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October 5, 2010

Temple of Literature: A temple of Confucius in Hanoi

My first afternoon in Hanoi was spent on history lessons in Temple of Literature. Temple of Literature (Văn Miếu (文廟) is a temple of Confucius in Vietnam. This one in Hanoi is the most prominent and famous one, it also functioned as Vietnam's first university - the Quốc Tử Giám (國子監) or Imperial Academy. It is featured on the back of the one hundred thousand Vietnamese đồng banknote.

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Entering the first courtyard. Then it started to rain.... The first two courtyards are peaceful havens of ancient trees and well-trimmed lawns where scholars could relax away from the bustle of the city outside the thick stone walls.

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Pouring cats and dogs...

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Rain..rain... go away please... It's freaking cold when the wind blew. The third courtyard where the stone steles sit on stone turtles.

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The Quốc Tử Giám (國子監) was established in 1076 within the temple to educate Vietnam's bureaucrats, nobles, royalty and other members of the elite. The university functioned for more than 700 years! You will find lists of names engraved on the stone stele. These students passed the final examinations although given the extreme difficulty of the doctor laureate tests. The stele records 2,313 students graduating as doctor laureats.

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Emperor Lê Thánh Tông later established the tradition (1484) of carving the names of the laureates of the university on stone steles that were placed on top of stone tortoises. *Apparently it was raining heavily, my first time wearing a rain coat out of the country~*

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In Vietnam the people worship Confucius (very Chinese-y culture). I understood from our guide that it was near exam period that time, so the school teachers brought the students to the temple and prayed for good luck and good results in their exam.

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The fourth courtyard contain offices, a gift shop and a museum. Here where you can find the statues of Confucius, his four best disciples: Yan Hui (Nhan Uyên), Zengzi (Tăng Sâm), Zisi (Tử Tư), and Mencius (Mạnh Tử), as well as the Duke of Zhou (Chu Công).

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The small museum, displaying personal artifacts belonging to some of the students that studied there.

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*Viewing from the second floor of the musuem.* Rain stopped. Ho ho ho~* Coming here made me recall some of my childhood memories of praying at the temple and asking for blessings from Confucius to get a good grade. Usually we can easily find statues of Confucius on the altars of Chinese temples but this was the first time to really witnessed how deep do the Asians respect Confucius. I enjoyed walking around in the museum.

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5 more days to go before 101010, my Viet friends are counting down for the 1000th year city establishment celebration in Hanoi... On this occasion, Hanoi has been named by Frommer's travel guide as one of the world's "Top Destinations 2010".


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