As a culturally significant city in Asia, Hanoi boasts a number of cultural and historical sites across the city. One of them is Quan Thanh Temple (also known as Tran Vu Temple), located adjacent to the dreamy West Lake. Only a 15-minute drive from the Old Quarter, Quan Thanh Temple is yet another indispensable attraction for an authentic, wholly Hanoi experience.
1. History of Quan Thanh Temple
Legend has it that Quan Thanh Temple was built during the reign of Emperor Ly Thai To (reigned 1010 1028). In 1010, the emperor decided to move the capital city from Hoa Lu (Ninh Binh) to Thang Long (the former name of Hanoi). To celebrate the new establishment, as well as the birth of a prince not long after, Quan Thanh Temple was erected.
The temple was dedicated to Tran Vu, Deity of the North in Taoism, whose symbols of power are a serpent and a turtle. Along with other three temples in Hanoi, the four are called The Four Sacred Temples (Thang Long Tu Tran), which protects the city from evil spirits. Each of the four are located in a different direction and worships a different deity: Tran Vu Deity in the north (Quan Thanh Temple), Bach Ma Deity in the east (Bach Ma Temple), Linh Lang Deity in the west (Voi Phuc Temple) and Cao Vuong Deity in the south (Kim Lien Temple).
In Hanoi, there is a different, smaller Quan Thanh Temple in Gia Lam District.
2. Architecture of Quan Thanh Temple
During its history, Quan Thanh Temple was renovated many times, most significantly in 1893 when the principal gate and the shrine were redone. Hosting a mixture of architectural styles, Quan Thanh Temple still stands as one of the most iconic architectural designs in Hanoi.
Quan Thanh Temple’s architectural style is said to be heavily influenced by Buddhism, the most popular religion when it was originally built, while Taoism and Confucianism competed for the second position. Seeing through a lot of ups and downs, the remaining architectural features resemble the Nguyen Dynasty’s architectural styles.
The gate features the prevailing architectural patterns from the imperial era, with one primary door in the middle and two smaller doors on the sides. Passing through the gate, tourists will find a spacious yard shaded by a giant banyan tree, a layout typically found in Vietnamese temples and pagodas. The main house hosts the display of statues and carvings, as well as the shrines.
3. Highlights of Quan Thanh Temple
In 1677, during the reign of King Le Hy Tong, artisans from the nearby village of Ngu Xa offered Quan Thanh temple a magnificent black-bronze statue of Tran Vu Deity, which is currently the second largest in Vietnam. The statue is measured 3.96 meters in height and weighs around 3,600 kilograms. The Deity is depicted along with his two symbolic animals, the serpent and the turtle. The statue reflects the advanced bronze casting techniques of Vietnamese artisans in the 17th century and remains the main draw in Quan Thanh Temple till the current day.
Another remarkable relic in the temple is an enormous bronze bell, measuring upto 1.15 meters. Both the statue and the bell were creations of a master craftsman Trum Trong, whose statue was later carved by his students and placed in Quan Thanh Temple in honor of him. Also, a number of ancient texts such as poems and duilians dating from the 17th and 18th century can also be found. Copies of Chinese ancient scripts (“chu Han”) and Vietnamese ancient scripts (“chu Nom”) are both available.
After each restoration, a stele was kept for the record. The most recent was made by viceroy Hoang Cao Khai in 1894 during the reign of Thanh Thai Emperor within the French colonial era.
4. What to See and Do in Quan Thanh Temple
Most locals come here during Tet festival to pray for a new year of good luck, health and excellent academic results. They also come on the first and 15th day of the month (according to the lunar calendar) to worship and devote offerings.
In the courtyard a brick oven was built for people to burn fake paper money. It is widely believed in Vietnam that the burned money will go to their ancestors.
Foreign tourists often go around to admire the wondrous architecture, wooden carvings and bronze statues in the temple. Touring around and taking photos are the most common activities. A visit to the temple takes one hour at maximum.
After visiting the temple, tourists can reach a lakeside restaurant serving the traditional “banh tom” (fried shrimp cakes) and a small stall serving ice cream, only a short walk away. Tran Quoc Pagoda is right opposite to the temple, and yet another notable historical site of Hanoi.
5. How to Get to Quan Thanh Temple?
Quan Thanh Temple is situated at the corner of Thanh Nien and Quan Thanh Street, facing West Lake and Tran Quoc Pagoda. It’s close to the North Gate of Hanoi and the old Imperial Citadel of Thang Long.
From the Old Quarter, it will take about 15 minutes to travel by car or motorbike. Its convenient location draws both local and foreign tourists to come enjoying the tranquil beauty of West Lake, tasting the popular Ho Tay ice cream and admiring the ancient architecture of Quan Thanh Temple and Tran Quoc Pagoda.
6. Tips on Visiting Quan Thanh Temple
As a local sacred place, you are recommended to dress properly for a visit. Cover your limbs and avoid all transparent clothing, just to be safe. Also, you’re advised against being too loud or running about within the temple. “When in Rome, do as the Romans do” just imitate the locals and pay respect to the holy atmosphere.
If you’re seeking a quiet moment to admire the Eastern culture and history, Quan Thanh Temple is an ideal destination. It’s conveniently located and surrounded by a number of other exciting sightseeings. Come and experience this age-old temple in the heart of Hanoi yourself.
Keyword: Quan Thanh Temple – Sacred Temple of Hanoi