The amazing Temple of Literature is one of the most visited sites in Hanoi – and we definitely understand why. This historical complex offers you a rich look into Vietnamese history and culture since the 10th century. More so, the Temple of Literature is considered the first university of Vietnam and is a place you simply must visit when in Hanoi.
The history of the Temple of Literature
The complex consists of two main areas: The Imperial Academy and the Temple of Literature. The temple was built back in 1070 during the reign of King Ly Thanh Tong. It was dedicated to the Vietnamese philosopher Confucius and his famous scholars.
Later, in 1076, the Imperial Academy was built by King Ly Nhan Tong. This academy was dedicated to the children of the king as well as the noble families. Today, it is considered the oldest university in Vietnam, thereby symbolizing the tradition of diligence amongst the students of Vietnam. More than 200 years later the Imperial Academy was expanded, which led to children of commoners, with outstanding academic abilities, being accepted to the school. In 1484 the famous steles saw the light of day for the first time when King Le Thanh Tong organized a doctorate exam. The names of the students who passed this exam were then written on the Turtle Steles, which still stands to this day.
When the capital of Vietnam was moved to Hué, during the Nguyen Dynasty, a new academy was built. Since then, the Imperial Academy and Temple of Literature have been repaired, restored, and preserved. Now making it possible for the public to visit this fascinating place.
The temple today: A walk through the complex
When you are visiting the Literature Complex today the things you will see stand as they did back in the day. This means that the area of 54.000 square meters offers you a glance into small architectural works around the complex. Inside you will find that the area is divided into 5 different layers. The first thing you will see inside the complex is the three-doored Van Mieu Gate. On the upper part of the gate, you will find three letters, which indicate the name of the gate in ancient Chinese characters.
After Van Mieu Gate you will head to the first courtyard. In the middle of this you will find the second gate of the complex; Dai Trung Mon. The gate is surrounded by spacious courtyards in which you will find trees, a pond, and several smaller paths.
The second area of the Temple of Literature features the Khue Van pavilion, which was constructed during the Nguyen Dynasty in 1805. This played a significant role during the glory days of the academy, as it was the place where the scholars gathered to comment on the literary works of each other. The pavilion was later chosen as the symbol of Hanoi city, because of the symbolic meaning for Vietnamese education and literature.
When you come through to the next courtyard you will see the famous turtle steles. Each of the steles is unique and tells a fascinating story of the students who completed the exams over the years. On every stele, you will find information about the specific exam, dynasty, as well as the philosophy of the education of the period.
The next stop on your walk through the Temple of Literature in Hanoi is the shrine area. But to get there, you must walk through the Gate of Success – also known as Dai Thanh Mon. Then you will arrive in a vast courtyard leading to the shrine area. This houses the Sanctuary to Confucius, as well as the Hall of Ceremonies.
Lastly for your visit to the complex is the grounds of the Imperial Academy. Here the Thai Hoc Hall and the old classrooms can be found. On the ground floor, you will see different altars honoring some of the famous professors, whereas on the upper floor ancient kings are honored. Outside of the hall, you might find both the drum and the Bich Ung bell, which both represent the solemnity and majesty of this entire complex.
Everything you need to know for a visit to the Temple of Literature in Hanoi
As with so many other sites and attractions, there are a few things that might be useful for your visit to the Temple of Literature in Hanoi. Below, we have gathered some of the information we would have found most useful for our visit to this amazing complex.
Getting to the Temple of Literature
The Temple of Literature in Hanoi is located just about 3 kilometers west of Hoan Kiem Lake and south of Thang Long Imperial Citadel. It is possible to get to the temple complex in a short time by taking a taxi, Grab, or driving by yourself. Alternatively, it is possible to walk – but this might take you about 1 hour from Hoan Kiem Lake. Depending on your pace, of course.
We would actually recommend you make use of the hop-off-hop-on bus in Hanoi. This is a perfect way of getting around in the city and seeing some of the famous sites, without walking your legs off or spending a big amount of money on taxi drives. If you want to learn more about the hop-off-hop-on bus in Hanoi, we have gathered all the information you need right here.
The Temple of Literature in Hanoi is open to the public every day of the week – even on weekends and holidays. During the summer season, from April to October, the complex opens at 7:30 and closes at 17:30. Whereas in the winter season, from October to April, the temple opens at 8:00 and closes again at 17:00.
The entrance fee for the Temple of Literature in Hanoi is 30.000 VND for adults – both Vietnamese and foreigners. For students, the price is 15.000 VND, but you are required to show a valid student card. Children under 15 years old are free to visit this complex in Hanoi.
Tip: The ticket office at the Temple of Literature does not accept credit cards, so bring cash.
Time spent at the Temple of Literature
The Temple of Literature is not one of the biggest sites in Hanoi, but that does not mean a visit is done in no time. On the contrary, we would recommend you set aside at least 1 hour for you to stroll around this fascinating complex. The more time the better, as you will be able to look more closely at some of the architectural areas and take in the calm atmosphere in the complex.
When you are visiting the Temple of Literature in Hanoi you must keep in mind that your shoulders and knees should be covered. This means no miniskirts, tank tops, or naked upper bodies. Another thing to be aware of is that you must take off your hat when visiting the sanctuary area.
Best time to visit the Temple of Literature
The best time to visit the Temple of Literature in Hanoi is as early as possible. Try being there when the complex opens. That way you might be able to skip some of the bigger crowds and experience the calm atmosphere and quietness of the complex in the morning.