Temple Of Literature Hanoi Vietnam: History, Architecture & Tips
Van Mieu Quoc Tu Giam (Temple of Literature and Imperial Academy) is a precious historical relic in Hanoi, Vietnam. The complex offers a rich and diverse look into the history and culture of Vietnam since the 10th century.
We visited Hanoi not long ago and spent a lovely afternoon exploring this place. Here is our brief guide to the Temple of Literature’s history, architecture, and travel tips.
The history of Temple of Literature
Van Mieu – Quoc Tu Giam consists of two main areas: Temple of Literature and Imperial Academy.
The Temple of Literature (Van Mieu) was built in August 1070 under the reign of King Ly Thanh Tong and dedicated to Confucius and famous scholars.
Meanwhile, in 1076, King Ly Nhan Tong built the Imperial Academy (Quoc Tu Giam) dedicated to the king’s children and noble families. It was considered the oldest university in Vietnam, symbolizing the tradition of studiousness of the Vietnamese nation.
In 1253 under King Tran Thai Tong, the Imperial Academy was expanded and accepted even the children of commoners who had outstanding academic abilities.
In 1484, King Le Thanh Tong organized an exam and set up steles for those who passed the doctorate exam.
Under the Nguyen Dynasty, another Imperial Academy was built in Hue when they moved the capital there. Since then, the Temple of Literature has been repaired, restored, and preserved.
The Van Mieu – Quoc Tu Giam relic complex is currently located in more than 54000 square meters, including many different small architectural works.
The entire relic is separated from the outside space by malleable bricks. And the inside is divided into five layers of space, with each layer having different architectural works.
After many renovations, this relic complex includes Ho Van, Van Mieu Gate, Dai Trung Mon, Khue Van Pavilion, Thien Quang well, Doctor stele, Dai Thanh Mon, and Thai Hoc house.
Things to see at the Temple of Literature
After more than ten centuries, Van Mieu Quoc Tu Giam still retains its ancient appearance with many high-value architectural works.
The complex is divided into five zones, and each area has separating walls and a gate.
Van Mieu Mon (Van Mieu Gate)
Our trip started at Van Mieu Gate, a two-story gate architecture with three doors. The upper floor has three letters that indicate the name “Van Mieu Mon” in ancient Chinese characters.
Dai Trung Mon (Great middle gate)
After Van Mieu gate, we headed to Dai Trung Mon, the second gate of the Temple of Literature.
This gate consists of 3 compartments built on a high brick foundation and roof tiles in ancient communal houses.
Before and after Dai Trung Mon is a spacious area with trees and small parallel roads, creating a sense of depth, elegance, and quietness.
Khue Van Cac (Khue Van pavilion)
The second area features the Khue Van pavilion – an architectural work constructed in 1805 during Nguyen Dynasty.
The pavilion has two floors, with the attic is built on a square platform with a width of 6.8 meters each.
Its wooden architecture has red tile roofs overlapping two layers above, forming an exceptional 8-roof construction.
Also, the four sides of the attic wall have round windows representing the images of the shining star.
Khue Van Pavilion was where Confucian scholars gathered to comment on the literary works of the students.
With unique architecture and symbolic meaning for Vietnamese literature and education, the pavilion was chosen as the symbol of Hanoi city.
Thien Quang Well and Doctor stele
After Khue Van Pavilion, we visited Thien Van Well.
On both sides of the well are two rows of large stone steles about the examinations from 1442 to 1779.
Each stele is a unique work of art and has great spiritual significance. Specifically, 82 doctorate steles on the backs of the greenstone turtles recognize and honor the 82 valedictorians in the examinations of Vietnam’s feudal dynasties.
Also, on each stele, you can see the information of the doctor who passed the exam that year. In addition, there is information about the exam, the dynasty, and the philosophy of the education of that period.
Dai Thanh Mon (Gate of Success) and the Shrine area
Stepping through Dai Thanh Mon, we came to a vast courtyard paved with Bat Trang tiles leading to the center area of Quoc Tu Giam relic.
We saw the shrine area – Dai Bai Duong, where houses the Hall of Ceremonies and the Sanctuary to Confucious.
Thai Hoc Hall
In the fifth courtyard, we explored the Thai Hoc hall and the classrooms. There are altars honoring famous professors on the ground floor and ancient kings on the upper floor.
Wandering outside the Hall, we found the drum on the left of the building and the Bich Ung bell on the right. They both present the solemnity and majesty of the complex.
Opening hours, ticket prices to the Temple of Literature
The Temple of Literature is open every day of the week, including weekends or holidays. Its opening time is 7:30 am in winter, 8 am in other seasons, and the closing time is 6 pm.
The ticket price to visit the Temple of Literature is 20,000 VND / adult and 10,000 VND per child.
I would love to visit a temple like this someday, it looks so beautiful and interesting to learn about! I’m going to add this one to my very long list!
We have not yet visited Vietnam. But it sounds like a visit to the Temple of Literature would give us a great look at the architecture of the country. I like that they have green spaces and water throughout the site. The details on the inside are beautiful. An interesting tribute to Confucian scholars.
Van Mieu Quoc Tu Giam sounds like the perfect way to learn about the history and culture of Vietnam. The architecture is interesting, I would especially like to explore the shrine area Dai Bai Duong. From the image it looks like you are not able to hit the drum, which is a bummer but understandable
You are right about this place being the best to understand the history of Hanoi. Loved the architecture that this place showcase. And reading about the stele was interesting. Details of the people who earned their doctorates carved forever. I sure would love to see all of it.
Awesome post on the temple of literature! I have not yet visited Vietnam but this post has inspired me to add it to my bucket list. The architecture is interesting with statues and stones. It has a bit of similarity with Japanese and Chinese architecture although I am sure there are differences. I like the colorful nature of the rooftops and the pond and greens in every place. :-)
I truly love the architecture! Vietnam is so lovely. It doesn’t seem too expensive to visit, either, which is always nice when traveling. I love your blog but find all of the ads and popups super distracting!
I remember my visit to the temple of literature in Hanoi very fondly. It was a very humid and hot day, but strolling around the vast area was quite peaceful. We went to a nice cafe in the neighborhood nearby afterward. Could you decipher some of the details on the ancient doctor stele? Or is it written in some old Vietnamese, people cannot read anymore? I bet this would be super interesting.
Wow! This is interesting. Happy to know that they have repaired and restored the Temple of Literature. Did not realize there is so much to see. We would love to visit soon.
I visited the Temple of Literature when I visited Hanoi a long time ago. It was magical and I absolutely loved the architecture there. It is one of those places that I will surely visit again if I can. I was not aware that it was restored, good to know.
It was built in 1070?! That alone is just incredible to me. I wish we did a better job at preserving historical buildings in the United States. It must have been a magical experience walking through the shrines, halls, and courtyards of the temple.