Today Temple of Literature (Van Mieu) is an important place where students go to pray for good exam results.
Temple of Literature – Văn Miếu was built in 1070 under the King Ly Thanh Tong’s leadership which was dedicated to Confucius.
In the grounds of the Temple of Literature in 1076 the very first university in Vietnam was built.
A very small group were given the opportunity to study there; and they were royal ones and others from the elite society. Due to the extreme difficulty to actually pass the final doctorate exams, the names of those who succeeded were literally written in stone.
One stone plaque was made for every year. This stone plaque (called a stele) had the names of the successful students, their place of birth and their achievement inscribed on it.
On that are the names of people who received doctorates, their places of birth, and their educational achievements.
The block was sitting on the back of a turtle, not just any turtle . . . a turtle totally unique for that year and completely different to all the others. Think the Chinese Terracotta warriors on a mini scale.
The date of the stele dictates the size and decoration style; also the shape and features of the turtles are different
You may be asking why would these important records be sitting on the back of a turtle ?? You see Vietnamese people and other cultures believe the turtle’s back was the ‘sky’ and its belly was the ‘earth’.
In general the turtle is thought to symbolize strength and longevity.
This Vietnamese girl and other students touch the turtles head and every stone stele as she walks past hoping to bring good luck to her educational success. Carved in the stone board that the turtle is holding on his back.
There are 5 ponds in the complex, have a look as there are real turtles in there.
Of the 116 stele’s that were originally carved, only 82 exist in Hanoi today.
Temple of Literature- Văn Miếu The three Roofed Archway represents: Past – Present – Future. The room below the 3 roofed archway was an addition in 1805. Called the reading room it is where certain person could recite their poems.
The University was educating the Vietnamese minds for 700 years (from 1076-1779) and in that time only 2,313 students actually passed their final doctorates/exams.
Today’s daily reminder of this important site can be seen on the green VND100,000 note.
Temple of Literature is held close in the hearts of the Vietnamese !!