Temple of literature (Van Mieu – Quoc Tu Giam) is the first university of Vietnam and also a symbol of national education.
Location: Quoc Tu Giam street, Dong Da district, Ha Noi.
Features: built in October 1070, worshiping Confucius, Confucian sages and Chu Van An – the school’s principal. Chu Van An was a talented and respected teacher. In 1076, Quoc Tu Giam was built right behind Van Mieu. This was the place where only princes were allowed to study, but eventually opened to all good students in the country.
Van Mieu is surrounded by brick wall. The interior architecture is divided into five sections. The first one starts with the main gate. There are “Van Mieu” sign above the gate and two stone dragons in Early Le style below. There is a walkway leading from the main gate to Dai Trung Mon gate which is the start of section two. Two side gates are visible. The walkway continues to Khue Van Cac which also has two side gates. The third section is from Khue Van Cac to Dai Thanh Mon. The section also includes a square lake called Thien Quang Tinh (the bright skylights) with wall surrounding.
Within the same section, there are two araes on both sides of the lake where the steles, with names of doctors written on it, were built (in 1993, with the help of American enterprises, eight houses were built to block these steles). Doctors are those who are inspiring and talented students and also happens to have passed the royal exams. Up to nowadays there are 2 steles, recording names from 1442 to 1779. These steles are considered to be the most valuable relics of this historical monument. Passing Dai Thanh gate, you can reach the fourth section. Then there is a wide yard, with two rows of house (Ta Vu and Huu Vu) on the sides, these houses are used to worship famous Confucian scholars. The end of the yard lie two houses Dai bai and Hau cung with glamorous architectural structure. There are a few valuable relics here: a bell made back from 1768 on the left and a musical stone on the right with using method carving in it.
The complete composition of Van Mieu tracks back to the Early Le dynasty (15th to 18th century). Khue Van Cac alone was built in the early 19th century. Khue Van Cac is also the place where students’ good poems are valued.
Behind Dai Bai is Quoc Tu Giam of Le dynasty, considered to be a university at the time. When the university was moved to Hue during the Nguyen dynasty, this place became Khai Thanh temple where people worship Confucius’s parents. However, the temple was damaged by wars.
The whole Van Mieu – Quoc Tu Giam compound is a famous location to tourists and an important historical structure of Ha Noi.