Travels with Tim and Lisa

"If my discoveries are other people's commonplaces I cannot help it – for me they retain a momentous freshness" (Elizabeth Bowen)

Temple of Literature, Hanoi, Sunday September 23rd, 2007

Posted by Lisa Hill on October 11, 2007

What better place for a literature lover than a Temple of Literature! Built in 1070 to honour scholars, it actually consists of five temples, with the last one dedicated to Confucius. It was Vietnam’s first university, educating the sons (but not the daughters) of the mandarins, and the names of its graduates were engraved on stone steles, some of which are still standing, mounted on the back of stone tortoises.

Long explained to us that there are four sacred animals in Vietnam: the dragon, representing power; the unicorn symbolising happiness; the phoenix, beauty; and the tortoise, longevity; and I like the idea that ideas and thinking last longer than any of the others…
Elsewhere in the temple there is an honour board, listing the achievements of an impressive list of scholars, and on display inside one of the temples there were some beautiful blue academic gowns worn by the professors. There’s also a lovely quiet cloister which reminded me of the one at San Lorenzo in Florence, an oasis of calm in the middle of a hectic city.
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