Temple of Literature

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Tags : Temple

Timings : 8:00 AM - 6:00 PM

Entry Fee : Adults: VND 30,000,
Children: VND 15,000

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Also Refered As:

Ancient National University

Temple of Literature, Hanoi Overview

The Temple of Literature, also known as Van Mieu, is an 11th-century Vietnamese temple dedicated to Confucius. Built in 1070 by Emperor Ly Thanh Tong, it was one of Vitenam's first universities, teaching principles of Confucianism. Today, the temple honors Vietnam's greatest scholars. It features picturesque pavilions, halls, and statues surrounded by scenic ponds and gardens.

The walls are carved with names of exceptional scholars, and the altars are often used by students praying for a good result. The Temple of Literature is also famous for being home to the Imperial Academy, the first National University in Vietnam. This was the first national central institution of higher learning for the Chinese dynasties and the nobles of the community. It is one of the most peculiar temples in Vietnam as it is dedicated to Confucius, historically serving as a place where scholars and philosophers follow Confucianism, that associates with a more humanistic religion.

The historic temple is still a well-preserved edifice encircled by picturesque landscapes. The temple of literature in Hanoi is a timeless beauty imprinted on the back of 100,000 Vietnam Dong banknotes. Considered one of the significant cultural places in Vietnam, this ancient temple brims with mythical and historical tales.

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The construction of the Temple of Literature originally dates back to the year 1070 but it was reconstructed between the years 1225 to 1400 during the period of Trans Dynasty. The ancient temple has survived the test of time through centuries and stands as a valuable relic that has undergone restoration programs in the years 1920, 1954 and 2000. The Ancient National University was established in the year 1076 inside the Temple complex. The idea to install a University was basically to educate the bureaucrats, nobles and other elite groups. While this National University was initially open only to the elite students belonging to the high aristocrats and royal families, it eventually started accepting the common people as students


Sprawling across an area of 54000 square meters, the complex of the Temple of Literature comprises of Van lake, Giam park, and five interior courtyards. The authentic Vietnamese style architecture of it resembles the temples in China, set in a perfectly preserved state.

The courtyards in the temple are edged with brick walls and each of these unfolds surprises for every history buff or a connoisseur of beauty and art. The first two courtyards are decorated with perfectly manicured gardens posing against a backdrop of majestic landscapes.

The third courtyard encompasses a large pond which was christened as the Well of Heavenly Clarity. The fourth courtyard named Sage courtyard is marked by the statue of Confucius and a house of ceremonies, and finally, the fifth courtyard, famous as Thai Hoc, features a bell tower and a large drum.

Tradition of Learning

From Chinese philosophy to Chinese history, literature and poetry; the students, known as Giam Sinh, enrolled at the Ancient National University in three to seven years of study programs. The main teaching language was Chinese and Vietnamese. The prestige and educational prowess of the Temple of Literature were reflected in the study patterns undertaken by the students. In order to enrol at the temple as a student, one had to pass a regional exam and during the course of the academic years, the students wrote four major tests per year and one minor test every month. The exams were stamped and certified by the Ministry of Rites. Once a student qualified, the exam conducted by the Ministry of Rites, he could sit for the National exam called H'i Examination. If the student met the requirements in the H'i Examination as well, he could further apply for the Royal Exam called taken by the Monarch itself.

What to see at the Temple

First Courtyard: Stretching from the Great Portico to the Dai Trung in the complex, the courtyard is skirted by two petite gates:  The Dai Tai gate, and the Thanh Duc gate. It is beautified with well-trimmed gardens and lawns.

Second Courtyard: The beautiful Khue Van pavilion which was built in the year 1805 on four whitewashed stone slabs stilts is among the favorite sites of visitors to the Temple of Literature. The upper half of the gate is a red coloured ceiling encompassing a bronze bell that hangs off an elaborately carved roof, with two circular windows overlooking the environs of the courtyard.

Third Courtyard: The third courtyard is famous for the Well of Heavenly Clarity and the first thing that piques your attention in this pavilion is this large pool of water in the centre, flanked by two ancient halls on each side. The second noticeable highlight is the Stelae of Doctors where around 116 Stelaes of bluestone turtles were installed displaying blue motifs on their back and carrying large slabs inscribed with the name of the students in Chinese who passed the Royal exam. Today, most of the turtles are torn out due to the passage of time and only 82 of these ancient carvings can be seen in the courtyard. Turtles in Vietnam are considered as the symbol of wisdom and longevity.

Fourth Courtyard: As you enter the Dai Thanh gate, the fourth courtyard sprawls in front of you flanked by two more gates on either side - the Kim Thanh gate, and the Ngoc Chan gate. The fourth courtyard features the House of Ceremonies and the sanctuary to Confucius. Alongside this stunning worship hall, few souvenir shops are stationed. Wooden ceilings supported by wood beams and structured with red columns adorned with antique lanterns make the House of ceremonies one of the prettiest sites in the Temple complex. It is also considered to have the largest interior structure.

Fifth Courtyard: Originally established in 1076 as the ?Imperial Academy,? the fifth courtyard has seen peaks and valleys throughout the centuries where earlier in the year 1236, the academy was enlarged with the addition of classrooms, a storehouse for wooden printing blocks and 25 room dormitories in sets of three. When the French destroyed the Fifth courtyard in the year 1946, it was reconstructed in 2000 by appointing several buildings to honour the tradition, culture, education, and talents of Vietnam along with a bell house and a drum house.

Important Information for Travellers

  • Although there is no particular dress code that one needs to adhere to at the Temple of Literature, following a formal custom of avoiding the off-shoulder dresses, shorts, mini-skirts, and netted wear is considered an unspoken rule. 
  • Spend enough time appreciating every nook and corner of the temple complex. It almost takes an hour to tour all the courtyards.
  • Make sure that you do not offend the monks and saints during their praying session or while they are deeply engrossed in worship.
  • While photography is allowed on the premises, ensure that you do not disturb the regular rituals performed by the monks or scholars. Make sure you know when to click and when to keep the cameras down.
  • The place is huge but also crowded with hordes of tourists so do your research well on the timings and make sure you enter the gate as early as it opens to avoid the bustle.

How To Reach Temple of Literature

The Temple of Literature is situated approximately 30 kilometres from the Noi Bai International Airport and around 3 kilometres from Hoan Kiem Lake which is located in the centre of the town. You can hire a taxi from both the landmarks to reach the Temple of literature which is tucked on the Quoc Tu Giam Street of Dong Da District. From Hoan Kiem Lake, you can also take a lift in a Cyclo (commonly used human powered taxi) which will drop you at the temple in less than 10 minutes.

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