Temple of Literature in Hanoi – Quoc Tu Giam

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Temple of Literature in Hanoi – Quoc Tu Giam

Temple of Literature in Hanoi – Quoc Tue Giam and the Four Pillars gateway.

Temple of Literature in Hanoi – Quoc Tue Giam and the Four Pillars gateway.

VIETNAM EDUCATION MEMORIAL | Sharon Henry

The Temple of Literature in Hanoi aka Quoc Tue Giam is an excellent place to visit for respite when the bustle of the Vietnam capital becomes overwhelming. It’s one of the best, cool things to do in Hanoi – literally. The temple is dedicated to Confucius the philosopher and is popular with Vietnamese students seeking good luck blessings.

Getting around in Hanoi is easy and one of the many things we love about the city is most tourist attractions are within walking distance of Hoan Kiem Lake and the Old Quarter. From our hotel the Temple of Literature was a 15 minute walk through scooters, street vendors and skinny buildings.

That cacophony of street life in Hanoi, however, seemed to magically evaporate upon entering the temple’s gateway, which led into a leafy courtyard, and seemingly another world. It’s a fine example of Vietnamese architecture with a Chinese influence.

See details below for the Temple of Literature opening hours, entrance fee and dress code.

First University In Vietnam

From the onset you can’t help feeling a sense of awe that 1,000 years ago, before some countries were even discovered, Vietnam was building its first university. The Temple of Literature in Hanoi was constructed in 1070 and is one of Vietnam’s most significant historic sites with stone steles relics recognised by UNESCO.

It was originally the National University in Hanoi, Vietnam which began in 1076 under the Ly dynasty and further developed in the 15th century under the reign of the Le dynasty. It was the biggest educational centre in Vietnam under the feudal regime and trained thousands of scholars.

 

Temple of Literature Hanoi. The 'Great Middle Gate' leads to the second garden courtyard.

Temple of Literature Hanoi. The ‘Great Middle Gate’ leads to the second garden courtyard.

 

The ornate 'Khue Van Pavillion' leads onto the 'Well of Heavenly Clarity.'

The ornate ‘Khue Van Pavillion’ leads onto the ‘Well of Heavenly Clarity.’

 

Temple of Literature In Hanoi

Students first admitted to the Quoc Tu Giam in 1076, were of royalty and the aristocracy (Mandarins). They were taught Confucianism the ‘ethical behaviour of a gentleman,’ a theory founded by Chinese philosopher, Confucius to whom the temple is dedicated. Courses covered literature, poetry, calligraphy and mathematics and the exams were said to be notoriously difficult.

The university closed in 1779 and is now a memorial to education and literature. A part of the Vietnamese youth culture is students often travel here from across the country for good luck blessings before taking their exams.  Preferring not to rely purely on study and revision!

We realised from our first day in Hanoi, speaking to the many young people who approached us to practise English, that Vietnamese people hold education in high regard.

Amongst our fellow visitors to the Temple that day were families with young children, perhaps instilling from an early age the value of education.

 

Vietnamese students arrive for traditional good luck blessings at the Quoc Tu Giam. They brought contrasting colourful balloons. Excellent for photographs.

Vietnamese students arrive for traditional good luck blessings at the Quoc Tu Giam. They brought contrasting colourful balloons. Excellent for photographs.

 

These girls dressed in matching white traditional costume kindly allowed to take a photo.

These girls dressed in matching white traditional costume kindly allowed to take a photo.

 

Young Vietnamese couple posing for photos in the Temple of Literature wearing traditional dress, possibly on a pre wedding photoshoot.

Young Vietnamese couple posing for photos in the Temple of Literature wearing traditional dress, possibly on a pre wedding photoshoot.

 

Good Luck Blessings For Exam Results

The day we visited a group of Vietnamese students arrived bearing a colourful bunch of balloons that contrasted beautifully with the white, traditional Aoi Dai dresses the girls were wearing. Perfect for photographs which they happily posed for before being bestowed a blessing. Their exuberance was infectious and we felt it was own our good luck blessing to have seen them.

We were also lucky to see a young Vietnamese couple possibly there for a pre-wedding photo shoot, and snuck in a few shots of our own. Both were wearing traditional dress, very fitting to their surroundings, they made a lovely picture.

The Stone Stelea Tortoise Shells

The temple has five courtyards each with its own ornate entrance and we leisurely traversed one to the next. The centre section features a pond called the ‘Well of Heavenly Clarity,’ which funnily enough was full of murky water. It’s featured on the 100,000 dong note.

Flanked on either side are rows of stone tortoise sculptures stood under pagodas. The tortoise is considered sacred to the Vietnamese. We’re quite partial to them ourselves, given our 184 year old much loved Jonathan the tortoise on St Helena.

 

There are a total of 82 stelae in the Hanoi, Temple of Literature, each etched with the names and birthplaces of 1,307 graduates of the 82 exams that took place between 1442 and 1779. The stelae was introduced in 1484.

There are a total of 82 stelae in the Hanoi, Temple of Literature, each etched with the names and birthplaces of 1,307 graduates of the 82 exams that took place between 1442 and 1779. The stelae was introduced in 1484.

 

The tortoise is sacred in Vietnam and symbolises wisdom and longevity. The placement of the stelae or tablets shows everlasting respect to talent.

The tortoise is sacred in Vietnam and symbolises wisdom and longevity. The placement of the stelae or tablets shows everlasting respect to talent.

 

A gold plated, ceramic tortoise (God of the holy tortoise) in a glass case inside the Temple of Literature.

A gold plated, ceramic tortoise (God of the holy tortoise) in a glass case inside the Temple of Literature.

 

The Well of Heavenly Clarity features on the 100,000 dong money note.

The Well of Heavenly Clarity features on the 100,000 dong money note.

 

Festival Flag of the Five Elements

In Vietnam tortoises, dragons, unicorns and phoenixes are the country’s four holy creatures that symbolises power, wisdom and longevity.

There are 82 stone tortoises in total around the Well of Heavenly Clarity. On the back of each one are ‘stelae’ or tablets engraved with the names and birthplaces of 1,307 graduates who earned doctorates here between 1442–1779. The stelae was introduced in 1484.

It used to be custom for students to rub these tortoises’ heads for good luck, but today in the name of preservation the practice is now discouraged.

Swaying over the pond were two gigantic flags, the Vietnam flag and a colourful, square one we had noticed throughout the city. We’ve since found out the striking concentric design is the festival flag of the Five Elements, which is hung at places of historic or cultural interest. Each colour represents the elements of wood, fire, metal, earth and water; basis of the universe according to ancient Chinese philosophy.

The distinctive Vietnamese flag and the festival flag of the Five Elements flutters over the Well of Heavenly Clarity. To the left and right are the rows of stelae of doctors.

The distinctive Vietnamese flag and the festival flag of the Five Elements flutters over the Well of Heavenly Clarity. To the left and right are the rows of stelae of doctors.

 

Gift shop brimming with bright colourful wares and educational keepsakes.

Gift shop brimming with bright colourful wares and educational keepsakes.

 

Masks on sale inside the Temple gift shop - Hanoi, Vietnam.

Masks on sale inside the Temple gift shop – Hanoi, Vietnam.

 

Each courtyard has a grand gateway with names to match, this is the Gate of Great Synthesis leading into the Sage Sanctuary.

Each courtyard has a grand gateway with names to match, this is the Gate of Great Synthesis leading into the Sage Sanctuary.

 

The crane on the back of the tortoise is the symbol of longevity. The tortoise is believed to live ten thousand years, and the crane one thousand years; thus, the presence of this symbol means, "May you be remembered for one thousand years, and May your cult endure for ten thousand years."

The crane on the back of the tortoise is the symbol of longevity. The tortoise is believed to live ten thousand years, and the crane one thousand years; thus, the presence of this symbol means, “May you be remembered for one thousand years, and May your cult endure for ten thousand years.”

 

Incense sticks burning under the watchful gaze of a pair of dragons. Dragons are one of Vietnam's holy creatures along with tortoises, unicorns and phoenixes.

Incense sticks burning under the watchful gaze of a pair of dragons. Dragons are one of Vietnam’s holy creatures along with tortoises, unicorns and phoenixes.

 

Flowering bonsai tree in the 'Sage Sanctuary' courtyard.

Flowering bonsai tree in the ‘Sage Sanctuary’ courtyard.

 

Missed The End

The ‘Sage Sanctuary’ follows next. A spacious, “red” courtyard; red pillars, roofs, lanterns and decor. If you close your eyes it’s easy to imagine scholars of yore assembled here, studious and obedient in becoming model gentlemen.

Across the courtyard we found the, ‘Great House of Ceremonies’ where a bearded statue of Confucius the Philosopher sits in the company of four of his disciples. Altars to each have offerings of flowers, confectionery and money where people stand to pray. There was a hush about the place and coils of incense added a haze to the temple’s reverent atmosphere. Like the rest of the complex it was extremely photogenic.

At that point we thought we had come to the end of the temple grounds but apparently we missed the last courtyard to Thai Hoc, not realising until later. We hadn’t noticed any obvious entrance to that section. Although, by then the midday heat had taken its toll and we were pooped.

We headed back through the cooling garden courtyards and gathered our wits before stepping out of the temple’s sanctuary back onto the mêlée of Hanoi.

Opening Hours, Entrance Fee & Dress Code

The Temple of Literature entrance fee costs 30,000 VND (less than 1 British pound). Children under 15 have free entry. There are a few interpretation boards in English dotted around and an information brochure is also available which includes a map – use it wisely unlike us!

The dress code is conservative, be respectful that it is a place of worship.  No shorts, miniskirts, or tank tops.

Opening hours: 7.30am to 6pm during summer (April to October), 8am to 6pm in winter (October to April).  Open every day except Monday and national holidays.

The entrance is on Quoc Tu Giam street, adjacent to Van Meiu street and Ton Doc Thang street.

If you’re looking for cool things to do, the Temple of Literature in Hanoi gets a thumbs up from us. Don’t forget your camera.

 

The Temple is dedicated to Confucius and his sages and scholars and is a place of worship and a memorial to education and literature in Vietnam.

The Temple is dedicated to Confucius and his sages and scholars and is a place of worship and a memorial to education and literature in Vietnam.

 

Darrin paying respects to the ancient scholars. Confucianism's most important contribution lies in making feudal society orderly and lawful by teaching people how to behave and educate themselves and take responsibility for their family and society. Quoc Tu Giam (Temple of Literature) Hanoi, Vietnam.

Darrin paying respects to the ancient scholars. Confucianism’s most important contribution lies in making feudal society orderly and lawful by teaching people how to behave and educate themselves and take responsibility for their family and society. Quoc Tu Giam (Temple of Literature) Hanoi, Vietnam.

 

Offerings on the altars in the 'Great House of Ceremonies' presided over by the bearded statue of Confucius.

Offerings on the altars in the ‘Great House of Ceremonies’ presided over by the bearded statue of Confucius.

 

Chinese philosopher, Confucius to whom the temple is dedicated. He founded Confucianism, which in brief is the theory on ethical behaviour of a gentleman: educating the self, organising the family, governing the state, and ruling all nations. Quoc Tu Giam (Temple of Literature) Hanoi, Vietnam.

Chinese philosopher, Confucius to whom the temple is dedicated. He founded Confucianism, which in brief is the theory on ethical behaviour of a gentleman: educating the self, organising the family, governing the state, and ruling all nations.
Quoc Tu Giam (Temple of Literature) Hanoi, Vietnam.

 

Us inside the Sage Sanctuary of the Temple of Literature in Hanoi. We couldn't resist a selfie!

Us inside the Sage Sanctuary of the Temple of Literature in Hanoi. We couldn’t resist a selfie!

By |2018-10-18T04:47:29+00:00March 8th, 2016|Culture, Tourist Attraction, Vietnam|4 Comments

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4 Comments

  1. Lorraine Peters March 13, 2016 at 10:52 am - Reply

    Travelling to Hanoi soon thanks for beautiful pictures and info on the Temple of Literature

    • Saints March 15, 2016 at 2:13 am - Reply

      Excellent we’re so envious! Hanoi is one of our favourite cities. Hope you have a great time and enjoy it as much as we did.

  2. Georgina Benjamin March 8, 2016 at 10:20 pm - Reply

    Extremely interesting

    • Saints March 9, 2016 at 1:02 am - Reply

      It really is Georgina and mind boggling that it’s so old. St Helena had to wait another 500 years just to be discovered!

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