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The Hanoi Temple of Literature, the first university in Vietnam

One of the most emblematic and beautiful places in Hanoi is the Temple of Literature. It is one of those places that when you visit it you would spend hours touring its corners, sitting down to watch people go by and enjoy the Zen atmosphere that is breathed.

Without a doubt, it is one of my favorite places in Hanoi and today I want to share with you what to see in the Hanoi Temple of Literature, its history and some curious facts.

The first University of Hanoi

The Temple of Literature is one of the most emblematic places in the city and a mandatory stop. You can't come to Hanoi and not visit this place.

It was built in 1070 by King Lý Nhân Tông, fourth emperor of the Lý dynasty, to honor Confucius. It took 6 years to build and as soon as it was finished, the Imperial Academy was housed in this building, thus forming the first university in Vietnam.

The university served to educate the royalty, nobility and the upper class of the Vietnamese people for 3 years, since after the Nguyễn dynasty won the war in 1802, the Imperial Academy moved to Ho Chi Minh City. As of this year, it became the school of the Hoài Đức district, thus losing the prestige of being the seat of the Imperial Academy.

During the French period, this building was declared a historical monument, but due to the beginning of the Indochina War in 1945 and later the Vietnam War, the French were forced to demolish parts of the temple to house all the wounded. . Although a large part of the temple was destroyed, at the end of the Indochina War the French began a period of restoration, but this only focused on the most affected part. These currently destroyed parts are not visible, although one of the courtyards was lost in one of the bombardments by the French in 1947.

Vietnam traditional architecture

The architecture that shapes this temple is the most characteristic that we can find in Vietnam, it perfectly describes the entire tradition of the country. The buildings are built of wood and finished with these ceramic tiles so characteristic of Southeast Asia. All the buildings are among ancient trees.

This complex is made up of 5 courtyards, lined up one behind the other.

The access to the temple consists of two gardens with carp ponds, bonsai and ancient trees, which were used by the students to relax. The third courtyard houses the "Well of Heavenly Clarity" a large pond, which is surrounded by a series of buildings, where the treasures of the academy are located. In the fourth courtyard, called the "Courtyard of the Wise", is a courtyard dedicated to Confucius and his 72 honorary students. And, finally, the fifth patio, was the university, although today we can find a collection of clothing worn by students, and some sporadic exhibitions.

Thanks to Chinese Feng Shui, the temple has a perfect harmony between the buildings, the trees, the ponds and the garden areas.

You will find The Temple of Literature stamped on the ticket

The Temple of Literature is one of the most important in Vietnam, which is why the Vietnamese national bank used the image of the temple to be used on the back of the 100,000 dong bill, which is equivalent to approximately 3.50 euros.

What to see in the Temple of Literature

Van Mieu door

The Van Mieu Gate is the main gate to the temple. It is the most emblematic since it had three doors (3 arcades), a large door through which the emperor entered, a small door located on the right through which the royal guard entered, and a door of the same size as the previous one but located at the left, which gave access to the king's advisers.

On one side of this first garden, before the entrance to the temple, is the ticket office.

Khue Van Cac Pavilion

It is a pavilion with eight roofs, four lower and four higher, and it is where the constellation of literature is located, which is made up of some posters. Here the writing contest ceremonies were held among the students, where they participated to see who was the wisest.

It is a garden area with large ancient trees, a place to relax and with a beautiful access door to the next patio.

Lucky cranes and the courtyard of the ceremonies

In the ceremony courtyard we can find two cranes perched on two turtles, which symbolizes luck and longevity, so it is said that if you touch them you will increase, you will be able to live much longer and you will be wiser.

Wisdom turtles

In the second patio you will find some turtles that represent the most advanced students of the university, and that, like the cranes, bring luck and transmit their wisdom if you touch them.

These turtles were very important to university students as they represented what they aspired to study year after year.

Figures of the students and teachers of Temple of Literature

A statue was made for each student who passed through the Temple of Literature in Hanoi, and that is why we can find tiny figures of students and teachers among the courtyards. We must bear in mind that 100 years ago there were not so many students.

Fifth courtyard and university

The last courtyard is where Emperor Ly Nhan Tong ordered the construction of the imperial academy. With the passage of time and dynasties, it changed its name until in the Lê dynasty it was called Thái Học Viện and was enlarged, building the house of Minh Luân, rooms, warehouses and bedrooms. In the year 2000 the fifth patio was completely restored, maintaining the original design of the imperial academy, and in tune with the temple, after the French destroyed it in 1946.

Currently, it consists of two buildings (front and rear) and two side buildings, among others, and occupies an area of ​​approximately 1500m2. Scientific activities and cultural events are often held in the front building.

The rear building has two levels. The ground floor has a statue of Chu Văn An (the academy president) and displays exhibits from the temple and the academy with a display on Confucian education in Vietnam.

The upper floor is dedicated to the three monarchs who contributed the most to the foundation of the temple and the academy: Lý Thánh Tông, Lý Nhân Tông and Lê Thánh Tông, with three statues representing them.

A huge bronze bell

On either side of the rear building are square buildings supporting a drum and a bronze bell cast in 2000.

Practical information

  • Hours: Summer from 7:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. / Winter from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

  • Price: 30,000 VND

  • Address: 58 Quốc Tử Giám, Văn Miếu, Đống Đa, Hà Nội 100000, Vietnam



I hope you enjoy Hanoi very much, it is a city with a lot of magic and charm. I assure you that your trip to Vietnam will be unforgettable. You can continue reading many more Hanoi articles on the blog and you will find a complete guide to Vietnam.

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A hug and see you soon!

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