The Temple Of Literature
The Temple of Literature was built in 1070 under Emperor Ly Thanh Tong’s reign, in honor of Confucius, his followers and Chu Van An, a key figure in Vietnamese education.
It opened in 1076 as Vietnam’s first university, first catering to students from affluent families but eventually broadening its admittance criteria to include students of all socioeconomic backgrounds who demonstrated exceptional ability.
The Temple of Literature is almost entirely constructed from wood and tiles, making it a particularly well-preserved example of traditional Vietnamese architecture. The 100,000 Vietnamese Dong bill has an image of this famous Hanoi landmark.
There are five separate courtyards within the temple, all of which are adorned with century-old trees that have seen Hanoi through its many changes. Pagodas, altars, ponds, gardens, and tombstones can all be found on the grounds. Stelae erected atop turtle statues depict the names, places of birth and achievements of exceptional scholars.
If you visit the temple in the beginning of the year or in May, essentially during exam season, you will observe countless students come solely to rub the heads of turtles—an act believed to bring them luck to pass their exams. They congregate at the shrines in hopes of gaining favorable outcomes and do so by praying. After exam season, you will find many students taking their graduation photos here.
Tran Quoc Pagoda
Tran Quoc Pagoda, set on an islet within West Lake is one of the oldest pagodas in the whole of Vietnam—built during the reign of Emperor Ly Nam De (541–547AD) (541–547AD). Surrounded by luxuriant foliage, this pagoda was a favorite among the monarchs and royal families for festivals, full moons and Tet festivals.
The main stupa of the pagoda is made up of 11 levels and stands at about 50 feet tall (15 meters) (15 meters). On the top is a nine-story lotus and a gemstone. Incense-filled homes, a Buddhist temple, and a museum filled with precious artifacts dating back hundreds or possibly a thousand years surround the stupa.
As a site of worship, you are urged to dress conservatively out of respect for the monks and residents.
One Pillar Pagoda
One Pillar Pagoda was once known as Dien Huu Pagoda, which literally translates to “long lasting happiness and good luck.” This iconic temple was built by Emperor Ly Thai Tong in 1049 as a tribute Buddha. Legend goes that childless Emperor Ly Thai Tong had a dream one night in which the enlightened being Avalokiteshvara gave him a baby son reclining on a lotus flower.
As a tribute, he built the pagoda to resemble this lotus flower, and also placed a shrine to Goddess Quan Am, the Goddess of Mercy, following the birth of his son.
This square-shaped wooden pagoda is built on a single stone pillar—thus resembling a blossoming lotus flower. Over the years, the pagoda has been renovated and restored several times over the Dynasties of Tran, late Le and Nguyen. The last renovation was after the French Union soldiers demolished the pagoda in 1954, before departing from Vietnam following the First Indochina War.
Ngoc Son Temple
Because of its convenient location in the heart of Hanoi, Ngoc Son Temple is likely the city’s most frequented religious site. It is built on Ngoc Son Islet, located in the most beautiful lake of the city: Hoan Kiem Lake. The islet is connected by a gorgeous scarlet painted bridge of classical Vietnamese style. The lake, and the bridge connecting to the temple, make an extremely photogenic sight.
During the nineteenth century, the lake was the site of Ngoc Son Temple, which honors Vietnamese literary and intellectual luminaries like Van Xuong and Tran Hung Dao as well as the patron saint of doctors, La To.
Perfume Pagoda Buddhist Temple
It is thought that the Perfume Pagoda was built in the 15th century, however folklore indicates that elements may have been around for about 2000 years. It is a complex of Buddhist temples built into a mountain range in a maze of alleyways carved into the limestone rock, with luxuriant forests, caves and flowing streams with tropical vegetation spread around.
There are many pagodas around, each with a different shrine. Vong Temple, Thuyet Kinh Cave, and Thien Son Pagoda are some of the more notable landmarks. It’s a long way to the complex from here. The Perfume Pagoda is located 37 miles (60 kilometers) south of Hanoi, in the Son Mountains.
First is a two-hour journey on road, and then you must take a boat ride through a narrow flowing stream fringed by rice fields, temples and grass, to the foot of the mountains. To get to the Perfume Pagoda, it is an uphill hike of around an hour, and things might get slippery, so make sure you wear good footwear!