Temple of Literature ~ Hanoi

Temple of Literature

 I am not one who was born in the possession of knowledge; I am one who is fond of antiquity, and earnest in seeking it there. ~ Confucius

The Temple of Literature is home to two very important institutions, the shrine to Confucius as well as the site of the first university. The cluster of well preserved buildings is considered to be an example of traditional Vietnamese architecture.

When passing through the main tiered gateway, one can’t help but notice the inscribed plaque reminding visitors to dismount their horses before entering. Of course, we oblige.

The temple grounds consist of five courtyards walled in, creating a pleasant green space with gardens and walled ponds which help diffuse the noise from Hanoi’s busy street life.

Vietnam’s first university, the “Imperial Academy” (Quoc Tu Giam), was established in 1076. Initially, it was created for just the noble mandarins, but later, in 1442, it was opened to accept gifted students from all over the country. Confucianism, literature and poetry were subjects offered.

The grounds are flanked with two halls containing stone stelae (plaques) that pay tribute to the 1,306 scholars who passed rigorous exams. Only 82 stelae remain. Each plaque records the scholar’s name, birth place and achievements and sits on the back of a carved stone tortoise, a symbol of longevity. The tortoise is considered to be one of the nation’s four holy symbols which include the dragon, unicorn and phoenix.

Temple of Literature

The courtyard in the back of the compound houses a shrine dedicated to Confucius, a Chinese philosopher, important scholar and political thinker who was born in 551 B.C. and died in 479 B.C. The school of thought he founded emphasizes morality, social justice, honesty, benevolence and importance of knowledge. Unfortunately the small buildings flanking this shrine are now loaded with trinkets and souvenirs, a sign of the times.

Temple of Literature

I suggest when visiting the Temple of Literature to request a guide. I regret that we didn’t do this as we had too many questions because of the lack of information available. Many museums throughout Hanoi have placards mounted at each point of interest or pamphlets available for self-guided tours. All of that was lacking here.

Today, the Temple of Literature is often used for educational activities and cultural events including traditional musical ceremonies.

Temple of Literature

Trying to avoid the busloads of tourists visiting the temple was no easy task, but I happened on one couple who managed to. They were sharing a private moment and I didn’t want to intrude. She was wearing an “Ao Dai” which is considered to be a national costume. It is also used as a traditional wedding dress. Perhaps this couple is there for wedding photography. It would be a beautiful setting.

Temple of Literature

After visiting the Temple of Literature we went across the street and dined at KOTO, a restaurant/training facility that works with street kids. For more information about this humanitarian project please visit my previous post which describes this experience.

All photographs by Ron Mayhew Photography.


About travelerlynne

Traveler. Writer. Retired Educator.Traveling on and off the beaten path with my photographer husband. Volunteering locally as well as in Haiti and Tanzania, an enriching and humbling experience. A sun lover! Shelling, boating, fishing and watching sunsets. Growing mango, banana, key lime,and pineapple.Making smoothies and chutneys. Enjoying family and friends! Savoring each new day!
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43 Responses to Temple of Literature ~ Hanoi

  1. lynnsarda says:

    Interesting commentary….delicious pix

  2. Great post about the Temple of Literature. I also visited here, and it’s interesting to read your short history! I loved all the colors in the Confucius shrine… 🙂

  3. noelleisme says:

    Reblogged this on Psycho Noelle and commented:
    Thanks for posting about our temple of literature Van Mieu-Quoc Tu Giam

  4. Beautiful photos, particularly the one with the young couple.

  5. Fascinating post, Lynne. Isn’t it interesting how old the love of learning is all over the world. And how I love the ao dai, so graceful – the young couple looked so precious in their private moment.

    • So true,,,the love of learning is global. Even if a school is a hut and children write in the sand, it is still an important and vital part of every culture. I, too loved that last picture…of the couple…so tender. Thanks so much for your comment and observations.

  6. Lisaman says:

    I love that first picture of that corridor….wow that royal red colour they use in the East is beautiful!!

    • While in Hanoi, I felt I was surrounded and bathed in this Chinese red. Such an incredible color. The patina on the wood was rich and added to the antique look. Thanks for your comment,Lisa.

  7. Certain places embrace me as in the womb or in a cocoon. I feel that way in many museums, at ancient sites, and sometimes in areas of isolation with nature. It is rare to experience that via web post, but you managed to transport me into the scene, and I felt at peace and in awe.
    What a gift. Thanks, Z

  8. What a lovely comment. To come away with those feelings after reading this post is the ultimate compliment. Thank you for your support and encouragement.

  9. letizia says:

    These are such beautiful photographs, so inspiring.

  10. Thank you Letzia. You are one of the reasons why I decided to write on the Temple of Literature. When you read about the restaurants (KOTO) you were intrigued by the temple that I mentioned. Thanks for spurring me on.

  11. Lucy says:

    I like the little red critter in the corner looking up at the couple’s backs as if to say “what about me?”

  12. Marianne says:

    Wonderful photos and a lovely reminder for me of the Temple of Literature that we visited in Hanoi during February this year. Of all your images, my favourites are the first and last.

    Thank you for sharing them Lynne 🙂

  13. adinparadise says:

    What a lovely place to visit. That last photo is just wonderful. 🙂

  14. Thanks, Sylvia…I love that last photo, too.

  15. I agree that the last photo is beautiful, but all are your usual quality~colorful and wonderful, creating interest and appreciation.

  16. I owe the photography and eye for composition to my husband. We enjoy working together in this manner. Thank you for your kind remarks.

  17. Gigi Galore says:

    Well no wonder you would not emerge from the bookshop in Paris! I am surprised you freed yourself from here! Great Lynne! 🙂

  18. I guess this just shows my nerdy side. 🙂 From the looks of your lovely photos of Paris, I would be content to sit at an outdoor cafe and just people watch.

    • Gigi Galore says:

      Oh yes! And we found the perfect place to do it, accidentally, at Invaldes! And it was Paris fashion week down the road! But they were coming past our cafe, I’m sure. I COULD NOTBEL;EIVE the clothes – honestly. On every age group! Mostly older people. omword!!!! I was in heaven! 🙂

  19. What wonderful narrative from Hanoi, Lynne, and the closing photograph is quite beautiful as well!

  20. Thanks, Tricia. We enjoyed our short time in Hanoi. There were so many people at the Temple of Literature that it made photography difficult.

  21. Wow, they really knew how to respect the arts back then, didn’t they? Thanks for posting on the Temple – my favourite pic is the first 🙂

    • This was an interesting place, that’s for sure. The plaques in honor of each scholar hung over the turtles was so culturally unique. The turtle representing longevity and to me is the symbolic meaning of knowledge…handed down and encouraged forever. Thanks for your comment.:)

  22. vb holmes says:

    I’m an avid vicarious traveler and your posts and Ron’s photos are responsible for the addition of Vietnam to my destination list. Thanks for the inspiration.

  23. Spiritual World Traveler says:

    Love that couple shot!!!!

  24. I love that photo, too. They don’t even know I took it, but it was such a tender moment.

  25. Madhu says:

    A truly beautiful post Lynne, and Ron’s photos are a perfect complement. That last shot of the young couple is brilliant!

  26. Thanks Madhu for your visit and your comment. I am partial to the picture of the young couple. Such a tender moment.

  27. Kavita Joshi says:

    thank you so much for visiting my post

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