Temple of Literature – The First Vietnamese National University

Temple of Literature (Van Mieu in Vietnamese) can be considered to be the birthplace of Vietnam higher education a thousand years ago. It is a must-visit destination for tourists who desire to study the traditional architecture style and the culture of the country. Therefore, let’s discover this outstanding location during your travel to Vietnam.

Things to Do and See in Temple of Literature

Van Mieu is dedicated to Confucius and other important figures related to Confucianism and the temple. As a result, it is possible to contemplate the beauty of Vietnamese ancient architecture, various statues and especially the doctor stelae.

Temple of literature 12“Capture the Light Well”

Van Mieu consists of 6 parts: Giam or Van Lake and 5 courtyards. To the south of Van Mieu, you can visit Giam Lake, an inseparable part of the temple. Visitors will immerse in the peaceful nature around the Lake before stepping in this location.

Temple of literature 11Giam Lake

The first gate called Van Mieu Mon is a sacred structure of the temple. In the past, all the high-born families had to walk on foot through the gates and entered the horse carriage afterward. In the 19th century, a bell was added to Van Mieu Mon to notify a significant person entering. Today, the main gate still retains most of its best features from the past.

Temple of literature 10Van Mieu Mon and The Four Pillars

After passing the gate, you will arrive in the first courtyard and through Dai Trung Mon (Dai Trung Gate), you will reach the second one. Both places have pretty much the same with grass, trees, 2 lakes on the side creating the sacred yet tranquil atmosphere in Van Mieu. You can immediately notice that there are two other gates on the sides of Dai Trung Gate which are Thanh Duc Mon and Dai Tai Mon. 

Temple of literature 9The Gate to the Second Courtyard

After relaxing in the nature of the first and second courtyards, you will reach one of the unique gates in Van Mieu. Khue Van Cac or Khue Van Pavilion has 3 roofs supported by 4 white big pillars. On the top of the pillars, there is a wooden structure painted in crimson color which has 4 circular windows. Two roofs overlapping on each other and overall create the symbols of past-present-future for Khue Van Cac. On the sides, Suc Van Mon and Bi Van Mon represents the beauty of literature at its purest form. 

Temple of literature 7Khue Van Pavilion Up-close

Upon reaching the third courtyard, an extremely well-known destination, Thien Quang Tinh, is opened to your view. The name literary means “Capture the Light Well” symbolizing human collecting all the precious knowledge from the universe. On the side of Thien Quan Tinh, there are two great halls in which Stelae of Doctors are being kept. In around 1485, King Le Thanh Tong ordered to create a series of stelae in the shape of a turtle to honor the graduates. Those 82 stelae are perhaps the most valuable treasures in Temple of literature.

Temple of literature 6Unique Stelae of Doctors

Dai Thanh Gate and smaller ones, Kim thanh Gate and Ngoc Chan Gate, are the boundaries between the fourth courtyard and the previous one. The fourth one is the main part of Van Mieu and consisting of big halls on the side and House of Ceremonies and Thuong Dien. A lot of Confucian figures are worshiped here, including Confucius and his four disciples Yanhui, Mencius, Zisi and Zeng Shen. 

Temple of literature 5A Festival Held in the Fourth Courtyard

The final part of the temple was originally the imperial academy a thousand years ago. However, because the French destroy it during the 1940s, the fifth courtyard had been reconstructed into Thai Hoc courtyard. The most important building is the two-story house which has Chu Van An statue and a collection of Confucian education. The next floor is dedicated to 3 kings who greatly influenced the temple: the founder of Van Mieu, King Ly Thanh Tong; the creator of the imperial academy, King Ly Nhan Tong; and King Le Thanh Tong who decided to honor doctors by turtle stelae. On the rear, there are two small buildings that contain a drum and a bell.

Temple of literature 3The Last Part of Van Mieu

After learning all about the uniqueness of ancient Vietnamese architecture, you can either relax in the splendid nature of Van Mieu or venture to the gift shops and museum in the temple. If you arrive in special events or lunar new year, you will be able to ask calligraphists for wishes written in Han characters. 

Temple of literature 2Local Asking for Wishes

What Not to Do and the Best Time to Visit Temple of Literature

The simple rules such as damaging the relics, drawing on the wall and wooden pillars in the temple are strictly not allowed. Other than that, be careful of what you are wearing as no short skirts and such clothes recommended. Van Mieu is also not free for adults to enter and the fee is about 30.000 VND (1.5 $). At the altar or exhibits area, remember to take off your hat and avoid smoking at all cost.

Temple of literature 1Hundred People in Van Mieu during Lunar New Year

It depends on your preference when deciding to visit temple of literature. If you prefer peaceful moment to contemplate the beauty of Van Mieu, then we advise you to arrive in any time of the year except lunar new year, graduation time (from November to January). Otherwise, we strongly recommend you to visit at those times if you want to see the culture of Vietnamese people and take pictures of graduates wearing traditional clothes such as Ao Dai, though it will be extremely crowded.