In 1808, Gia Long and his Imperial Court decided to choose a low hill beyond the Heavenly
Lady pagoda, on the left bank of the Perfume river, i.e. the current position, to built a
new imposing and striking Temple of Letters. At that time, the National University was
also established there and operated until 1908 before it was moved into the citadel. The
construction of the Temple of Letters was commenced on 17th April 1808 and finished on
12th November 1808.
The Temple of Letters faces south. All
main constructive works were built on the top of the hill, three meters higher than the
surrounding land. In front of it was the Perfume river, in the back were villages, hills
and mounts spreading from Truong Son range, surrounded the back of Temple of Letters. All
items of Hue Temple of Letters were erected on a square surface of 160 m long on each side
enclosed by La Thanh (surrounding wall). There was once a complex of 50 big and small
constructions including 32 steles which bore names of doctors and four other steles.
The Temple of Letters was many times
renovated and many sub- constructions were built, especially in Minh Mang and Thieu Tri's
time. From Minh Mang's time onwards, National Examinations were held so that steles
bearing the names of successful candidates were erected here.
These "Tien si de danh bia" -
"Steles bearing doctors' names" were gradually erected on the yard of the main
temple from 1831 to 1919, the year in which the last National Examinations was held in
Khai Dinh's time.
As destroyed by the war and weather, the
remains of the Temple of Letters are now the 34 steles of great cultural and historic
On these steles are names, ages and places
of birth of 239 successful candidates in National Examinations organized in the Nguyen
Hue Temple of Letters is a valuable historic remains. To visit Van
Mieu, tourists can understand more about the tradition of knowledge
appreciation, scholars administration and study
encouragement of our ancestors from the old time.