Extensive new measures have been introduced in a bid to preserve and develop the historical stone steles at Hanoi 's Temple of Literature.

The three-year project was announced by the Scientific and Cultural Centre of the Temple of Literature , who highlighted the great importance of protecting the invaluable steles which commemorate doctors and scholars from the Le to Nguyen dynasties (1442-1779).

Nguyen Van Tu, chief of the research unit at the centre, said that there will be an annual renovation of the steles to protect them against degradation and vandalism.

He highlighted the damage currently affecting the turtle statues, upon which commemorative stone slabs mounted. It has become a habit of Vietnamese visitors, in particular young people, to touch the heads of the turtles for good luck during the lunar new year or in examination periods. This causes long term damage to the memorials.

New restricted areas have been introduced to combat this problem and display panels have been placed to present information about the 82 steles, which were recognised as being part of the world's documentary heritage by UNESCO in 2010.

Tu said that as part of the project the beauty of the monuments will be enhanced by the introduction of ornamental plants and repairs to surrounding fences and doors. The centre is also set to improve the environmental sanitation of the temple to make it more welcoming for visitors.

The Temple of Literature , built during the reign King Ly Nhan Tong in 1070, is one of several temples in the country that honour Confucius, along with sages and scholars. It is also the location of the " Imperial Academy " (Quoc Tu Giam), Vietnam 's first national university.

Nowadays, the temple is a popular site with both locals and foreign visitors and is the site for many of Hanoi 's cultural and educational activities. It has welcomed over 700,000 tourists since the beginning of the year, 60 percent of them hailing from abroad.-VNA