statue of Chu Van An who was a part of the academy and also a beloved figure in Vietnamese history for his dedication to teaching.
There are also a bell and a drum around the courtyard. The bell weighs 700 kg and like other parts of Vietnam, can be touched only by the monks.
The temple of literature holds special places for visitors due to its rich content and philosophies. The academy operated until 1779 when a new dynasty of Nguyen established a new academy. It was then made the district school until the colonization of French in 1906, which designated the temple as historical monument.
This 1000 year old academy is still holding its original architecture, even after multiple wars, attacks, restorations etc. This is also another beauty of this temple which constitutes to its visitation. There are many things here to learn and apply in our own lives in order to follow an idle scholar life.
If you are an aspiring student and a traveler as well, then this place is the most you can get. The rich culture and history of all the scholars who devoted their life learning and gaining knowledge are the perfect example for motivation. The status and title given to education is well defined and amazing.
Opening Hours: It’s open throughout the week except Saturday.
The opening time is 7:30 am to 5:30 pm in summers (April to October) and 8:00 am to 6:00 pm in winters (October to April).
Entrance Fee: The entrance fee is 30,000 VND for adults including Vietnamese and Foreigners. Also, for students having ID cards, the fee is 15,000 VND. For students less than 15 years, the entry is free.
This is the map of the Temple of Literature which can help you to know better where to start.