Temple of Literature

Top choice confucian temple in Hanoi
Image by Kimberley Coole / Getty Images

A rare example of well-preserved traditional Vietnamese architecture, the Temple of Literature honours Vietnam’s finest scholars. Founded in 1070 by Emperor Le Thanh Tong, the attractive complex is dedicated to the Qufu-born philosopher Confucius (Khong Tu) and was the site of Vietnam’s first university, Quoc Tu Giam (1076). The altars are popular with students praying for good grades, while the halls, ponds and gardens of the five courtyards make picturesque backdrops for student graduation photos. It is depicted on the 100,000d note.

Originally university admission was exclusively for those born of noble families, but after 1442 it became more egalitarian. Gifted students from all over the nation headed to Hanoi to study the principles of Confucianism, literature and poetry. In 1484 Emperor Ly Thanh Tong ordered that stelae be erected to record the names, places of birth and achievements of exceptional scholars: 82 of 116 stelae remain standing, mostly atop turtle statues. Paths lead from the imposing tiered gateway on P Quoc Tu Giam through formal gardens to the Khue Van pavilion, constructed in 1802.