The Temple of Literature is about 10 minutes away from Hoan Kiem lake. It was constructed in 1070 under Ly Thanh Tong’s dynasty, first to honor Confucius and nowadays to celebrate the doctorates and high rank scholars of Vietnam. In 1076, King Ly Nhan Tong continued the work and built Quoc Tu Giam as the first university of Vietnam.
The temple is divided into five court yard, each with its own significance and history. The first courtyard stretches from the main gate to Dai Trung gate; the second stands out with Khue Van Cac pavilion. If you notice well, you will find the pavilion symbol on all street signs of Hanoi. The third courtyard is where doctor names was listed on a tombstone above tortoise backs.
There are a total of 82 tombstones, with names and origins of 1307 doctors, corresponding to 82 examination courses from 1442 to 1779. If you visit the temple at the beginning of the year or in May when many important examinations take place, you will catch sights of numerous students who come and rub the tortoise head. Such an act is believed to bring them luck to pass the test.
The fourth courtyard is dedicated for Confucius and his 72 honoured students, as well as Chu Van An- a famous teachers known for his devotion to teaching. This is also where local authorities choose to cherish brilliant students in Hanoi, like those with top entrance results to university or top graduation outcomes. The last and also furthest courtyard is Thai Hoc house, which used to be Quoc Tu Giam- the first university of Vietnam. Thai Hoc house holds a small collection of old time costumes for students and mandarins, as well as explaining the process of taking and passing the national examination.
If you are keen on architecture, Temple of literature has one of the most typical architecture style for centuries in Vietnam, composed of wood and tiles. Along the pass way is hundred-year-old trees that have witnessed ups and downs of history.
The entrance fee for the complex is 10,000 VND (about 50 US cents). Opening hours: 8:30 to 11:30 and 13:30 to 16:30 everyday except Monday and national holidays.