Temple of Literature

Five sacred courtyards, each with a unique history, honorary inscriptions and manicured gardens, revere Confucius and the country’s best scholars.

The Temple of Literature, known as Van Mieu, has honored Vietnam’s intellectual elite for centuries. Originally a university dedicated to Confucius, this historic temple pays homage to the philosopher and the many intellectuals who have contributed to building Vietnam’s scholarly culture. The grounds have a tranquil air, providing a welcome escape from the bustle of the city. Admire the traditional architecture, relax in the gardens and marvel at the historic stelae (honorary inscriptions).

The temple was built in 1070 during the Ly dynasty. When it was first established, only people of noble birth were admitted to the grounds. In 1442 the university opened its doors to receive talented students from across the country. In the 15th century the emperor Le Thanh Thong had commemorative inscriptions made for all who were given a doctorate. Today 82 stelae for 1,307 laureates remain.

Five courtyards reflect the different eras of Vietnamese architecture. Pass by eight tall stelae before entering the first courtyard where you'll see the Great Portico. Walk under the Great Heavenly Gate to the second yard where the 200-year-old Khue Van Cac pavilion stands. This opens to the third yard, known as the Garden of the Stelae. Here see tombstones with the names of honorary doctors. Relax by the Well of Heavenly Clarity and view the inscriptions in the halls.

Confucius is honored in the Courtyard of the Sage. Another well-known teacher, Chu Van An, is also honored and 72 students are recognized. A temple replica and historic photographs are in the fifth yard. In this final courtyard, Thai Hoc, see Vietnam’s first university.

Access the Temple of Literature by taxi or walk there easily from Ba Dinh Square. It is open daily, from morning until afternoon, with the exception of Monday, and is closed during lunch hours. There is an entrance fee. Much of the information is written in Vietnamese, so bring a guidebook or book a tour to fully appreciate the complex.