Temple of Literature – the birth of Vietnamese scholars


Entrance to the Temple. (Canon EOS 7D, Canon EF 24-105L IS @24mm, f/4.0, 1/6400sec, ISO 100).

Let’s not get so transfixed by Ho Chi Minh. While he was a great scholar, he was not the only one. Viet Nam has, long before him, produced many great scholars.

It all started in 1070, when the reigning King Lý Thánh Tông (1023-1072) that time ordered the erection of Văn Miếu, the Temple of Literature, in Ha Noi to worship Confusius, sages, and Confusian scholars. In 1076, Vietnam’s first university, Quốc Tử Giám (National University), was established under the direction of King Lý Nhân Tông (1066-1128) near the Temple, setting up the foundation for the development of Confucianism in Viet Nam. Oh, BTW, this King started reigning at the age of 7!

Statue of Confucius. (Canon EOS 7D, Canon EF 24-105 f/4.0L IS @80mm, f/4.0, 1/15sec, ISO 800).

Over the years parts the Temple  have been destroyed. In 1483, King Lê Thánh Tông (1442-1497) reconstructed the Temple and enlarge the University into what it is now: a spacius architectural compound.

King Lê Thánh Tông statue. (Canon EOS 7D, Canon EF 24-105 f/4.0L IS @50mm, f/6.4, 1/8sec, ISO 640).

He developed Confucian education and examination, and also erected the first doctor stelae to honour students and encourage them to learn Confucianism to have their names in the golden board in Thái Học house.

One of the two house that protects 82 stelae of doctorates. These were planted on top of tortoise shells, which signify longevity and healthy life. (Canon EOS 7D, Canon EF 24-105 f/4.0L IS @28mm, f/8.0, 1/60sec, ISO 200).

Being inside the compound,  I felt going back in time into those times.  Most of the buildings were in very good condition, and  the artifacts were rich in details (again, I suggest you to click on each picture to savior the details of these art pieces). Dark brown-black, red, and gold colors dominated the interior. There are in total five different courtyards, symbolizing the five elements forming up the world: fire, water, earth, metal and wood. On a sunny day it is very hot outside, but not inside the buildings (which, by the way, was assembled with neither nails nor screws). The cool air inside was due to the high ceiling and plenty of openings in all directions. It is sad, though, to see a few vandalism by the locals especially inside of the big bell beside the Thái Học house.

One of the two bonze cranes on top of tortoises. Both are considered sacred animals. The tortoise is believed to live ten thousand years, and the crane one thousand years; thus, the presence of this symbol means, a "May you be remembered for one thousand years, and may your cult endure for ten thousand years. (Canon EOS 7D, Canon EF 24-105 f/4.0L IS @28mm, f/4.0, 1/13sec, ISO 640).

Insignia on the chest of the crane. Can anybody help translating it? (Canon EOS 7D, Canon EF 24-105 f/4.0L IS @105mm, f/6.4, 1/25sec, ISO 400).

Two dragons (another sacred animal, a symbol of power and nobility) holding up incense burning pot. (Canon EOS 7D, Canon EF 24-105 f/4.0L IS @32mm, f/4.0, 1/125sec, ISO 640).

The University recorded 1,307 graduates from 82 final exams from 1442-1779. Comparing the number with today’s standard is insane, as the number of scholars that time is so limited. What is important, IMO, is what Confucius said: “It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop”.

Old examination papers. (Canon EOS 7D, Canon EF 24-105 f/4.0L IS @105mm, f/6.4, 1/20sec, ISO 1600).

Holders for paper scrolls. (Canon EOS 7D, Canon EF 24-105 f/4.0L IS @47mm, f/6.4, 1/6sec, ISO 640).

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