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Temple of Literature

Temple of Literature
Located in the Dong Da section of Hanoi, Van Mieu, or the Temple of Literature, is the oldest school in Vietnam, giving it the distinction of being the most significant temple in both Hanoi and Vietnam. It is representative of Confucian ways of thought and behavior, and is a historical and cultural relic.

According to historical records, during the 8th lunar month of the Canh Tuat Year (1070), King Ly Thanh Tong erected several important monuments, including the Temple of Literature and the carvings of Confucius, Chu Cong, four disciples, and 72 other scholars who were considered to be model Confucians. Ceremonies were dedicated to them once every season of the year. The Crown Prince has traditionally been educated here. In 1076, Vietnam's first university, Quoc Tu (National University), was established under the direction of King Ly Nhan Tong near Van Mieu for the purpose of instructing the children of Mandarins, the aristocrats, and the brightest commoners. During its more than 700 years of instruction (1076-1779), Quoc Tu Giam educated thousands of talented men for Vietnam. Among the most notable are the mathematician Luong The Vinh, the historian Ngo Sy Lien, the encyclopedist Ly Don, and the politician-diplomat Ngo Thi Nham.

After more than 900 years of existence, repairs and renovations, Quoc Tu Giam is still an example of well-preserved traditional Vietnamese architecture. Also preserved within these confines are valued relics representing the Millenary civilization, such as stelae with inscriptions of the names of distinguished scholars, the Well of Heavenly Clarity (Thien Quang Tinh), the pavilion in dedication of the Constellation of Literature (Khue Van Cac), the statue of Confucius, the Great House of Ceremonies, the ancient wall, kowtow portico and the sanctuary, the stone dragons, and the ink stone stands. Secular trees, such as the banyan and frangipani, were present during literary meetings, festivals and examinations that occurred during the Ly, Tran and Le dynasties. They continue to flourish.

Particularly impressive is the collection of 82 stone stelae which rest upon large stone tortoises. They were created between 1484 and 1780 and are engraved with the names, places of birth and achievements of the 1,306 doctor laureates that received their degrees during this time span. These stelae were erected to encourage learning and bestow honor on the talented men who assisted the Kings in defending the country.

An important historical and cultural vestige of Vietnam, Van Mieu and Quoc Tu Giam are currently under repair to restore their original appearance.


Khue Van Cac
The artifacts collected during the recent excavation drives around Van Mieu (Temple of Literature) in Hanoi proved the architecture of this site belongs to the Ly (1010-1225) and Tran (1225-1400) Dynasties. Life of the students in olden times is reflected through these artifacts and seemed to be simple and pure compared to that of the city dwellers. Van Mieu - Quoc Tu Giam (National College) now preserves 82 steles engraved with the names of 1,306 doctors who obtained the doctoral titles at 82 royal examinations, held from 1442 to 1779. Although Van Mieu was built long ago, the architectural complexes in this area were erected much later. One of them was Khue Van Cac, or Pavilion of the Constellation of Literature, built under the Nguyen Dynasty (1802-1945). In 1802, Gia Long took the throne and built the capital in Hue. In 1805, the Commander of the Northern Citadel, Nguyen Van Thanh, ordered the construction of Khue Van Cac at Van Mieu. This project was carried out at the same time as the erection of the surrounding walls around Van Mieu in 1833.The pavilion was a two-storey complex made of wood and bricks, that is mirrored on the Thien Quang well. Located in the third courtyard (from the front gate), the pavilion's ground floor is empty, with four brick pillars of 85 cm x 85 cm engraved with designs of clouds. The pillars stand on a square base, 6.8 cm x 6.8 cm, which is covered with Bat Trang bricks. The upper floor, made of wooden frames, stands on four brick pillars, with four round windows facing the four directions and having rays like the sun. This floor is the symbol of the brilliant constellation that is shining. The Oriental people consider this star as a symbol of literature. On this floor, the balustrade is supported by engraved wooden pieces, and a gilt board with three letters of Khue Van Cac hangs on the wall.

 
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