Van Mieu – Temple of Literature is a school for the sons of the Nation was established for the princes in Vietnam.
Although several Temples of Literature can be found throughout Vietnam, the most prominent and famous is that situated in the city of Hanoi, which also functioned as Vietnam’s first university. The temple was first constructed in 1070 under King Lý Nhân Tông and is dedicated to Confucius, sages and scholars.
The Imperial Academy was the first national university of Vietnam. It was constructed in 1076 during the reign of King Lý Nhân Tông for training the talented men, including crown princes, for the nation. For nearly 1000 years, it has preserved its ancient architectural style of many dynasties and precious relics at the sanctuary. The various pavilions, halls, statues and stelae of doctors are places, where many offering ceremonies, study sessions and strict exams of the Dai Viet took place.
The temple was reconstructed during the Trần (1225 – 1400) and subsequent dynasties. In 1484, King Le Thanh Tong decreed the names of all those who have attained the doctoral ranks in the national examination be inscribed on stone stele carried on the backs of giant tortoises. In all, 2,313 individuals were awarded the title of tien si. However, detailed records were kept only between 1442 and 1779 . According to records, there should be 112 stele in all but only 82 stele are still standing. Each represents a single examination year. The name and native village of the students who were awarded the title Tien Si or doctor laureate were inscribed on the stone. Tien si was not a diploma of graduation from the royal college. This title was awarded to those who have successful passed the 4 royal examinations. Scholars from all over Vietnam could participate only if they had passed the regional exam.
Courtyard of the Sages is located beyond the Garden of Stelae. Entrance to the courtyard is through Dai Thanh Mon or Gate of Great Success. The Great House of Ceremonies is located here. It was here that all new doctor laureates would come to pay respect to Confucius. The king would also come to pay homage to the great teacher at Dai Thanh Mon. Inscribed on a wooden panel above the altar are the words “Teacher of Ten Thousand Generations”.
Behind the Great House of Ceremonies is the Sanctuary, with statue of Confucius flanked by his four closest disciples, Nhan Tu, Tu Tu, Tang Tu, and Manh-Tu (Mencius).
During the time when Van Mieu was used as a school, this area housed classrooms, housing facilities and a print shop. When the university was moved to Hue, Quoc Tu Giam was turned into a shrine to Confucius’ parents called Khai Thanh.