Established in AD 976, Yuelu Academy was one of the four famous ancient academies in China. The Academy accepted students throughout the Song, Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties, and it was officially named Hunan University in 1926.
Having defied the ravages of Changsha’s history, the 1,000-year-old Yuelu Academy lies at the foot of the 300-metre Yuelu Mountain, on the west bank of the Xiang river. Though destroyed several times by war, it has remained one of the most important research centres in China.
The whole campus can be divided into 6 main sections, with a museum that was built in modern times.
1/6 Hexi Platform 赫曦台
Walking through the main entrance, you will come to the Platform of Splendour of Sunrise. This was where visitors of the academy will be welcomed and introduced to the academia, where the visitor’s intellectual prowess will be tested by the students and academics before they are invited further in.
Hexi Platform 赫曦台
In Song dynasty, the principal of the Academy, Zhang Shi, and the great Neo-confucianism philosopher, Zhu Xi, climbed the Yuelu Mountain together and built a platform on the top of the hill. Zhu Xi named the platform “the splendour of sunrise“. In 1790, Luo Dian, the principal of the Academy then, built a platform on the present site. In 1821, Ouyang Houjun, the new principal, renamed it Hexi Platform in memory of Zhu Xi and Zhang Shi. The current platform was restored in 1868.
On the inner walls of the platform are two big Chinese characters 福 Blessing and 壽 Longevity. Legend has it that the character Longevity was written using broom soaked in yellow mud but Taoist master at the time when Principal Luo Dian was attending a banquet in hour of the examination officials and students that passed the civil exams. When he returned, instead of being angry with the mud on the wall, he was amazed by the “celestial” touch. In a spur of moment, he wrote the character for Blessing on the opposite wall in a complimentary style.
2/6 Lecture Hall 講堂
After you have gone past Hexi Platform, you come to the main door of the academy. This was referred to as the “Middle Door” during the Song Dynasty, and is considered the most important door in the whole place. In Chinese classical architecture, the Middle Door is only opened for the owners and VIP guests – servants come through the back doors, and lesser guests go by the side doors.
Enter a second door and you will see the main lecture hall.
Lecture Hall is the main teaching ground of Yuelu Academy and the place where major activities are held. It is also the centre of the Academy. The wall of the lecture hall is embedded with the “Four Virtues” plaques (Loyalty, Piety, Honesty, Integrity) written by Zhu Xi and carved by Ouyang Houjun.
The “Seeking Truth from Facts” plaque hung in front of the eaves of the lecture hall was written by Bin Bucheng, the president of Hunan Institute of Technology in the early Republic of China.
A gilt wood plaque “The True Way of the South” was hung in the center of the lecture hall, which was conferred by Emperor Qianlong. A gilt wooden plaque “Understanding the Way of the Universe” was hung in the center of the lecture hall and was conferred by Emperor Kangxi.
Hundred Springs Lodge 百泉軒
The lodge, where Zhu Xi, a great philosopher and Zhang Shi (Principal of Yuelu) gave their legendary series of lectures, was constructed during the Song dynasty. It underwent repairs and restoration many times and was the official residence of the principals of the academy.
Literature Spring 文泉
To the north of the lodge is “Literature Spring“, a natural spring that was accidentally discoed when the academy underwent renovation in 1779. Water came gushing out when they were building the foundations to the halls, and they set up a well to commemorate this auspicious sign of a never-ending flow of literati.
Xiangshui Hall of Revising the Classics 湘水校經堂
The hall was built in 1527 but got its current name in 1831 when Wu Rongguang, Military Attache of Hunan, and Principal Ouyang Houyun rebuilt it based on the Xuehai Hall. This was the School of Chinese History and Civilisation, and focused on Han and Song dynasties Confucian teaching. Famous students include the military strategy in Qing dynasty, Zuo Zongtang 左宗棠, whom they named General Tso’s Chicken after.
Staff and Student Hostel 教學齋
The side of the lecture hall were hostels for students and staff.
3/6 Hall of Great Achievement 大成殿
The tree behind the Hall fell during a storm later in the year (2014) and destroyed part of the building and killed a visitor (RIP). I just have to be thankful because it was raining when I visited the place, but then I had a life-altering experience in 2015 that completely changed me. Such is the uncertainty of life.
4/6 Imperial Library 御書樓
The Imperial Library is located on the central axis of the rear of the academy, and is one of the three main components of the academy. It was built in AD 999 in the early Song dynasty, and books were sent here by the imperial courts in subsequent dynasties and reach its current form in the 26th year of Emperor Kangxi (1687) in the Qing Dynasty. The library has a collection of classic books, royal imperial books, etc., totaling more than 14,000 volumes. .
The two small pavilions were built during Song and Ming dynasties and restored to the right and left of the library compound.
Alongside the Imperial Library are several memorial shrines and pavilions for ex-principals of the academy. There’s a Lianxi Memorial Shrine that was built in 1812 to commemorate the first principal Zhou Dunyi (who was also called Zhou Lianxi), who was a great Confucianism philosophy and founder of the Idealist school. And there’s the Pavilion of Four Advices that was built in 1530 to remember the groundbreaking works of the Cheng brothers, Cheng Hao and Cheng Yi. They were students of Zhou and the “The Four Shall Not” is engraved and displayed on the walls in the pavilion.
5/6 Back Garden 後園
One the left hand side of the Imperial Library is a cluster of buildings that form the back garden of the academy.
Current Affairs Hall 時務軒
Current Affairs Hall 時務軒 is a commemorative building built to commemorate School of Current Affairs 時務學堂, a school founded by the late Qing reformists. In the Shiwu Hall, there is now a plaque written by Liang Qichao. The School of Current Affairs was established by the Reform Movement. However, it was shutdown by Empress Dowager after she executed all the reformists who proposed that she is removed from power. It marked the transformation of the old academy system to the modern school system.
Lushan Temple Stele Pavilion 麓山寺碑亭
The original Lushan Temple Stele is one of the most influential steles in China. The Lushan Temple Stele is known as the “Stele of Three Bests” because of its excellent text, calligraphy and carving.
6/6 Rear Gate 山門
Coming down from Mt Yuelu, this is the backdoor of the academy. Either you can climb the mountain and lead to the Yuelu Mountain park, or you can choose to walk down from top of the mountain to this mountain door. Once you enter, you can follow the corridors to go to the front of the academy.
Shrine of Qu Yuan 屈子祠
This shrine was built in memory of Qu Yuan in 1796. Qu Yuan (340-278 BC) was a mandarin and a great poet of State of Chu. The King refused to take his advice so he committed suicide by jumping into the river. The Dragon Boat and Dumpling Festival was in commemoration of him. The shrine was a rebuilt at the present site in 2006.
Hunan University 湖南大學
Now known as Hunan University, the campus includes a lecture hall with a podium for teachers and characters on the walls proclaiming the Confucian virtues of loyalty, integrity, respect for elders and self-discipline. A highlight is the vermilion temple, with tall wooden columns supporting a broad roof that curves upwards at the outer edges, to ward off evil spirits. Behind the campus is a traditional garden and a pond stocked with carp.
From ancient academy to modern university, it carries on tradition and bred generations of talents. It is an important base of Huxiang Culture, and a cradle of the talents in Chu district. Nowadays, relying on the modern educational resources of Hunan University and its own profound culture heritage, the academy preliminary fulfilled its transformation from an ancient academy to a modern university, and became a new type of academy cultivating both experts of Chinese ancient civilisation and research-type talents.
嶽麓書院在清末1903年，更名為「湖南高等學堂」後，便步入了「中華民國」殿堂，接著又走進「中華人民共和國」領域。今日，在遊客們的眼中，嶽麓書院或許只是一個觀光景點；但在實際上，它堅強的的生命卻依然在延續中。嶽麓書院目前是湖南大學的一所學院，下轄「人文社會科學、國學、湖湘文化」三個碩、博士班研究所；開授的課程包括 : 「專門史、中國思想文化史、中國古代史、中國哲學、中國近現代史、歷史文獻學、史學理論、史學史、考古學、博物館學」等。有了嶽麓書院的堅固基石，因此湖南大學在「宋明理學、中國書院史、湖湘文化史、中國禮制史」等領域之研究水平，在中國大陸學術界處於領先地位。
Date Visited : Feb 2014
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