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Visiting Hanoi’s Temple of Literature

Hanoi is the capital, and one of the most popular cities to visit in Vietnam. The Temple of Literature, an ancient complex that is both a temple and an academy, is one of Hanoi's most famous attractions and places of history.

Entering the Temple of Literature
Entering the Temple of Literature

It's a temple dedicated to Confucius, where scholars and students formerly lived and studied. Beginning in 1076, the imperial academy opened and started to enroll students.

Beautiful gardens and huge trees
Beautiful gardens and giant trees

The Temple of Literature is neatly organized in a series of courtyards, each courtyard leading further into the temple and finally to an area that housed shrines and many statues, including one of Confucius himself (see below).

The construction is based on the temple in China where Confucius was born. The temple grounds are lush and green with big, beautiful trees and gardens.

Turtle stelae at Hanoi's Temple of Literature
Turtle stelae

You can browse around all the courtyards at your own pace. I enjoyed looking at the stone steles lined up under an awning when you enter the complex.

Known as the Stelae of Doctors, 82 (though there were formerly 116) of these stone engravings have a turtle as a foundation.

The steles were created as a way to encourage students to pursue knowledge and to continue learning.

The Chinese writings on these stones steles have been a significant source of information into Vietnam's past lives and culture nearly 1,000 years ago.

These steles also include information about students and those who graduated from the academy.

In the 4th courtyard
In the 4th courtyard

The fourth of five courtyards is where the main temple is located. On either side of the main shrine, two halls were used to honor some of the most faithful Confucian followers.

At the front of the courtyard, surrounded by statues and burning incense, was the elaborate statue of Confucius himself.

Statue of Confucius
Statue of Confucius

As a Confucian temple, Confucius was studied and worshipped here. Just outside the main shrine were some cabinet displays of old clothes, pens, notebooks, and a few small personal belongings from students who had attended the imperial academy.

Dragons on the roof of a building at the Temple of Literature in Hanoi, Vietnam
Dragons on the roof

Like any historical site I visit, while I enjoy the overall attraction, I like to pay attention to the small details. The little things can make a place stand out and be worth visiting.

The Temple of Literature is packed with symbols and details that are easy to miss, but if you look in the right places, they can make the experience more rewarding.

The dragons on top of the roof carved from stone are in place according to Feng shui and give the building protection, not so much from human enemies, but from natural things like fires and other devastating disasters.

Chicken pho
Chicken pho

After spending a few hours walking around the Temple of Literature, we were hungry.

Luckily, after just a few minutes of searching, I found a local restaurant serving Vietnamese noodles. It wasn't long before I was seated in front of a piping hot bowl of chicken pho and ready to dig in!

Be sure to include the Temple of Literature on your tour of Hanoi.

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Saturday 5th of July 2014

Temple of Literature is a must see for traveler in Hanoi. It is dedicated to Confucius as well as the first university in Vietnam. I love its architecture. A short walk to some local stalls to enjoy Bun Cha "rice vermicelli with BBQ pork" known as a famous Hanoi specialty or eat Pho in Pho 24 restaurant or have dinner at Koto

Viet Nguyen

Wednesday 2nd of April 2014

Come to Hanoi you should visit Hoan Kiem Lake, Ho Chi Minh mausoleum, Old quarter, West Lake, Quan Thanh temple

Patent Lawyer

Wednesday 4th of December 2013

Gosh it looks so beautiful, peaceful and spiritual! Thanks for the lovely post!

Lois Pike

Friday 21st of June 2013

I wanted to visit Vietnam next year and Hanoi will be my first destination. I'm going to visit the Temple as well and try all Vietnamese food.

Noah @ Somewhere Or Bust

Thursday 20th of June 2013

My highlight at the temple was the hawker out front attempting to sell t-shirts next to a sign that read something along the lines of: No selling allowed. Right across the street from the back of the temple is the art museum, which is really worth a visit. Many of the works depict the war from the Vietnamese artist's perspective. It was the most interesting propaganda I had seen among all the museums.

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