The historic Temple of Literature in Hanoi is a large Confucius temple that houses the Imperial Academy, and it was here where the Vietnamese language was born.
I was fascinated to have a little look around this 1000 year old temple, which itself is just south of Thang Long Citadel. I only had time to check one of these attractions out, so I chose the Temple of Literature as I felt it was going to be more interesting. I was very happy with my decision – and I even saw some monks! Most certainly the oldest part of Hanoi, the temple is situated in very large grounds, and there are manicured gardens, a huge lake, and a handful of courtyards, with the all important pavilions and temples located within. The layout of the temple complex did kind of remind of the Forbidden City in Beijing, whereby you are entering one courtyard after another before you reach the centre.
The red of the interior of the Temple of Literature was a nice contrast to the greenery outside. It made for a very colourful morning’s visit, and was probably the most impressive temple or pagoda that visited in Hanoi. In fact, the temple is so revered these days that it’s featured on the back of a 100,000 Dong banknote. I noticed many stone steles scattered around the interior of the temple, and there were names engraved on these steles to commemorate the successful students who passed their royal exams. The most impressive part of the complex were the altar of Confucius and his disciples (this was called Van Mieu).
The gardens in the Temple of Literature were amazing, and as I was slowly walking around I was imagining what it must have been like to have been a member of the Mandarin bureaucracy 1000 years ago and sitting on these lawns or under a pagoda and reading under the spotlight of Confucius himself.
I’d really recommend a quick visit to this Confucius temple to everybody who has some spare time in Hanoi. After some shopping in the Old Quarter and a relaxing stroll around Hoan Kiem Lake, a visit to a temple like this provides a nice change of scene. Entrance to the Temple of Literature is 20,000 Dong (around 70p in UK money, I think) – but beware that it is closed every Monday.