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TEMPLE OF LITERATURE (North Vietnam): The most important monument of the Vietnamese heritage

The Temple of Literature is definitely a must-see for any tourist desiring to explore Hanoi’s ancient beauty and culture. Below are the reasons why a trip to Hanoi’s Quoc Tu Giam is worth spending

Have you ever noticed that what an ancient complex used as the symbol of Hanoi as well as printed on one side of the 100,000 VND note? The answer is Temple of Literature – Vietnam’s oldest Imperial Academy under the feudal courts and the first national university. The temple was built in dedication to Confucian philosophy and still holds a spiritual significance to each generation of students and educators in Vietnam at present.

The temple was first built in 1070 in Ly dynasty the reconstructed during 1225 – 1400 under the command of Tran Kings. Having strongly stood through centuries of wars, disasters and major restorations, the temple still maintains its solemnly ancient look reflecting the architectural styles of various feudal dynasties and histories.

In 1070, according to the order of King Ly Thai Tong, the Temple of Literature was designed and built. The royal engineers had directed to place the statues of Confucius and his four famous disciples: Yan Hui, Zengzi, Zisi, and Mencius inside the structure. Besides, the picture featuring the Duke of Zhou was carved and 72 other Confucian scholars were painted. Temple was also where the Heir Apparent of the Imperial Throne and other princes studied.

In 1076, the Imperial Academy, Vietnam’s first university was established within the Temple of Literature to be the place of education for the kingdom’s royalty, nobles and members of the elite class. However, in 1802, King Gia Long moved the capital to Hue and a new royal academy was placed. The Temple of Literature was still an educational symbol, but failed in prominence and became a district school.

In the period of the French colony, the Temple of Literature was recognized as a Historic Monument and put under restoration. Now, all the architectures still remain at their stunning classic beauty and the Temple becomes a famous tourist attraction in Hanoi.

Sections of the literature temple:

The Temple structure resembles the Temple of Qufu, Shandong, China, Confucius’s birthplace. The layout includes an area of 54000 square meters with the Literature Lake, the Giam Park and the courtyards surrounded by a brick wall. Four giant pillars rest in the front of the Entrance Gate, on each side of the pillars, laid two steles requiring horsemen to dismount.

The gate then leads to three pathways further into the complex. The path in the middle was used by the monarch, which above it hangs a large bronze bell. The left path was reserved for the Administrative Mandarins and the right path was occupied by the Military Mandarins.

Highlights of the Literature temple:

The first national University of Vietnam: In nowhere in Vietnam there is a place holds such significant value of education, literature, and academics as it does in Quoc Tu Giam.  As Vietnam’s first university, the Temple has been chosen as Hanoi’s symbol of wisdom, talent, and study. One cannot explore the depth of Hanoi if skipping a visit to the very symbol of this thousand years old city.

Observe a unique examination culture  of Vietnam: Every year, before the university entrance exam – a milestone for each student in Vietnam – is conducted, there is a tradition that high-school students would come to Quoc Tu Giam praying for success in the exams.  Students often come to pay respect to the Confucian philosophers, speaking of their wish to pass the exam in flying color. It is also common for them to purchase lucky Norm script letters written by calligraphists. The letter can imply success, high mark, talent, achievement or effort and is written in red silk paper or carved in a necklace’s pendant.

Behold the beauty of Vietnamese students in their traditional dress: The spring of each year is also the time for university students prepare for their yearbook photo – a keeper of their memories with each other. Visiting the Temple of Literature in this time, tourists are expected to find many beautiful Vietnamese girls in the graceful traditional ao dai, which they do not dress usually today except on special occasions. Ao dai and Quoc Tu Giam – two symbols of Hanoi combine can draw such outstanding classic beauty. Temple of Literature is also the indispensable destination within any student tours as well as Vietnamese school trips.

Preserve the writings of Nom scripts: This is logographic writing used to write the Vietnamese language in ancient time. Now, the letter of Nom script was used for the spiritual purpose only. In Tet holiday, Nom calligraphist masters often sit beside the gate of Quoc Tu Giam, writing Nom letters on a silk paper, making them look like a painting. People tend to purchase them to decorate their house as a symbol of fortune or present them as a gift to friends, implying that they pray for their friend a new year of success, too.

Ceremony and worshipping: Special ceremonies are held in each season to honor Vietnam’s ancient scholars. Worshippers often dress gorgeously in ceremonial traditional clothes, dancing, chanting, and offering incense and fruits to the altar. Visitors should not leave their camera at home, or else we could miss the chance to records the interesting rituals of the ceremony.

How to get to the Literature Temple: The Temple of Literature is located on the Van Mieu St, Dong Da District. The complex is 1km from Hoan Kiem Lake and 1.2 km from the Mausoleum of Ho Chi Minh. Most people travel to the Temple by bike, with the parking fee is 5000 Vietnamese dong per bike. However, there are also plenty of buses that offer a stop at the main entrance like the 02, 23, 32, 38 and 41.

The Temple is opened for visitors in Hanoi tours every day of the week, the opening hours can vary in different seasons.
In hot season (15/4 to 15/10): From 7h30 to 17h30
In cold season (16/10 to 14/4): From 8h00 to 17h00
Entrance Fee: 30,000 VND/person


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