Mieu - Hanoi's ancient Temple of Literature
Built in the latter part of the ninth
century, Van Mieu is one of the oldest universities in the
world. Its original purpose was the worship of the sages
and saints of Confucianism, but six years later, a National
College was established on the site. Initially, it admitted
only princes, but soon expanded to admit bright students
Temple of Literature is surrounded by brick walls. Inside,
the complex is separated into five areas. The first area
contains the main gate with the inscription "Van Mieu
Mon" (Disciple of Temple of Literature) and two stone
dragons in the style of the Le So Dynasty.
main path leads through another gate to the second area
where there are two small gates on both sides. The main
path leads to Khue Van Cac (Pavilion of Literature). There
are also two small gates on both sides of Khue Van Cac.
third section divides Khue Van from the Dai Thanh Mon (the
Gate of Great Synthesis), and contains a square lake, Thien
Quang Tinh (the Well of Heaven’s Clarity), surrounded by
walls. On both sides of the well are pavilions full of stelae
inscribed with the names of Ph.D scholars.
Confucian education system
After years of study, students were allowed to take the
first-degree examinations held once every three years. Those
with the highest marks in this exam were named bachelors.
A year later, they would travel to the capital to take part
in a further set of examinations. Those with the highest
marks became were awarded a doctorate. As a Ph.D., a scholar
was then eligible to join the ranks of the mandarins.
are 82 steles, the oldest relating to the 1442 palace exam
and the most recent, the 1779 exams. They are the most valuable
relics in the Temple of Literature.
heart of Confucianism
Beyond the next gate is the fourth area. It contains a large
courtyard flanked by two pavilions originally used to house
the altars where scholars could worship the 72 disciples
of Confucius. At the rear is Dai Bai, the Great House of
Ceremonies, containing a bell cast in 1768 and other precious
The fifth section, at the rear of the Dai Bai area, is the
Imperial College of the Le Dynasty, the then university.
When the Nguyen Dynasty moved the college to Hue, this area
was converted into a temple dedicated to Confucius' parents.
old University building was destroyed during the war, but
was accurately reconstructed in 2000 using authentic materials
and techniques to launch the countdown to Hanoi’s millennium
Mieu then and now
In the past, Van Mieu was held in great reverence not only
as a major centre of Confucian thought and study, but also
for its status as the apogee of learning in Vietnam and
the only route to becoming a mandarin. Regardless of rank,
those on horseback were obliged to dismount and walk their
steeds when passing the in front of the complex.
the quiet queues of worshippers and acolytes have given
way to tourist coaches that disgorge noisy tourists in their
hundreds several times a day. Nevertheless, we recommend
a visit, but arrange it to coincide with off-peak periods
so that our visitors can experience the remarkable qualities
of a place steeped the echoes of thousands of long dead
scholars steeped in the pursuit of enlightenment.