If you come to Hanoi, it will be a miss if you don’t pay its historical sites a visit. The Temple of Literature is a well-preserved traditional architecture work which is absolutely worth seeing in case you want to find more about the history of not only this city but also the ancient culture of the country.
Located near the Old Quarter in Hanoi, it takes 10 minutes to go to Temple of Literature from Hoan Kiem Lake. It was established 1000 years ago, in 1070 under the dynasty of Ly Thanh Tong. In the first place, it was built to show dedication to Confucius and later to honor prestige scholars and sages in Vietnam. Later on, King Ly Nhan Tong kept expanding the site and turned it into the first university of Vietnam. This was the venue where classes, ceremonies related to studying and the national strict exams gathering the studied took place in the past. Before being opened to all studious people in the country, this place was initially for only elite class, those coming from the royal family with the noble background. Located to the South of the Thang Long Imperial Citadel the site includes a variety of halls, statues, gravestone, etc which has been one of the top visiting places in Hanoi.
What to do and see
The overall setting of the temple is similar to one in Qufu, Shangdong where Confucius was born. The site stretches in the area of over 50,000 square meters surrounded by brick walls. Lying inside are the Van Lake, Giam Park and five yards each of which possesses its own architecture pattern as well as history. Starting from the Great Gate, visitors may catch sight of three paths which will be throughout the whole site. The path in the middle is the way for Kings while the other two are for administrative and military mandarins respectively from left to right. Above the gate is a bell which was used to notice when the monarch or other important mandarins were coming. The bell, touched by monks only, bears the typical patterns representing King and Queen which can be found in any pagodas around the country. Coming inside the complex, visitors immediately feel an ambiance of tranquility of the first two yards which are full of tree and carefully-trimmed lawn. The first zone stretching from the main gate to Dai Trung has two smaller gates called Dai Tai Gate and Thanh Duc Gate. The Second zone has a famous pavilion called Khue Van where poem competition used to take place in the ancient time.
. Nowadays, Khue Van Cac becomes the symbol of Hanoi with icons of this pavilion on all street signs in the city. Khue Van is a unique architectural work built under the Dynasty of Nguyen which has 2 floors and 4 white stone pillars. The top of the work is painted in red with two circle window and a sophisticatedly-designed roof. Besides Khue Van Pavilion, there are two gates known as Suc Van Gate and Bi Van Gate built in the dedication of literature. After passing Khue Van Cac, visitors enter the third yard featuring a square lake called Thien Quang. On either side of the lake are halls which are home to the most precious and honorable relic of the temple. It is undoubtedly the stone steles built above stone turtles which have on its names, hometowns of 1306 prestige scholars who were awarded doctorates during the period of 1480 and 1780. This zone is like the soul of the whole complex where nowadays many students from all over the country come to rub the head of the turtles because they believe it would bring them more luck in their exams. The fourth yards can be entered through Dai Thanh Gate which hosts the House of Ceremonies and High Temple (Thuong Dien) with altars of Confucius and his major disciples. The final section, the fifth yard is where students did their studying and nationwide candidates took their exams. This zone has a statue of Chu Van An, a famous scholar in Vietnam and the headmaster of the academy.
The visit to Temple of Literature is at almost all times combined with the trip to the capital city of Hanoi. The place is open from 8:30 am to 4:30 am every day but National Holidays. The entrance fee to the complex is very cheap, around just one dollar. It is recommended visitor come to Temple of Literature during the time prior to and after Tet holiday since the surroundings would become really colorful with red paper and men in traditional customs of Vietnam writing Han letters on those papers as a lucky sign for New Year.
How to get there
It takes about 10 minutes from Hoan Kiem Lake to this site by taxis or buses. For brave people who want to feel the uniquely chaotic atmosphere on the street in Hanoi, “xe om” is a good option. Otherwise, ones can hire motorbike and ride on their own if they really have guts for being in the middle of traffic flow in Hanoi.
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