COMPLEX OF HUE MONUMENTS
Hue City - the provincial capital of Thua Thien Hue located in the North-Central Viet Nam, constitutes the cultural, political and economic centre of the province. Hue is 660km south of Ha Noi, 100km north of Da Nang, and 1,060km from Ho Chi Minh City.
Hue was the old imperial city of Viet Nam under the Nguyen Dynasty from 1802 to 1945. It possesses invaluable architectural treasures, such as the tombs and temples of the Nguyen Kings and the imperial city, with original and ancient pagodas. The Complex of Hue Monuments has been recognised as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
Thua Thien Hue Province covering an area of 5,009km2 on a narrow land strip of 127km long and 60km wide, presents almost all types of topography. From west to east, we find mountains, hills, coastal plains, marshes lagoons, and the sea. The coastline of the province is 120km long, with attractive and beautiful beaches and sand dunes.
There are two main seasons, the rainy season lasts from September to November; the rest of the time is the dry season. Climatic conditions change distinctively according to the four seasons. During the hottest period, from June to August, the average temperature is 29°C; and during the coldest period, from December to January, the average temperature is 20°C, but it can go down to 14°C or 10°C.
Every year, the number of typhoons coming to Thua Thien Hue Province is considerable, normally starting from June, with a peak in September and October. In addition, the climate is also greatly influenced by the northeastern monsoon, and in a lesser proportion, by the inland hot wind.
From 179 BC to the end of the 2nd century AD, Hue was in the territory of Nhat Nam District, under the domination of the Northern feudal regime. Then, for about 12 centuries, it was the northernmost territory of the Kingdom of Champa.
From 1306, after the wedding of the Princess Huyen Tran of the Tran Dynasty with Che Man, the Cham King, the territories of Chau O and Chau Ly (comprised of Quang Tri, Thua Thien Hue and part of Northern Quang Nam) took the name of Thuan Hoa. In the 2nd half of the 15th century, under the reign of King Le Thanh Tong, the name of "Hue" appeared for the first time.
In 1636, the residence of the Nguyen Lords was settled at Kim Long (Hue). In 1687, it was transferred to Phu Xuan - where is the Hue Citadel today. Early in the 18th century, Phu Xuan became the political, economic and cultural centre of Dang Trong (the southern part of Viet Nam). Then, from 1788 to 1801, it became the capital of the Tay Son Dynasty.
From 1802 to 1945, Hue was the capital of unified Viet Nam under the reigns of the Nguyen Kings. During these years, architectural works of a high cultural and historic value were built: the Capital City and the Imperial Citadel (100 constructions), palaces, bastions, the Nguyen Kings' imperial tombs, temple, pagoda, etc.
Thua Thien Hue is also a province with heroic revolutionary tradition. Today, numerous reminders of the two wars for independence can still be found.
First World Cultural Heritage Site in Viet Nam
At the meeting of the 17th session of the World Heritage Committee (WHC) in Columbia, from the 6th to the 11th of December 1993, UNESCO has come to the decision of recognising the Complex of Hue Monuments as a World Cultural Heritage. On 2 August 1994, the delivery of the recognising text has been organised at the Imperial Palace of Hue (Dai Noi), with the participation of many international, national and local personalities, as well as representatives of the population of Hue.
Great enthusiasm has been generated in the country through the broadcast of this news. This was a noteworthy event in the cultural history. For the reason that Hue is the first site in Viet Nam ever listed in the World Heritage List.
As to the cultural value, a world cultural heritage site, like the conplex of Hue Monuments, has to:
- Be representative of an original artistic achievement, a masterpiece created by Man's hands;
- Have a great value for its building technique or its architecture in a general development plan for a city or in a program for the embellishment of the sight of a world cultural zone;
- Be representative of an architectural ensemble of an important historical period; Be closely related to important events, to ideas or beliefs having a great influence or to famous historical personalities.
Besides, for cl cultural property to be internationally recognised, it has to be fully confirmed on a juridical level, and it must possess a managing organisation ensuring its good conservation.
The architectural ensemble of Hue meets these requirements; it is embedded with highly humanistic values, and may be compared with the other cultural properties, rare and precious, in this world.
In the closing report of the above-mentioned meeting, the WHC has briefly assessed the value of Hue as follows.
"The architecture of Hue, which has been the Capital of a unified Viet Nam, built at about the beginning of the 19th century, combines the oriental philosophy with the traditions of Viet Nam. Intimately mingled with the natural environment, the beauty and special richness of the architecture and decorative art of the building are an original image of the Vietnamese monarchy at its most prosperous period".
The wonders of Hue can hardly be described to do them justice, and the best way to discover them is still to come in person and admire the beautiful constructions.
RELICS AND MONUMENTS IN HUE
Located in the centre of Hue, along the Perfume (Huong) River's northern bank, the complex of royal architecture represents and demonstrates the power of the Nguyen Dynasty's centralism. Contained in this complex is Kinh Thanh Hue (Hue Capital Citadel) symmetrically placed along the longitudinal axis and facing to the south. Besides, numerous of constructions described in the list of Complex of Hue Monuments by UNESCO include the imperial tombs of 13 kings of the Nguyen Dynasty, and others such as Esplanade of Nam Giao, Ho Quyen Arena, and Thien Mu Pagoda, etc.
INSIDE HUE CITADEL
Hue Citadel is comprised of three enclosures of ramparts: the outermost one, Phong Thanh (Capital Enclosure), built under the Gia Long and Minh Mang reigns (from 1805 to 1832); the middle one, Hoang Thanh (Royal Citadel), and the innermost, Tu Cam Thanh (Forbidden Purple Citadel).
Hue Citadel was built in Oriental feng shui and geographical principles, the principle of yin and yang and five basic elements and in the style of the French military architect Vauban. The Citadel faces due south to Ngu Binh Mountain; Hen and Da Vien islets flank the city in the front in the position of "blue dragon" on the left, and "white tiger" on the right.
It is nearly square, about 5km2 and nearly 10km in perimeter with 21m thick, 6.6m high walls; its outer is built of bricks. It has 13 gates (4 in front, 2 on the left, 2 on the right, 2 in the back, and 1 connected to Mang Ca (Fish Gill) Bastion and 2 gates, the Eastern Water Gate (Dong Thuy Quan) and the Western Water Gate (Tay Thuy Quan). Enclosing Phong Thanh and about 10m from the foot of the outer citadel is a system of moats. About 200m from the moats is a deep and large river (about 11km) called Ho Thanh Ha (river to protect the citadel).
There are in Phong Thanh forts, bastions, sentry posts for defensive purposes. Inside Phong Thanh there are lot of buildings for court activities and royal family use, and stands Hoang Thanh (Royal Citadel) where official functions of the Nguyen Dynasty were carried out. The innermost citadel is Forbidden Purple City designed for the use of the king and his family.
The Flag Tower is located in front of Royal Citadel. It comprises two parts: pedestal flag and flagpole. It was built by bricks during King Gia Long's reign, in 1807. It consists of three storeys with 17.4m high.
At first, the flagpole made of wood. In 1948, the flagpole was erected by concrete with 37m high as at present day.
Nine Holy Cannons
These Nine Holy Cannons are housed in two buildings beside the The Nhan and Quang Due gates of the Hue Citadel. On February 1803, King Gia Long ordered all bronze wares of the Tay Son Dynasty to be collected and melt into nine cannons. The work was completed at the end of January 1804. The cannons were named after the four seasons, Xuan (Spring), Ha (Summer), Thu (Autumn), Dong (Winter), and the five elements: Kim (Metal), Moc (Wood), Thuy (Water), Hoa (Fire), and Tho (Earth). They are the "Holy Invincible Generals".
Each cannon is 5.1m long and weights more than 10 tons. Their barrels are elaborately inscribed with the titles, position order, weight, instructions, writings on fights against the Tay Son Dynasty, and the collection of bronze wares for casting.
Originally, they were positioned in front of the Ngo Mon, at the foot of the Royal Citadel wall, but they were later moved by order of King Khai Dinh to the present- day site.
The cannons have never been used for military purposes and just play a symbolic role as guardian spirits for the Citadel.
Tinh Tam (Serene Heart) Lake
Lying on the left bank of Dinh Tien Hoang Street at the Thuan Loc and Thuan Thanh wards, the lake was one of the well- known beauty spots of ancient Hue.
The site is a vestige of a tributary of the Perfume River which took source at the Kim Long (Golden Dragon) market and flowed past Hue Citadel. This part of the river was dyked and broadened by King Gia Long into a rectangular-shaped lake known as the Ky Te Lake. On each one of the two islets was built a storehouse for gunpowder. King Minh Mang later moved both storehouses a little eastward. The site was then occupied by palaces, pavilions, and belvederes that made it one of the top beauty spots in the old capital city, known as the Tinh Tam Lake (Lake of the Serene Heart).
The lake has a rectangular-shaped with 1,420m in circumference and is surrounded by brick walls. In the past, there were several islets on the lake: Doanh Chau (Sea Islet), Bong Lai Islet (many remarkably beautiful monuments were erected) and Bong Doanh.
Tinh Tam Lake is a man-made beauty spot in which the Nguyen Kings often took pride. King Minh Mang had composed 10 poems about 10 scenes of the lake, while King Thieu Tri listed it among 20 beauty spots of Hue. But today, the lake has become desolate.
Quoc Tu Giam Hue (National University)
The National University was the famous University of the Nguyen Dynasty, once located in the Hue old Capital City.
It was established under King Minh Mang's reign in 1829. The University was attended by students of several statuses, for example, Ton Sanh (King's sons and nephews), Am Sanh (mandarins' sons), Hoc Sanh and Cong Sanh (excellent students of humble origin). The courses lasted all year long with some weeks of holiday for the Lunar New Year. Lazy students were punished with a rattan rod whereas hard-working ones were awarded. There were no examinations, no tests, only competitions for scholarship consisting of money, rice, and oil- lamp. The rice was excluded after boarding facilities was being offered. Besides, each student was granted a uniform including a pair of trousers, a loose-fitting blue dress and a headgear.
In 1908 under King Duy Tan's reign, the university moved to a new place as it is today (3 Le Loi St., Hue City).
In 1996 the university was given a major renovation and a statue of President Ho
Chi Minh was erected. It is now called Hue University.
Phu Xuan Communal House
It is the communal house of the former Phu Xuan Village.
When King Gia Long established the capital city in Phu Xuan Village, the communal house was then located inside the Citadel. In compensation for this loss, the King allowed the villagers to name their new villages Phu Xuan, wherever they might be established, and to allow access to the old communal house inside the Citadel for rituals attended by natives from all over the country and supported by state funding.
After the confiscation of their land, the phu Xuan people established villages in the provinces of Thua Thien, Quang Tri and Quang Binh. Nowadays, there are still many Phu Xuan villages even in Hue (at the Cong Market, Hen Islet, Ke Van villages, etc.).
Every year, on the 10th day of the 6th lunar month, villagers from different parts of the country thronged to attend ceremonies held at the communal house which had been restored several times with state assistance. Over the middle compartment hangs a board inscribed with Chinese character meaning "Sharing Joy with the Fatherland".
Phu Xuan Communal House is a rare monument of the Nguyen Lords. Close to it remain several other monuments of the former Phu Xuan Village: the Council Temple and the square-shaped pond of Nguyen Thanh, honorary head of the village, to the north-east, and the chapel for dead souls to the west.
Phu Xuan Communal House is now the cultural centre of the Tay Loc Ward.
Hue Museum of Royal Antiques
The Hue Museum of Royal Antiques is a gallery displaying collections of bronze, pottery, chinaware, Phap Lam enamel, court robes, head-gear and personal belongings of Nguyen Kings.
It is a seven-compartment, two-bay building constructed in the "double" architecture, originally called the Long An Palace (King's Security) in the Bao Dinh Residence °f Tay Loc Precinct. When the French troops took Bao Dinh Residence for their headquarters in 1885, Long An Palace was removed and materials were stored. But, in 1909, by order of King Duy Tan, they were moved to the present-day site (3 Le Truc St.) where the New Library was built as well as the office of the Association of Friends of Old Hue.
It served later as the Khai Dinh Museum during King Khai Dinh's time, in 1923. The building (former Long An Palace) housing the museum is a monument of remarkable value. The wooden panels are covered with 35 poems and essays composed by King Thieu Tri.
Inside the Hue Citadel, embraced the highest institutions of Viet Nam's feudal regime during Nguyen Dynasty, as well as temples and sanctuaries devoted to the deceased kings.
This citadel-within-a-citadel has 6m high walls, 2.5km in length and four gates: Ngo Mon (Gate of the south direction) on the front, Hien Nhon Gate (Gate of Humanity) on the left (the east), Chuong Due Gate (Gate of Virtue) on the right (the west) and Hoa Binh (Peace) Gate at the back (the north).
It comprises some areas with its monuments:
Area of Great Rites: Ngo Mon Gate, Great Rites Courtyard, Thai Hoa Palace;
Area of worship: Temples of Trieu, Thai, The, Hung, and Phung Tien;
Area for Queen-mothers: Residence of Dien Tho (Everlasting Longevity) and the Residence of Truong Sinh (Longevity);
Area for princes, etc.
Ngo Mon Gate (Gate of the south direction)
Located in front of the Thai Hoa Palace and facing the Flag Tower, Ngo Mon is the main entrance to the Royal Citadel. It is a huge U-shaped construction consisting of two parts: below is a foundation made of brick (Thanh and Quang stone), above is a pavilion made of wood and roofed with tiles.
The longest and widest sides of this 5m high foundation are 5.57m and 27m, respectively. There are in fact five entrances, the main gate paved with Thanh stone, and with red-lacquered doors reserved for the king. The two side-en- trances, the Left and Right gates, were for civil and military mandarins, and two more gates were used for soldiers, elephants, and horses on the royal procession.
The upper part is the Ngu Phung Pavilion (Pavilion of Five Phoenixes). It is flanked by two wing belvederes of two storeys. The upper story is supplied with wooden partitions. It was exclusively reserved for the Queen Mother and the King's wives. They could look through windows shaped like circles, gongs or fans, but blinds prevented them from being seen from the outside.
The lower story was left open except for the middle compartment that is panelled and supplied with glass-doors.
The king seated there on festive occasions. Though the time has passed, Ngo Mon still stands steadily and has been become one of the most ancient typical architecture in Hue.
Thai Dich Lake and Trung Dao Bridge
Between Ngo Mon and Thai Hoa Palace is Thai Dich Lake which was dug in 1833. It is crossed by Trung Dao Bridge of 45m long and 9.5m wide. At both ends stands monument (Phuong Mon) elaborately carved with a five-clawed dragon (cloud dragon on bronze columns). Though the two columns were symmetrically built, one dragon is soaring up and the other one is slithering down, so they still create an attractive liveliness.
Thai Dich Lake is covered with water lilies and lotuses while century-old red jasmine trees mirror in its water, filling the air with their sweet fragrances. The lake offers a charming halt for the rambler visiting the constructions of the Citadel.
Thai Hoa Palace (Palace of Supreme Harmony)
Thai Hoa Palace, or Palace of the Supreme Harmony, was the building for great court's meetings. It faces the Ngo Mon and lies right on the central axis of the Citadel.
It was constructed in 1805 by King Gia Long. In 1833, King Minh Mang moved it onto a foundation of 2.33m high. It is 44m long, 30.5m wide, 11.8m high and contains a five-compartment, two-bay main building connected with a seven- compartment, two-bay front building. The columns are red lacquered and decorated with golden dragon designs.
Over the middle compartment hangs a carved board with big Chinese characters "Thai Hoa Dien" (Palace of Supreme Harmony). Inside is the throne, covered by a golden canopy with brocaded circular dragon designs. Above each compartment hangs a colourful glass-sided hexagonal or octagonal lantern. In 1839, in an attempt to adorn this historic monument, King Minh Mang ordered the framework to be lacquered in red and gold.
It was later supplied with European- styled paving by King Thanh Thai, in 1899, and coloured glass door on front and back sides by King Khai Dinh, in 1923. (It was originally left open and shaded with blinds only).
The interior decorations include some jugs and other antiques. On the court stands a line of carved pedestals, each with a vase for rare plants.
Constructors of Thai Hoa Palace have succeeded masterly in creating two contradictory features: cool in the summer and warm in the winter. From the throne in the centre, one can also distinctively hear sounds made anywhere in the palace. Of this phenomenon, no researcher in acoustics or architecture could ever give an exact explanation.
Thai Hoa Palace is the site where solemn ceremonies took place such as the Coronation Day, the Crown Prince Coronation
Day, the Ambassador Receiving Ceremony, King's Birthday Anniversaries, etc. Great meetings were held here twice a month while regular ones took place in the Can Chanh Palace (Palace of Audiences) inside the Forbidden Purple Citadel.
Trieu Mieu (Trieu Temple)
Facing south and situated behind Thai Mieu, Trieu Mieu was dedicated to the first ancestors of the Nguyen Dynasty, Trieu To and his wife.
Built by King Gia Long in 1804, the temple contains a three-compartment main building connected with a five-compartment building with a "double" architecture. On the roof ridge is a Phap Lam enamelled wine gourd. The middle compartment is dedicated to Nguyen Kim and his wife (Lord Nguyen Hoang's parents). Trieu Mieu was heavily damaged by two wars, but was finely restored in 1984.
Thai Mieu (Thai Temple)
Located on the south-east corner of the Royal Citadel and facing south, Thai Mieu was dedicated to nine Nguyen Lords.
It was built in 1804 by King Gia Long and included a 13-compartment main building as well as a 15-compartment front building added with two east and west bays.
In the middle compartment, a niche contained the two mortuary tablets honouring Lord Nguyen Hoang (1600-1613), commonly known as Lord Tien and his wife. On each side are four cubicles dedicated to eight other Lords arranged in the following order: Lord Nguyen Phuc Nguyen (Lord Sai) (1613-1635) and his wife; Lord Nguyen Phuc Lan (Lord Thuong) (1635-1648) and his wife, Lord Nguyen Phuc Tan (Lord Hien) (1648-1687) and his wife; Lord Nguyen Phuc Tran (Lord Ngai) (1687-1691) and his wife. Lord Nguyen Phuc Chu ( Lord Minh) (1691-1725) and and his wife; Lord Nguyen Phuc Chu (1725-1738) and his wife; Lord Nguyen Phuc Khoat (Vo Vuong) (1738-1765) and his wife; Lord Nguyen PhucThuan (1765-1777).
Left of the Thai Temple is a house called Dien Long Due where food offerings were prepared for the death anniversary of Lord Nguyen Hoang and his wife worshipped in middle compartment of the temple.
Left of the yard is Dien Chieu Kinh (where offerings were prepared for the left altars) and right of it is the Dien Muc Tu (where offerings were prepared for the right altars). North of Dien Muc Tu is a chapel dedicated to the Kitchen God called Phuong Duong.
Thai Temple has walls around and can be reached by the Hien Thua Gate on the left, Tuc Tuong on the right, Nguyen Chi and Truong Huu gates at the back.
Outside Tuy Thanh Pavilion are Left and Right houses built during Gia Long's reign. The Left House is dedicated to four members of the royal family for their devotion to the Nguyen Dynasty: Ton That Khe, Ton That Hiep, Ton That Hao and Ton That Dong. The Right House honours the empire founders of humble origin: Nguyen U Ky, Dao Duy Tu, Nguyen Huu Tien, Nguyen Huu Dat, Nguyen Huu Kinh, Nguyen Cuu Dat, and Nguyen Cu Trinh. Outside the main entrance to Thai Temple are two stone lions.
Thai Temple was first restored by King Thanh Thai and a second time by King Khai Dinh. The present-day temple was constructed by Queen Mother Tu Cung in 1970.
Hung Mieu (Hung Temple)
Located north of The Mieu, Hung Mieu was devoted to the worship of King Gia Long's parents (Lord Nguyen Phuc Luan and his wife).
It was constructed in 1821 by King Minh Mang. On the roof ridge rested a wine gourd decorated with Phap Lam enamel.
The temple was surrounded by walls and could be reached through Chuong Khanh Gate (Gate of Glorious Goodness) on the left and Due Khanh Gate (Gate of Goodness Fostering) on the right.
Hung Temple as seen today was reconstructed in 1951 by Lady Tu Cung (the last Queen Mother of the Nguyen Dynasty) but not according to the original architecture.
The Mieu (Dynastic Temple)
Situated south-west of the Royal Citadel and facing south, The Mieu is dedicated to ten kings of the Nguyen Dynasty. Built by King Minh Mang in 1821, it presents a 9-compartment main building and a 11- compartment front building, together connected in the "double" architecture with two bays on east and west sides. It is roofed with yellow enamelled tiles and on the ridge rests a wine gourd decorated with Phap Lam enamel. The Mieu Temple once had seven red and yellow lacquered altars (one in the middle, three on either side) of seven kings. So, there are today three additional red-lacquered altars for kings Ham Nghi, Thanh Thai, and Duy Tan in the temple.
Many personal paraphernalia of great value that belonged to the Nguyen Kings are kept in the temple. On each altar were once dozens of gold ingots. Fortunately enough, the temple has suffered the least damage through the numerous wars and today visitors can see it as it was originally built.
Hien Lam Pavilion
Hien Lam Pavilion (Pavilion of the Glorious Coming) is a graceful monument situated at the centre of the The Mieu's courtyard, south west of the Citadel.
Built in 1821 by King Minh Mang, it consists of three storeys. It stands on a 21m by 13m square-shaped foundation. The area amounts to 300 sq.m including the roof overhang.
Hien Lam Pavilion can be considered as a memorial to those who had devoted their lives to the establishment of the Nguyen Dynasty.
The Nine Dynastic Urns
These are the nine greatest bronze urns in Viet nam, placed in front of The Mieu (Mieu Temple).
These urns were cast by King Minh Mang in 1836 with nine different names. Each urn symbolises for a Nguyen King and all of them symbolise the sovereignty of the dynasty.
On each urn are finely carved 17 traditional Vietnamese patterns like stars, rivers, mountains, seas and oceans, vehicles, forestry and sea products, etc. The 153 patterns on the 9 urns constitute a real encyclopaedia on the country. This precious cultural heritage is incredibly well preserved which are expressed the exquisite talent work of Hue bronze casting artisans.
Dien Tho Residence
Located north of Phung Tien Temple and south of Truong Sinh Residence, Dien Tho Residence was exclusively reserved for the queen mothers.
Built during King Gia Long's time (1803) and originally called Truong Tho Residence, it was rebaptised several times until King Khai Dinh gave it its final name, Dien Tho (Everlasting Longevity), in 1916.
It is surrounded by a wall with several gates. By order of King Thanh Thai, a roofed gallery (commonly called Gallery of Everlasting Longevity Residence) was built. It went through Thien Khanh Gate and linked Dien Tho Residence and other monuments in the Citadel.
All the furniture in the residence is inlaid with the finest mother-of-pearl. Elaborately carved lanterns hang from the ceiling. Along the wall supporting the ceiling, you will admire shiny panels ornamented with black fans made from rare bird feathers.
Through widely spaced blinds, one can peek at unusual, intricately carved beds smelling of cinnamon. From the entrance, one sees a small lake to the east with a graceful rock garden called Truong Du Pavilion. Now it is reconstructed according to its original architecture.
Truong Sinh Residence (Residence of Longevity)
Situated on the north-west corner of Royal Citadel and behind Dien Tho Residence, Truong Sinh Residence is a building complex erected in 1822 by King Minh Mang for entertainment. Originally, it was called Truong Ninh (Everlasting Security) Residence.
Later in 1843, it was entirely restored by King Thieu Tri, featuring three buildings: Mansion of Five Generations (Ngu Dai Dong Duong) in the front, Tho Khuong Palace (Palace of Longevity and Good Health) in the centre and Van Phuoc Pavilion (Pavilion of Ten Thousand Blessings) in the back. A roofed in Vuong-shaped character connected these buildings to each other. In front of the residence lied a halfmoon lake with a pretty rock-garden. Walls surrounded the whole complex.
Early during King Duy Tan's reign, in December 1907, for unknown reasons, all the buildings were wiped out except for Tho Khuong Palace, which was then restored.
Truong Ninh Residence was renamed Truong Sinh Residence (Longevity) by King Khai Dinh.
It is Located inside Royal Citadel, behind Thai Hoa Palace and sharing with the Citadel and Royal Citadel a common axis. Forbidden Citadel is walled enclosure exclusively reserved for the king and his family.
Constructed early in King Gia Long's reign in 1804, it was first called Cung Thanh (City of Residences) and renamed later Forbidden Citadel by King Minh Mang in 1822. With brick walls (3.72m-high, 0.72m- thick), the Citadel is about 1,230m in circumference. It is connected with Royal Citadel by seven gates, of which Dai Cung Mon (Portico of the Great Palace) is main gate facing south and behind Thai Hoa Palace.
In Forbidden Citadel are standing nearly 50 architectural constructions of different sizes comprising many most splendid and sumptuous palaces. However, there are some remain at present.
Left and right Mandarins' quarters
After Dai Cung Mon, one found two houses, on the left and on the right, in the territory of the Forbidden Citadel itself. In front of them were put two big bronze vessels. Each of the two houses had many rooms reserved for the mandarins who were waiting, preparing their ceremonial court costumes before attending to the ceremony of Bai Khanh (grand audience of the king).
These vessels, cast in bronze, are positioned in front of Can Chanh Palace and in some other places inside the Citadel, such as Can Thanh Palace (two), Mang Ca Bastion (one) and Dong Khanh Tomb (one).
Most of them were made during Lord Nguyen Phuc Tan's reign, in the first half of the 17th century. They were cast by order of the Nguyen Lords to illustrate their victories over the Trinh troops in the North and over the Chiem-Lap troops (Siam) in the South. They meant a great deal to the Nguyen Lords, just like the Dynastic Urns in front of The Mieu did to the Nguyen Kings.
The two typical vessels, located in Can Chanh Palace courtyard, were cast in 1660-1662. Each weighs some one and a half tons. They are cylindrical in shape, large-mouthed with four half-moon, rope-like handles and stand on a carved six-legged pedestal.
The trunks are divided into three parts by two circles. Each part has similar panels carved with animal and floral designs, which are very typical examples of the Vietnamese 17th century works of art.
Bronze vessels in the Citadel are part of the oldest and greatest heritage of bronze casting craft in Hue, and even in Viet Nam.
Thai Binh Lau (Royal Library)
Royal Library was the pavilion where the kings came for reading and resting.
In 1821, by order of King Minh Mang, a building was erected west of Thieu Phuong Garden (Garden of Lingering Aroma), called Tri Nhan Mansion (Mansion of Intellect and Mercy). It was later improved and renamed Thanh Ha Thu Lau (Writing Pavilion) by King Thieu Tri. And then, Dong Khanh turned it into Royal Library in 1887.
This pavilion, elaborately decorated with ceramic mosaics, faces a square-shaped pond with a lovely rock-garden and poetic scenery. There stand in the area some pavilions as Tu Phuong Vo Ngu
Pavilion (Pavilion of No Worry), Bat Phong Pavilion (Pavilion open to Eight Directions), Luc Tri Than Thong Belvedere, Luc Giac (Hexagonal) Pavilion, Trach Trung Tasist Temple (Temple of Just Conduct), Due Vien House (House of Full Virtue).
Royal Library is one of very few monuments left undamaged in Forbidden Citadel.
Duyet Thi Duong (Royal Theatre)
Located east of Quang Minh Palace (Palace of Brightness) in Forbidden Citadel, Royal Theater was built by King Minh Mang in 1826.
It is large, rectangular-shaped with curved eaves, similar to those of Hue pagodas and communal houses, supported by two rows of iron-wood, red lacquered columns decorated with intertwined dragon and cloud designs. On each column hung a painting of Hue scenery in a golden frame, carved with dragon designs. The sky-blue ceiling above is painted with figures of sun, moon and stars, symbolizing the universe. The building is connected with the royal living quarters by snaky roofed galleries.
A square-shaped stage occupies the central part of the floor. Behind the stage there are two doors. Actors and actresses made their entrances from the right side and exited on the left. Behind the wall is a large room for storing scripts, theatrical headgear, footwear and props. An altar dedicated to two founders of the court opera theatre occupies the highest position of this room.
The room opens onto the court east of Forbidden Citadel (this entrance was used by actors and actresses). Across the stage is a high tower of two levels. The top level, next to the western wall, was reserved to the queen, concubines and maidservants. On the ground level is a carved chair for the king. These two levels are kept separated by a bamboo blind that offered the spectators a good view of the outside, preventing them from being seen. Only the fluttering sounds made by fans, such as birds' wings, or giggles could sometimes be heard. On both sides of the king's carved chair are other chairs for State guests.
Royal Theatre is the oldest of Vietnamese traditional stage that remains, which combines traditional style and other technical elements for successful performances in service of royal members of Nguyen Dynasty. Since 2004, Royal Theatre has been restored for organization of Nha nhac (Viet Nam court music) performances serving tourists.
OUTSIDE HUE CITADEL
Tran Binh Bastion
Tran Binh Bastion (Peace Control Bastion) is an uneven hexagonal fortress located in the north-east corner of the Citadel.
Originally made of earth under the reign of King Gia Long in 1805, when it was known as the Thai Binh Bastion (Peace Bastion), it was later rebuilt with bricks by King Minh Mang and renamed as the Tran Binh Bastion. Inside the bastion are two lakes joined together into a V-shaped figure like a fish's gills, so it is popularly called the Fish's Gill (Mang Ca) Bastion.
It is 1km in circumference, 5 to 5.8m high (lower than those of the Citadel) and 1.28m thick, parapets 13m (at the top) to 14.75m (at the bottom) thick. It is supported inside by a 2.78m high wall with 6 gaps for stairs to gun positions at the top.
The Bastion is separated from the Citadel by a moat. The Bastion has two entrances, one is facing the Citadel, the Tran Binh Gate and the other one, facing south, was used by patrols. All six sides of the bastion are surrounded by a moat, crossed by a stone bridge that leads from the Lower Gate to the road connecting the Thanh Long Bridge and Bao Vinh Quarter.
The Bastion was used for defensive purposes. It controlled the Bao Vinh Port and protected the north-east side of the Citadel (where several violent attacks coming from the East Sea took place).
Phu Van Lau
It is the building where king's edicts and lists of successful candidates of Thi Hoi (National Examination) and Thi Dinh (Court Examinations) were publicised. Situated right in front of Flag Tower and by National Highway 1 that crosses Hue Capital City, it is a delicate pavilion with a south view. In front of, it is a large courtyard leading to Nghinh Luong Pavilion (Pavilion for Fresh Air) on Perfume River bank.
Though built early in King Gia Long's reign (1819), it was first decided by King Minh Mang to be the site to display publicly his important edicts. Since 1821, lists of successful candidates were posted there.
There had once been a tiger and elephant duel on the pavilion grounds, in 1829, to entertain King Minh Mang. On Nguyen Kings' birthday anniversaries, many entertainments were also held there.
King Thieu Tri listed the Perfume River and the Pavilion of Edicts among the 20 most beautiful sites of the capital. King Thieu Tri in 1843 ordered the construction of a stele house on the right of the pavilion for engraving his poem "Morning Boating on Perfume River".
Thuong Bac Pavilion
Southeast of the Thuong Tu Gate and in front of the Hue Citadel was the Thuong Bac, a building where contacts between Nguyen mandarins and French representatives took place in former. This building left no vestiges.
Now only remains Thuong Bac Pavilion, in front of Thuong Tu Gate and right on the river bank. It is a boat landing once used by mandarins for crossing the Perfume River before the existence of the Truong Tien Bridge.
TOMBS OF NGUYEN KINGS
Gia Long Tomb
Nguyen Anh took the throne under the name Gia Long in 1802. He decided to settle down at Phu Xuan (Hue) and gave the country the name of Viet Nam. He died in 1820 at the age of 58.
The tomb of Gia Long is located 16km from the centre of Hue, on top of Thien Tho Mountain, on the west bank of Perfume River. Construction of the tomb began in 1814 and completed in 1820. Located in a vast land covered with a wide canopy of old pine trees, the mausoleum was built according to a monumental but simple design.
In front of the mausoleum is a lotus pond, behind the pond is a large terraced yard with two rows of horse and elephant statues. Then San te (praying yard) is where worship services were organized. Buu Thanh is actual sepulchre that houses the remains of King Gia Long and Queen Thua Thien Cao. On the right of Buu Thanh is Minh Thanh Temple and on the left of the monument is stele pavilion.
The tomb of Gia Long is in fact a group of tombs including those of the King's relatives. Gia Long Tomb is a wonderful picture of nature and architecture, which provides a superb view of the boundless mountains and the solitary pine forest.
Nguyen Phuc Dam is Gia Long's second son. He ascended the throne in 1820 under the name of Minh Mang. He died at the age of 52, after a reign of 21 years.
The tomb is located in an enclosed hilly area of 18ha in Cam Ke Village, 12km from the centre of Hue. In September
1840, the construction of the tomb began. In January 1841, while the work was implemented Minh Mang was sick and passed away. Thieu Tri is son of King Minh Mang ascended the throne in February 1841. He continued to build the tomb of Minh Mang according to his father's plans. Until 1843 the construction was fully completed.
The surrounding rampart with 3m high and 0.5m thick has three entrance gates and is comprised of 20 structures arranged along an imaginary axis. Tomb of King Minh Mang has an air of magnificence and formality, and its architectural design harmoniously blends with its natural surroundings.
Thieu Tri Tomb
Mien Tong is the eldest son of Minh Mang. He took the throne under the name of Thieu Tri on the 11 January
After being on the throne for nearly seven years, King Thieu Tri was sick and died on 4 September 1847 at the age of 41. He did not have his tomb built.
As soon as he came to the crown, King Tu Duc had the royal geomancers to seek land for his father's tomb. On 11 February 1848, the construction started, and 10 months later, it was completed.
Thieu Tri's tomb lies in Cu Chanh Village, Thuy Bang Commune, about 8km from the centre of Hue City. The tomb can be divided into two parts: the tomb area and temple area. This is the only tomb not enclosed by a wall.
Thieu Tri's tomb, with its simple and intimate beauty, leans against the foot of Thuan Dao Mount. In front of the tomb stretches a flat land with green trees and rice-fields ranging from the Perfume River's bank up to Lim Bridge.
Tu Duc Tomb
Hong Nhiem (original name of King Tu Duc) is second son of King Thieu Tri. In October 1847, Hong Nhiem came to the throne and changed his name to Tu Duc On 16 June of Qui Mui (1883), Tu Duc died at the age of 55, after 35 years spent on the throne.
Tu Duc's tomb is located in a narrow valley in Duong Xuan Thuong Village (currently Thuong Ba Village, Thuy Xuan Commune, Hue City). It is one of the most beautiful works of royal architecture of the Nguyen Dynasty. The tomb lies in a boundless pine forest, 8km south west of Hue. Its construction started in December 1864 and finished in 1867.
Inside the surrounding wall, nearly 50 constructions were built on terraces of various levels (about 10m difference). All constructions include the word Khiem (Modesty) in their names. King Tu Duc designed the tomb for use both before and after his death. The tomb is divided into two main parts: the temple and the tomb area.
Tu Duc's tomb is not only one of the most beautiful works of the Nguyen Dynasty, but it is also romantic scenery of mounts and lakes.
Dong Khanh Tomb
Dong Khanh is the elder brother of two kings: Kien Phuc (1883-1884) and Ham Nghi (1884-1885). After being crowned, Dong Khanh had a temple built beside his father's tomb named Truy Tu to worship him. In February 1888, during the construction, Dong Khanh got sick and died. King Thanh Thai came to the crown. He had to use Truy Tu Temple and renamed it Ngung Hy for the cult of King Dong Khanh. His corpse was buried simply on a hill named "Ho Thuan Son", 30m to the west of Ngung Hy Temple. The whole tomb area was called Tu Lang.
In 1916, when Khai Dinh, son of Dong Khanh, was crowned, he had the temple renovated and the tomb built for his father. In July 1917, the tomb was accomplished.
Ngung Hy Temple and its dependent houses, in particular, continued to be repaired. They were finished in May 1923. The constructions still offer the traditional features according to the "double architecture".
The design of the tomb is almost completely Europeanized from its architectural peculiarities or decorative models to the building materials.
Dong Khanh's tomb was the beginning of the mixture of European and Asian styles, of old and new architectures. The tomb of King Dong Khanh is located in Thuong Hai Village, Thuy Xuan Commune, Hue City.
Duc Duc Tomb
Duc Duc is adoptive son of King Tu Duc. He ascended the throne on 19 July 1883. But only after 3 days, he was removed from the throne because he had deleted a paragraph from the Testament of the dead king and so Duc Duc was confined in prison. In 24 October 1883, the king died in prison. Thanh Thai is the son of King Duc Duc, ascended the throne in 1889. At the beginning of 1890, Thanh Thai decided to build his father's mausoleum at the "buried by the heaven" place (now it is in An Cuu Ward, close to the Tu Quang Pagoda) and then named it An Lang.
In 1899, Long An Temple was constructed on the right of the mausoleum, with an altar for his dead father.
In 1907, King Thanh Thai was dethroned because of his anti-colonialist attitude against the French. He died in 1954 and his body buried on the site of his father's tomb.
Duy Tan is the son of King Thanh Thai, ascended the throne in 1907. In 1916, the King was arrested for attending the uprising against French colonialism. He was exiled out of the country like his father. In 1987, his remains were sent back from Central Africa to be buried next to his father's tomb.
Duc Duc's tomb presents a simpler and more modest architecture in comparison with the tombs of other Nguyen Kings. The whole rectangular tomb has a surface of 3,445m2. Inside, there are no temple or stone statues. The entrance is an inr»posing triple gate made of brick and topped with a false roof. Long An Temple is in the centre of the area, built after the model of the existing palaces in Hue. Inside, there are three altars dedicated to the kings: Duc Duc (in the middle, with his wife), Thanh Thai (on the left) and Duy Tan (on the right).
At the back of Long An Temple is place for kings Thanh Thai and Duy Tan's rest. There are also tombs of these kings' relatives.
Khai Dinh Tomb
King Khai Dinh came to the throne in 1916 and he chose the slope of Chau Chu Mountain (also called Chau E), 10km from centre of Hue, as the location to build his tomb. The construction of the tomb was started on 4 September 1920 and lasted for 11 years. In comparison with those of the preceding emperors, King Khai Dinh's tomb is much smaller in surface (117m x 48.5m), but it is very elaborate. It is the result of the combination of many architectural trends: European and Asian, as well as ancient and modern.
The overall construction of the tomb is an emerging rectangular structure with 127 steps, leaning against the mountain. Unlike the construction materials used for the other tombs, Khai Dinh Tomb was built with modern materials, such as steel and reinforced concrete. The peculiar feature of the tomb is the magnificent porcelain decorations on the walls, columns and ceilings. The tomb of King Khai Dinh is one of the most surprising among the royal tombs of Hue.
Nam Giao Esplanade
During the Nguyen Dynasty, right after being crowned (1802), King Gia Long built an esplanade in An Ninh Village (1803) for religious ceremonies. A few years later, the Court abandoned that position and had new terraces built in Duong Xuan Village, south of Hue Citadel (the present site).
Their construction started on 25 March 1806 and, as soon as the beginning of 1807, Gia Long Court organised its first God worship ceremonies there.
The three layers are 4.65m high in total. Shapes, colour and directions of the architecture of Nam Giao Esplanade were based on the principles of Yin and Yang, and the five basic elements (Metal, Wood, Water, Fire and Earth).
Nam Giao Esplanade is an open-air monument. Its architecture bears both the religious and political significance of Oriental feudalism. Nam Giao Esplanade was built based on the dogma of heaven fate of Confucianism. The structure of the terraces also shows the old conception of the Universe: circular heavens and a square earth. Nam Giao Esplanade faces south. Its surrounding stone walls are perforated by four big open doors looking at four directions. In front of each door, one very big screen (12.5m wide, 3.2m high, 0.8m thick) was erected. During the ceremony, big flags with different colours were raised at these doors: black flags for the north, blue ones for the east, red for the south and white for the west.
In Gia Long's time (1802-1819), the ceremony was organised annually in the first weeks of the first lunar month. Since 1890, for realising that such a ceremony was too costly, Thanh Thai reign organised it once every three years: in the years of Rat, Cat, Horse and Rooster. It took the Protocol and Administration Ministries many months to prepare the ceremony.
Nam Giao Esplanade of the Nguyen Dynasty is the unique one left relatively undamaged. To visit it, tourists can have a chance to understand more about many aspects of the Nguyen Dynasty in Viet Nam.
Ho Quyen (Tiger Fighting Arena)
This structure was formerly reserved for tiger and elephant fights to entertain kings, the royal family and mandarins.
Ho Quyen Arena was built in 1830, on the south bank of the Perfume River, 4km away from the citadel. The coliseum consists of two concentric circles built with bricks and mortar. The first staircase of 20 steps was exclusively reserved for the King and the imperial family. It leads up to a 96m2 rectangular tribune. The second staircase with 15 steps was used by the soldiers and the ordinary people. Between the two staircases were a big entrance with 1.9m wide and 3.9m high for the elephants to enter the coliseum. Opposite to the tribune for the king, on the other side of the arena, were five cages for tigers and leopards. Above the middle one is a stone sign inscribed with two Chinese characters: "HO QUYEN".
The arena is a unique architectural work rarely found in south-east Asia, a vestige of the games and entertainment's of the imperial Court of Hue.
Van Mieu Hue (Hue Temple of Literature)
The Temple of Literature was founded by the Nguyen Dynasty for worship and dedication of Confucian scholars.
In 1808, Gia Long and his Imperial Court decided to choose a low hill beyond the Thien Mu Pagoda, on the left bank of the Perfume River (its present location) to build a new imposing and striking Temple of Literature. The construction of the Temple of Literature started on 17 April 1808 and ended on 12 November 1808.
The Temple of Literature faces south. The main constructions were built on the top of the hill, three meters higher than the surrounding land, on a square surface of 160m long, and enclosed by La Thanh surrounding wall. There was once a complex of 50 big and small constructions including 32 steles that bore names of doctors, as well as four other steles. The Temple of Literature was renovated many times and several additional constructions were built, especially under Minh Mang and Thieu Tri's reigns. From Minh Mang's reign onwards, National Examinations were held and steles bearing the names of successful candidates were erected there.
These steles bear the names, ages and places of birth of 239 successful candidates in National Examinations organised through the Nguyen Dynasty. The Temple of Literature of Hue is a valuable historic heritage showing the tradition of knowledge appreciation, scholars' administration and study encouragement of the Vietnamese culture.
Vo Mieu (Temple of Warriors)
The temple was built in 1835 under the reign of King Minh Mang for worshipping Vietnamese great warriors, including some Chinese ones, and martial masters who passed the national martial examinations during the time of Nguyen Dynasty.
Temple of Warriors faces Perfume River and is surrounded by a 400m-long wall. The main structure of the temple is built in three compartments and two lean-tos design. Three Vo Cong stone-stela are placed in the temple's courtyard since 1836 (the 17th year of King Minh Mang's reign) and 1849 (the 2nd year of King Tu
Due's reign), including: Vo Cong Bi Ky (in the middle), Vo Cong Ta Bi (in the left) and Vo Cong Huu Bi (in the right). All of these stela are sofisticatedly carved commemorating the merit of 10 warriors of Nguyen Dynasty.
In front of the Vo Cong stela are two other ones carving names of 10 martial masters of national martial examinations organized in years of 1865, 1868 and 1869 by Nguyen Dynasty.
The sacrificed ceremonies of the Temple of Warriors were held twice every year in autumn and spring. Offerings were mainly tom sinh (three livestocks: buffaloes, pigs and goats) and fruits.
An Dinh Palace
In the early 20th century, King Dong Khanh ordered to build Phung Hoa Residence as a gift for Prince Nguyen Phuc Buu Dao. In 1917, the prince was made the king and took the name Khai Dinh. After the enthronement, he had the residence rebuilt which was then renamed An Dinh Palace. In 1922, King Khai Dinh granted the Palace to Prince Vinh Thuy (King Bao Dai later). This was the place where former King Bao Dai's family lived after the August Revolution in 1945.
Located in the area of 24,000 m2 in front of An Cuu River, An Dinh Palace is surrounded by a wall of solid bricks. The Palace includes these following structures: wharf, main gate, Trung Lap Pavilion, Khai Tuong Pavilion, Cuu Tu Dai Theatre, area for animal cages, two lines of houses, ornamental plant gardens, ponds and back gate, of which main gate, Trung Lap and Khai Tuong pavilions are the most striking.
The palace's main gate is constructed in three-entrance design with two stories and a symbol of a big pearl embeded on the roof-top. The gate is decorated with materials of porcelain, glass... depicting Vietnamese traditional arts.
Trung Lap Pavilion is designed in octagonal shape with statues of the Eight Fairies placed at corners around the pavilion and modern impressive stairs.
Behind Trung Lap Pavilion lies western- style Khai Tuong Pavilion which covers an area of 750m2 and has 3 stories: the first for guests reception, the second for daily activities and the third for worshipping. The whole front of the pavilion attracts eyes by sophisticated decoration in contemporary Roman architectural motif mixing with traditional Oriental style.
An Dinh Palace is a harmonized combination of single buildings, making the palace a unique architectural complex. The construction of An Dinh Palace was also the first landmark in the history of Hue's fine-arts being influenced by Western architectural motif.
By mid 2008, when Hue Museum of Royal Antiques was under reconstruction, its major artifacts have been moved to An Dinh Palace for display till now.
Tu Cung Memorial House (79 Phan Dinh Phung St.)
Located at 79B (now 147) Phan Dinh Phung St., Hue City, this Memorial House used to be the residence of Tu Cung, the last Queen-Mother of Nguyen Dynasty. She was King Khai Dinh's wife and King Bao Dai's mother.
In 1955, when Ngo Dinh Diem was named Prime Minister of South Viet Nam, he did not allow her to stay in An Dinh Palace. She hence bought the residence at 79B Phan Dinh Phung St., where she lived until the day of her death (10 November 1980). The residence had previously possessed of two rooms and after her buying, one more room was built in the right, some architectural structures were improved and interior was decorated in modern style.
In the sitting room, photos of her family members including her husband, King Khai Dinh, her grandchildren and photo of President Ho Chi Minh with Supreme Advisor Vinh Thuy (former King Bao Dai) at the Presidental Palace (Ha Noi) in 1945 were displayed. The memorial house still holds a valuable collection of her possessions as ancient objects dating back to the reigns of King Thieu Tri, King Tu Duc or Chinese Qing Dynasty.
The residence of the former queen was imprinted by architectural styles of the Eastern and the Western cultures, marking a transtional period of Vietnamese house architecture.
Tran Hai Rampart
The Rampart of Tran Hai was built in 1813 under the reign of King Gia Long. Located by the estuary of Thuan An, 10km from the Hue Imperial Citadel by waterway and 13km by road, Tran Hai Rampart used to be a military structure for controlling the water traffic through the Thuan An Estuary and defending the Hue Imperial Citadel.
It was first named Tran Hai Watch Tower and then renamed Tran Hai Rampart by King Minh Mang in 1834. At that time, King Minh Mang ordered his men to build an extra high structure called Quan Hai Tower within the Rampart to enhance the capability of controlling the waterway. Besides, about 9,000 coconut trees were also planted for defending purpose. The Rampart was afterwards being reinforced with some more structures under the reigns of King Thieu Tri, King Tu Duc.
Designed with the defensive architecture of Vauban, Tran Hai Rampart is built of big and solid bricks, about 300m in perimeter, 100m in diameter, 4.4m high and 12.6m thick. The Rampart possesses of 2 gates including the principal gate at the front facing south, 2.6m high, 2.16 m wide and the extra gate at the back. The Rampart is equipped with 99 gun emplacements and surrounded by a 9m- wide and 2.4m- deep trench.
Thien Mu Pagoda
Thien Mu Pagoda is one of the most beautiful and ancient architectural structures of worship in Hue. The pagoda is situated on Ha Khe Hill, on the left bank of the Perfume River, in Huong Long Village, 5km from the centre of Hue.
It was built in 1601, according to a legend about the prediction of a fairy lady and was named Thien Mu (fairy lady from Heaven).
The most string feature of the pagoda is its Phuoc Duyen Tower. The tower was built by King Thieu Tri in 1844, and has become the unofficial symbol of Hue. This octagonal tower has seven storeys with 21m high. There is a Buddha statue placed on each story, in a small arched door.
To the right of the tower is a pavilion containing a stele dating 1715. It is set on the back of a massive marble turtle, a symbol of longevity. To the left of the tower is a pavilion sheltering an enormous belt call Dai Hong Chung casted in 1710.
Dai Hung shrine, the main-hall, presents a magnificent architecture. As well as bronze cast statues, it shelters some precious antiques: the bronze gong cast in 1677, the wooden gilded board with Lord Nguyen Phuc Chu's inscriptions (1714). On both sides of the pagoda are a room for the bonzes and a guest-room for visitors.
The pagoda is surrounded by flowers and ornamental plants. At the far end of the garden stretches a calm and romantic pine-tree forest
Hon Chen Temple
Hon Chen Temple is located on a mountain by Perfume River bank, Ngoc Ho Village, Huong Ho Commune, Huong Tra District. There exists on the mountain a hollow surrounded by a stone circle of several meters in diameter. When it rains, the hollow with stagnant water inside looks like a cup of pure water. The mountain was hence named Ngoc Tran (a cup made of gem) or popularly known as Hon Chen.
Hon Chen Temple worships Holy Mother Thien Y A Na, Buddha, Warrior Saint Guan Gong and over 100 other deities. This is a unique religious structure of the Hue Imperial Citadel with beautiful and poetic landscape. King Dong Khanh (1885-1889) once compared the terrain of this very spot with a lion sticking out his head to drink river water.
Hon Chen Temple possesses of some 10 structures lying in the middle of southeastern slope of the mountain, including main shrine of Minh Kinh Estrade, Quan Cu House, Trinh Cat Institute, Thanh pagoda, altars worshipping mandarins, and some small temples as Thuy Phu, Co ISjgoc Lan, Trung Thien... within the area of Hon Chen Temple.
IVlinh Kinh Estrade, the principal structure of Hon Chen Temple, built in 1886, possesses of 3 big altars. The roof-top of Minh Kinh Estrade is decorated with images of phoenixes symbolizing goddesses, which appear on many worshipping objects in the temple.
Perfume River and Ngu Bỉnh Mountain
A visit to Hue is not complete without an excursion by boat on the Perfume (Huong) River. The 30km-long river gently meanders through mountains, hills, forests and also luxuriant villages of Kim Long, Nguyet Bieu, Vi Da, Dong Ba, Gia Hoi, Cho Dinh, Nam Pho, Bao Vinh, carrying along pure and fresh aroma of tropical plants and flowers.
It would be a pleasant experience for those who love to travel by boat on Perfume River, contemplating the dreamlike landscape, listening to Hue tune and chanty in a quiet and peaceful night.
Ngu Binh Mountain and Perfume River are precious gifts of nature for the land of Hue. Together they form the magnificent view and have become a symbol of Hue City. The old capital is sometimes called Huong-Ngu City, in reference to the beauty of the mountain and the river.
Also known as Bang Son Mountain, Ngu Binh Mountain is 105m high and an ideal place for sightseeing. On clear days, the panorama of the city with splendid palaces, ancient pagodas and silky Perfume River can be seen from the peak of Ngu Binh Mountain. At the foot of the mountain lie small hills and immense green pine forest. Going further are a vast plain, the imposing Truong Son Range dimly loomed in clouds, Thuan An Beach and the deep blue East Sea. Visitors should come here at dawn or sunset to make the most of the impressive beauty of this landscape.
Truong Tien Bridge
More than ten bridges cross the Perfume River, but only one became Hue's symbol, that is Truong Tien Bridge.
As reported in Dai Nam Nhat Thong Chi (Annuals of Unified Great Nam) by the Office of Vietnam's History of the Nguyen Dynasty, "the construction of Trang Tien metal bridge, in the south-east of the Citadel, started the 9th year of King Thanh Thai's reign (1897) and was completed in 1899. The bridge is about 400m long with 6 spans".
In August 1904, a terrible typhoon devastated Central Vietnam, and 4 spans of the bridge were broken down, only two remained. In 1906, the bridge was reconstructed and it has been repaired many times since then. Near the bridge right gate, there was once a market at the Truong Tien Wharf, named Dong Ba. Nowadays, Dong Ba is a major trading centre in Hue.
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