Saturday, 17 May 2014

The Temple of Literature (Văn Miếu), Hanoi

After departing from the Trấn Quốc Pagoda (鎭國寺), we were taken to the Văn Miếu Hưng Yên (文廟) (or Temple of Literature) which happens to be the most prominent and famous Confucian temple in Hanoi. The temple was once the site of the Quốc Tử Giám (Quoc Tu Giam or Imperial Academy), Vietnam's first national university from 1076 to 1779.

The Van Mieu was built in 1070 and is one of several temples in Vietnam dedicated to Khổng Phu Tử or Khổng Tử (Confucius), sages and scholars. There are altogether five courtyards but when we visited, the fifth courtyard was closed to visitors. We were told that the courtyard was undergoing some restoration. As far as I was concerned, I was a little disappointed as I had wanted to view up close its impressively huge drum which I had noticed from the road.

This was the third courtyard of the temple with the Constellation of Literature pavilion and the Well of Heavenly Clarity.

Our tour guide told us that these are known as the doctors' stelae (stone slabs), carved into blue stone turtles with elaborate motifs to honour talent and encourage study line one side of the courtyard. Through the centuries, they had provided scholars with an historical resource for the study of culture, education and sculpture in Vietnam. Of the original 116 stelae, only 82 remain. They depict the names and birth places of 1307 graduates of 82 triennial royal examinations.

On the day we visited, several groups of students had come to honour Khong Phu Tu and have their graduation pictures taken within their historical temple.

The Dai Thanh sanctuary is located inside the fourth courtyard. Here, Confucius and his four closest disciples - Yanhui, Zengshen, Tử Tư (Zisi) and Mạnh Tử (Mencius) - are worshiped. The sanctuary also hosts altars to Confucianism's 10 most honoured philosophers.

As usual, souvenir shops were aplenty in the large tourist spots like the Temple of Literature.

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