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Temple of Literature


58 Quốc Tử Giám, Văn Miếu, Đống Đa, Hà Nội

Located about 2km away from Hoan Kiem Lake, the Temple of Literature, a Temple of Confucius in Hanoi, is the very first stopover for most of travelers to Hanoi for the first time. Visit this historical and cultural relic to discover the first university of Vietnam as well as reveal the Hanoians’ spirit of study in the past.

Founded as a Confucian temple in 1070 by Emperor Ly Thanh Tong, this Temple of Literature complex was dated back to the earliest period. The temple hosts the Imperial Academy (Quốc Tử Giám), Vietnam’s first national university, was established in 1076 to educate Vietnam’s mandarin class. This is one of several temples in Vietnam which is dedicated to Confucius, sages and scholars.

Temple of Literature

The temple layout is similar to that of the temple at Qufu, Shandong, Confucius’ birthplace. It covers an area of over 54,000 square metres, including the Văn lake, Giám park and the interior courtyards which are surrounded by a brick wall. In front of the Great Gate are four tall pillars. On either side of the pillars are two stelae commanding horsemen to dismount.

The gate opens onto three pathways which continues through the complex. The centre path was reserved for the monarch and above the center path there is a big bronze bell, The path to the left is for the administrative Mandarins and the path to the right is for military Mandarins. The interior of the site is divided into five courtyards. The first two courtyards are quiet areas with ancient trees and trimmed lawns, where scholars would relax away from the bustle of the outside world.

The bell located above the main gate was used to signify that an important person was coming through and was added to the Văn Miếu in the 19th century. The bell was made out of Bronze and could only be touched by monks. On the bell several patterns can be found including an outline of a phoenix, which represents beauty, and a dragon, which represents power. Both of these symbols are used to represent the Emperor and Queen. A bell can be found in all of the pagodas in Vietnam.

Temple of Literature - Main Gate

Khue Van pavilion (Khuê Văn Các), a unique architectural work built in 1805 and a symbol of present-day Hanoi. The Khue Van pavilion is built on four white-washed stone stilts. At the top is a red-coloured with two circular windows and an elaborate roof. Inside, a bronze bell hangs from the ceiling to be rung on auspicious occasions. Beside the Khue Van pavilion are the Suc Van gate (Súc Văn Môn) and the Bi Van gate (Bi Văn Môn). These two gates are dedicated to the beauty of literature, both its content and its form.

Temple of Literature

Stelae of Doctors

In 1484, the Emperor Lê Thánh Tông erected 116 steles of carved blue stone turtles with elaborate motifs to honour talent and encourage study. The Turtle is one of the nation’s four holy creatures – the others are the Dragon (Long), the Unicorn (Ly) and the Phoenix (Phượng). The turtle is a symbol of longevity and wisdom. The shape and size of the turtle changed with the passage of time.

Temple of Literature stela
Turtle Steles with the names of those successful at the royal exams.

The doctors’ steles are a valuable historical resource for the study of culture, education and sculpture in Vietnam. 82 stelae remain. They depict the names and birth places of 1307 graduates of 82 triennial royal exams. Between 1442 and 1779, eighty-one exams were held by the Lê dynasty and one was held by the Mạc dynasty. The ancient Chinese engravings on each stele praise the merits of the monarch and cite the reason for holding royal exams. They also record the mandarins who were tasked with organizing the exams.

Good to know

The entrance fee for the Temple of Literature complex is 30,000 VND (about $1.5).
Opening hours: 7:30 to 18:00 every day.

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