Temple of Literature

Confucius has been kind of a big deal throughout Vietnamese history.  Here in Hanoi, the Temple of Literature is dedicated to him.  It was founded by Emperor Ly Thanh Tong in 1070 but additions were made later.  In particular it commemorates literary figures and physicians.  It was also the site of the first National University.  When the university first opened in 1076, it admitted only students from noble families but began to take a more egalitarian approach after 1442.  Students studied Confucianism, literature and poetry.  Stelae were erected in 1484 to commemorate scholars from various fields, although I did not find them particularly well-marked and did not hire a guide so I’m not sure who’s who.  The doctors’ stelae, on the left side of the courtyard, were the only ones that had signs.

Each stelae is on the back of a tortoise carved from stone.  Tortoises, along with unicorns, phoenixes and dragons, are considered a holy creature in Vietnam.  (I’ll do more research on that later).  The temple’s architecture is beautifully detailed from the intricacies of the altars themselves to the details on the roof tiles.  Enjoy the architectural details.

Temple of Literature main gate. View from inside the temple.

Entrance to the Second Courtyard.

Physicians' Stelae at the Temple of Literature.

The tortoises' heads are different, though stylized. This one looks friendly.

This tortoise has the face of a seal but I liked its shell-pattern.

I love the curving wings of temple roofs.

Detail of the roof tiles at the Temple of Literature. I am having a major art history geek-out right now and enjoying it immensely, though regretting that I never took East Asian art.

Altar dedicated to Confucius, Temple of Literature.

Altars dedicated to Confucius' followers flank either side of the the main altar honoring the man himself.

Golden tortoise

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One thought on “Temple of Literature

  1. Pingback: Tour of Hue, part 2: Take the pagoda seriously? « Fish Sauce, Motorbikes and the Golden Tortoise

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