Hue City :
The provincial capital of Thua Thien Hue is
one of the several ancient imperial capitals in the country, which has
been kept almost intact until today. The great value of the ancient
imperial city of Hue has been known world-wide thanks to the royal
architectural complex which has been blended to match with local the
magnificent mountain and landscapes covered with many beautiful forests
and gardens grown along the banks of Huong River. The royal architectural
complex in dedication to the 13 Nguyen Kings includes clusters of royal
palaces, citadels, temples, shrines, pagodas, mausoleums. If there is any
attempt to compare the magnificence and beauty of Ha Long Bay in the
Tonkin Gulf and the ancient imperial city of Hue it can be said that the
beauty of Ha Long bay is the gift offered by nature whereas the
magnificence of Hue is the greatest man-made work of arts ever existed in
Vietnam. The whole royal complex of Hue has been Officially
recognized by UNESCO as an item listed in the World Heritage.
In addition Hue city has been
one of the several cradles of folk music in the country and regionally
reputed for the many special cuisine which were exclusively served at
Hue Royal City :
Construction for the Hue royal city started
in 1805 under the reign of King Gia Long and was completed in 1832 under
the reign pf King Minh Mang. The city was built in an enclose of 5.2 sq.
kilometers on the northern bank of the Huong (Perfume) river.
As far as architecture is
concerned, the royal city of Hue was built in the style of the French
military architect Vauban in combination with an Oriental palace
architecture. The city has three perimeters of rampart : the defensive
fort, the Imperial Enclosure and the forbidden Purple City (Tu Cam Thanh).
The defensive fort:
This is the outermost boundary with a circumference of 9, 950 meters. The
fort has 10 gates opened to road travellers and two gates for water
routes. It is 21 meters thick and equipped with 24 embrasures.
Enclosure (Hoang Thanh): The Imperial Enclosure
is the second perimeter of rampart which has a second name known as Dai
Noi. The fort with a perimeter of 2, 450 meters is accessible through four
gates : Ngo Mon (Noon Gate) to the south, Hoa Binh (Peace) to the north,
Hien Nhon to the east and Chuong Duc to the west, Ngo Mon is the main
entrance gate of the royal city. Formerly it was reserved only for the
passage of the kings. This is among the few ancient architectural projects
which remain almost intact.
Purple city (Tu Cam Thanh): This is the third
and the innermost fort of the royal complex. The for with a perimeters of
1,225 meters is accessible through seven gates. This was the place
reserved for the private life of the kings and their families. The
forbidden Purple City is almost isolated with the outside world.
Inside the three high ramparts
and deep moats are located a large cluster of smaller architectural
projects. All these projects were built around a main axis running from
north to south. The northernmost structure is Ky Dai (the flag tower). It
is followed by Ngo Mon Gate, Dai Trieu Nghi Yard, Thai Hoa Palace, Khon
Thai Palace, Kien Trung Palace, and the last structure in a row is Hoa
Binh (Peace) Gate. The remaining structures are located equally on either
side of the axis.
The main architectural
projects are as follow :
This is a major architectural structure which is 58 meters long, 27.5
meters wide and 17 meters high. The structure has three storeys and serves
as the main entrance to the royal city.
There are five gates to Ngo
Mon with the central gate being reserved for the kings only. It is 4.2
meters high and 3.7 meters wide. The two adjacent gates on both sides of
the central gate are exclusively for court officials. The other two outer
gates are used for servants and member so the royal entourage. On top of
the arch is Five phoenix Tower which was formerly the place where the king
was also the place where ceremonies were organized to announce the names
of laureated candidates from royal examinations before those names were
put on the notice board hanged on the Phu Van Lau (Phu Vawn tower).
In the reign of the Nguyen
kings the Ngo Mon Gate was opened only when the kings were passing by or
the kings receved foreign ambassadors.
Thai Hoa Palace :
Thai Hoa Palace (the Palace of Supreme Peace) was built in 1805 in the
style of architectural designs made for the construction of the other
structures like shrines, palaces and mausoleums in the imperial city of
Hue in the 19th century. The size of the structure is about 1,300 sq.
meters. The main hall is 43.3 meters long and 30.3 meters wide. The palace
is made of two separate halls. The front hall is called ante-chamber and
the other is billed as the main hall where is erected throne of the king.
This is the most significant
place in the royal palace. It was used for the king's official receptions
and other important court ceremonies such as anniversaries and
The Mieu :
This was one of the many shrines and temples dedicated to the kings and
royal members of the Nguyen Dynasty. Within Hoang Thanh there are five
temples. Trieu Mieu was used for the worship of Nguyen Kim believed to be
the founder of the Nguyen lineage; Thai Mieu for the worship of nine
Nguyen Lords; Hung Mieu for the worship of the father of King Gia Long;
The Mieu for the worship of the Nguyen Kings; and Dien Mieu also for the
worship of the Nguyen Kings. The last temple was revered for those ladies
living in the inner court to go for pray because they were not allowed to
enter The Mieu.
The Mieu was built in 1921 to
worship King Gia Long. Later it was used to worship other king as well So
far, The Mieu has been for the worship of ten kings.
The Mieu is also made up by
two separate halls like Dien Thai Hoa. It is 55 meters long and 28 meters
wide. Each of the hall in The Mieu is furnished with an ornate bed made of
ironwood and covered with golden glaze and red lacquer, an altar, funerary
tablets and some precious military weapon used for worshipping purpose.
This was the place on the date of the king's death the court organized
grand funeral services headed by the king's successor. The Mieu is said to
be the biggest of the kinds of shrines ever built in Vietnam.
Nine Dynastic Urns:
The Nine Dynastic Urns were cast in 1835-1837 and weighing 1,600 to 2,600
kilograms each. The heaviest is 2,755 kilograms. It is more than two
metres high and the diameter of the upper lid is more than one meters. The
nine urns have different name each, namely Cao, Nhan, Chuong, Anh, Nghi,
Than, Tuyen, Du, and Huyen. The urn Huyen is the smallest. It is 1.9
meters high and the diameter of the upper lid is 1.12 meters. It weighs
1,047 kilograms. The cast of the nine urns cost up to 20 tons of bronze
copper. These are the greatest achievements of Vietnam's technique of
bronze casting in the 19th century.
Each urn symbolizes a king's
sovereignty and the whole row of urns represents the power and stability
of the Nguyen throne. Traditional ornamentation was chiseled into the
sides of the urns, each of which is dedicated to different Nguyen
sovereign. The designs based on classic motifs include the sun, the moon,
the meteors, coulds, mountains, rivers, and various Vietnamese landscapes
and people's life. Many consider the nine urns as a summary encyclopedia
of Vietnam's landscapes and farm produce and animals.
Hien Lam Cac:
Hien lam Cac is regarded as a memorial monument to remind younger
generations of those people whose merits and contributions to the founding
of the Nguyen Dynasty had been recognized by the kings. Like the Nguyen
King's who were worshipped in The Mieu those meritorious people were
worshipped in the two halls located on either side of Hien Lam Cac.
Hien Lam Cac was built within
the site of The Mieu. Hien Lam Cac was made of wood. The three-storied
building is 25 metres high. This is the tallest architectural project in
Hoang Thanh (Imperial Enclosure).
Cung That was reserved for the private life of the kings and their
families. This area was an important component of the Hue royal palace,
which includes several palaces: Can Thanh - the king's residency; Khon
Thai Palace - the queen's residency; Dien Tho Palace - the residency of
king's Mother; Truong Sinh Palace - the residency of the king's paternal
grand mother. It is regrettable that most of this significant area has
been destroyed during the wars except for the Dien Tho and Truong Sinh
Dien Tho palace was built in
1804. A special creature in this architectural structure is that the
corridor that links Dien Tho palace to the king's residence is fully
roofed to facilitate the king's visit to his mother any time he liked.
Royal tombs :
These are the final resting places of the
Nguyen kings. There are eight royal tombs in Hue. Construction of each of
these tombs were very meticulous and started right during the reign of the
king. That is the reason who it is said that the premises of the royal
tombs are no longer considered the palace of the deceased but the second
royal palace for the king to entertain. Most of the tombs face to the
south west direction of the royal city of Hue. Projects built within the
premises of each of the tombs consists of two complexes. The first complex
is reserved for funeral services and the second one as exclusive for the
location of the tomb. Apart from main projects, the premises contain some
smaller projects such as lotus lakes, miniature mountains, flower gardens,
ornamental post plants, hills covered with pine trees, roofed bridges and
temples. These architectural projects are arranged in a way that they look
harmonious to the natural surroundings. Generally each of the tombs is
enclosed with a surrounding rampart called la thanh. In other cases, there
is no enclosure surrounding the premises of the tombs. However, the
arrangement is each tombs is quite different from that of another tombs.
This particular arrangement reflected each king's thinking, point of view,
personalities and tastes.
Lang Gia Long
(Tomb of Gia Long) :
The tomb is situated on top of the Thien Tho lime mountain range on the
right bank of the Huong (perfume) river. Construction of the tomb, 16
kilometers from the centre of Hue, began in 1814 and was completed in
1820. Located in a vast wilderness covered with broad canopy of old pine
trees, the tomb was built with a design characterized by simplicity
combined with magnificence. In front of the tomb is a semi-circle lotus
lake. Behind the lake is a large terraced yard which is divided into three
different levels. The first level is used as the waiting place. On either
side of which is a row of stone stature of elephants and horses. The
second level is called san the (Praying yaed) where worship services were
organized. The last level is called Buu Thanh which houses the remains of
the deceased king and that of Thua Thien Cao Hoang Hau. To the left of the
tomb is the stela house and to the right side is the big altar.
Tomb of Minh Mang :
It is also called Hieu Lang (tomb of filiality) Construction of the tomb
commenced is 1840 and finished in 1843. It is situated in an enclosed
hilly area of 18 hectares in Cam Khe village, Huong Tra district, 12
kilometers from the centre of Hue.
The rampart that encloses the
premises id three meters high and 0.5 meter thick. The front wall has
three entrance gates. There are about 20 projects within the premises,
which are arranged along an imaginary axis. The tomb of Minh Mang has an
air of magnificence and formality but its architectural design makes it
look harmonious to the natural surrounding.
Tomb of Tu Duc or Tomb of
Modesty: The tomb bout seven kilometers from the centre of Hue is situated
on the Duong Xuan mountain range in Duong Xuan Thuong village on the right
bank of the Perfume river. Construction of the tomb in an enclosure of 475
hectares started in 1864 and was completed in 1883.
The tomb is enclosed by a
thick wall that runs on a curvy line up and down the hills. Apart from
those architectural structures indisrensable to a royal tomb there are
several other projects suitable for the king's residency. There are no
projects that stand opposite each other as seen at Minh Mang tomb but
those projects built within the premises provide a harmonious environment
to the natural surrounding.
Tomb of Khai Dinh or Ung Lang:
The tomb was built in 12 years from 19620 to 1931. It is located on top of
the Chau E mountain range, 10 kilometer from Hue. Unlike the other tomb
each of which is the located within a vast expanse of wilderness as large
as several dozen hectares the tomb of Khai Dinh looks like a magnificent
palace that perches on a magnificent palace that perches on a gentle slope
of a lime mountain range. It is accessible through a flight of 109 stone
steps starting from the foot of the mountain.
Unlike construction materials
for the other tombs, the tomb of Khai Dinh was built with modern
construction materials such as reinforced concrete and porcelain
materials. The peculiar decorating feature of the tomb of Khai Dinh is the
magnificent porcelain decoration on the walls, columns, and ceiling. This
decoration is a meticulous mixture of both designing schools in the East
and the West.
Tiger Fighting Arena
This structure was formerly reserved for
animal fights between tigers and elephants. This arena was reserved for
the entertainment of the kings and high ranking officials. The last
animal fight organized at Ho Quyen was in 1904 in the reign of King Thanh
This unique structure is four
kilometers from the centre of the city and situated on the southern bank
of the Perfume river. Ho Quyen was built in 1830 in the reign of King Minh
Mang. The arena consists of two concentric rings built with a special kind
of bricks called gach vo. The outer surface of the two concentric walls
was added with a thin layer of masonry. The circumference of the outer
wall is 45 meters. The wall is 4.5 meters high. The circumference of the
inner wall is 35 meters. The wall is six meters high.
Thien Mu Pagoda:
This is also bnown as Linh Mu Pagoda and
one of the several most beautiful and ancient architectural structures for
religious worship in Hue city. The pagoda is situated on the Ha Khe
hillock area on the left bank of the Perfume river.
The pagoda was built in the
14th century and is adhere to a legend of a fairy lady in red. Therefore
is has the name of Thien Mu (Fairy lady from the heaven). The general
structure of the pagoda is not different from that of other pagoda pound
in the country. Yet, what is the most striking feature of the pagoda is
the Phuoc Duyen Tower. The octagonal tower is 21 meters high and divided
into seven storeys. The tower was built by King Thieu Tri in 1844 and has
become the unofficial symbol of Hue. Each of the seven storeys is
dedicated to a Buddha who appeared in human form (maushi Buddha). Each of
the Buddha statue is placed in a small arch door in each storey facing to
the southern direction. Especially in the top level three statues of
Buddha are placed. Initially the three statues were made of gold. However
they had been lost. Now the three new statues are made of bronze copper.
There are just few artifacts
kept inside the pagoda. The most precious artifacts still seen today are a
stela and a bronze bell. To the right of the tower is a pavilion
containing the said stele dating from 1715. It is 2.6 meters high and 1.2
meters wide. It is the set on the back of a massive marble turtle,
symbolizing of longevity.
To the left of the tower is
another six-sided pavilion sheltering an enormous bell. The bell, called
Dai Hong Chung, was cast in 1710. It weighs 2,632 kilograms and is 1.4
meters in circumference. This bell is considered one of the achievements
of bronze casting industry in Vietnam in the 18th century.