CITADEL OF THE HO DYNASTY
The Citadel of the Ho Dynasty with total area of 5,234ha is situated in communes of Vinh Tien, Vinh Long, Vinh Quang, Vinh Yen, Vinh Phuc, Vinh Ninh, Vinh Khang, Vinh Thanh and Vinh Loc Town (Vinh Loc District), Thanh Hoa Province. This was the capital citadel of Viet Nam from 1398 to 1407.
The Citadel of the Ho Dynasty was built in 1397 by Ho Quy Ly to become new capital citadel. In just three months, the magnificent stone citadel with a combination between the Vietnamese traditional building techniques and Southeast Asia and Eastern Asia had been completed.
Thanks to the original construction techniques and use of firm materials, the presence of the Citadel with massive stone walls has remained almost intact. The Citadel of the Ho Dynasty is considered as the only stone citadel remaining in Southeast Asia and is one of the few remains in the world. Until now, research on reasons why the Citadel of the Ho Dynasty built manually in a short time but can exist more than 600 years of its history is still a question without satisfactory answer.
The citadel has recognized as a World
Cultural Heritage by the UNESCO at the 35th session of the organization's World Heritage Committee on 27 June 2011 in Paris (France). The Citadel of the Ho Dynasty has met the two criteria specified in the World Heritage Convention.
The property exhibits Chinese Confucianism influence on a symbol of regal centralized power in the late 14th - early 15th centuries. It represents new developments in architectural style with respect to technology and, in adapting pre-existing geomantic city planning principles in an East Asian and South-east Asian context, makes full use of the natural surroundings and incorporated distinctly Vietnamese and East and Southeast Asian elements in its monuments and landscape.
The Citadel of the Ho Dynasty is an outstanding example of an architectural ensemble in a landscape setting which illustrates a flowering of pragmatic Neo- Confucianism in the late 14th century Viet Nam, at a time when it was spreading throughout East Asia to become a major philosophical influence on government in the region. The use of large blocks of stone testifies to the organizational power of the Neo-Confucian state, and the shift in the main axis distinguishes the Citadel layout from the Chinese norm.
The recognized heritage area with a total area of 155.5ha includes Inner Citadel (Thanh Noi) (142.2ha), Nam Giao Altar (4.3ha), and La Thanh Outer Wall (9ha).
History of the Citadel of the Ho Dynasty
In late period of the Tran Dynasty, state affairs were confused and the court was manipulated by Ho Quy Ly - a highest- ranking general. In the first lunar month of 1397, Ho Quy Ly decided to build a new capital citadel in An Ton, Thanh Hoa District (now in Vinh Loc District, Thanh Hoa Province) in order to set up a lasting realm.
According to the principles of feng shui and geomancy, An Ton had a flat area surrounded by many mountains and embraced by two rivers - Ma and Buoi creating a favourable position for the development of the capital citadel.
In the third lunar month of the same year, a new magnificent stone citadel called An Ton was completed, consisting of the Inner Citadel and La Thanh Outer Wall. Then Ho Quy Ly forced King Tran Thuan Tong to move the capital from the capital citadel of Thang Long (Ha Noi) to
Thanh Hoa. An Ton Citadel became new capital citadel of Tran Dynasty and renamed as "Tay Do" (or Western Capital) to differentiate it from "Dong Do" (or Eastern Capital - name of Thang Long Citadel at that time).
In the second lunar month of the year of the Dragon (1400), after coming to the crown replacing the King Tran, Ho Quy Ly renamed the country as Dai Ngu. During Ho Dynasty (1400-1407), Tay Do Citadel was renovated and many new works were built.
In 1407, the Chinese Ming aggressors conquered Dai Ngu and renamed it to Giao Chi District, considering as an administrative unit of China. Therefore, Tay Do was named as "Phu Thanh Hoa".
In 1428, after defeating the Ming invasion, Le Loi was enthroned, he decided to rename the country as Dai Viet and set up the capital in Dong Quan Citadel (name of Thang Long Citadel at that time). In 1430, Le Loi renamed Dong Quan Citadel as Dong Kinh Citadel (or Eastern Imperial Citadel), and Phu Thanh Hoa as Tay Kinh Citadel (or Western Imperial Citadel).
During the 16th century, Tay Kinh Citadel was firm guerilla base of dynasties of Le So (1428-1527), Mac (1527-1592) and Le Trung Hung (1533-1789) in the civil wars of struggling for royalty.
In 1802, Nguyen Anh defeated the Tay Son army, founded the Nguyen Dynasty (1802-1945). In this period, many locals renamed to fit the administrative reform of the Nguyen Dynasty. Tay Kinh Citadel so named as Tay Nhai following the name of a village located in the western gate of the Citadel.
During the reign of King Thanh Thai (1889 -1907), word of Nhai in the names of the villages located nearby the capital citadel was changed to Giai. Therefore, the Citadel was also renamed as Tay Giai.
Since after August Revolution in 1945, the Citadel has been official named as the Citadel of the Ho Dynasty (Thanh Nha Ho) according to the name of the dynasty that built the Citadel and set capital there.
The Ho Dynasty has left many historical marks such as setting up Nam Giao Altar in 1402, Xa Tac Altar in 1397; organising two exams in 1400 and 1405. In addition, this period also associated with remarkable innovations such as reforming examination, building more schools, heightening the Nom scripts and issuing paper-money, reforming tax, opening "Quang te thu" - a public hospital, forming a barn to sell at low price for the poors.
In the world heritage record, the Citadel of the Ho Dynasty is briefly described as follows:
The Citadel of the Ho Dynasty, built according to the feng shui principles, testifies to the flowering of neo-Confucianism in late 14th century in Viet Nam and its spread to other parts of East Asia. According to these principles, it was sited in a landscape of great scenic beauty on an axis joining the Tuong Son and Don Son mountains in a plain between the Ma and Buoi rivers.
In terms of architectural history, the Citadel of the Ho Dynasty plays an important place in the planning and building of urban areas in Viet Nam. It shows the uniqueness in the construction of a citadel in general and a stone citadel in particular, and a breakthrough in Viet Nam's tradition of building citadel.
Thanks to the unique construction techniques all the major stone sections are intact and have not been affected by time and weather or by recent urban encroachment.
The Citadel of the Ho Dynasty is an architectural masterpiece of the 14th century with impressive architecture of the walls and other parts. The Citadel buildings represent an outstanding example of a new style of Southeast Asian imperial city with a combination between the Vietnamese architecture and the unique building techniques of Viet Nam and Southeast Asia and Eastern Asia.
VESTIGES OF THE CITADEL OF THE HO DYNASTY
According to historical documents, ancient bibliographies and archaeological research, the complex of the Citadel of the Ho Dynasty includes Thanh Noi (Inner Citadel and also known as Imperial Citadel) with the remains of the royal palaces and temples inside; Nam Giao Altar (for worshipping the Heaven) and La Thanh Outer Wall.
Thanh Noi is a unique architectural work, with its wall and four main gates made of green cube stone plates beautifully carved and overlapped tightly one after another. On the average, each stone plate is 1.5m-long, lm thick and weighs about 15-20 tonnes. The Citadel is fairly square with about 870.5m-long north and south sides, 883.5m-long east and west side. Its four vaulted gates are called the South, North, West and East gates (or also known as the Front, Back, Left and Right gates), each located at the center of each side. The stone plates on the vault are carved as sections of a grapefruit, tightly overlapping. The Front Gate in the south is the most important and has three entrances.
The middle entrance is 5.82m wide and 5.75m high. The side entrances are 5.45m wide and 5.35m high. Each of three remaining gates has only one entrance. The wall of the Citadel is 5-6m high on average. The highest wall section is the Front Gate with the height of 10m. Scientists estimated that the entire wall was made of 25,000m3 of stones. Inside the stone wall was another wall made of approximately 80,000m3 of soil.
According to the documents, there were palaces in Thanh Noi such as Hoang Nguyen, Nhan Tho, Phu Cue, Dong Cung, Dong Thai Mieu, Tay Thai Mieu, Diem Canh... However, now Thanh Noi remains some relics such as a part of the Citadel's wall and four gates, vestiges of lakes, a couple of stone dragons with sophisticated carving features, foundation of
Thanh Noi architecture, Hoa Nhai marble-paved road, stone balls, stone bullets, pottery, the South Gate precinct and valuable objects with specific characteristics of Tran - Ho dynasties culture.
Called Hao Thanh, the moat system surrounds Thanh Noi and connected with Buoi River through a canal at the southeast corner of the Citadel. There were four stone bridges over Hao Thanh to Thanh Noi at the four gates. Nowadays, many parts of Hao Thanh have been filled and dried. However, the traces of Hao Thanh still can be seen very clearly in the north, east and south of the Citadel.
Nam Giao Altar
Nam Giao Altar, an important royal architectural work, was built in 1402 in the southwest of Don Son Mountain, on the spiritual pathway directly connected with the South Gate, about 2.5km away from the Citadel of the* Ho Dynasty to the southeast. Nam Giao Altar has an area of 43,000m2. Currently, the altar appears 5 grounds with 5 terraces. There is a difference of 7.8m between the highest and the lowest. Nam Giao Altar is the place to sacrifice to the Heaven; pray for harmonious rain and wind, peaceful country and happy people, prosperous and everlasting dynasty. In addition, the altar is also the place to sacrifice to the soul of dead kings, stars and many other genies. Nam Giao ceremony is considered as a royal ritual. The first Nam Giao ceremony of the Ho Dynasty was held in the same year of constructing the altar.
The archaeological excavations of Nam Giao Altar in 2004, 2007, 2008 and 2012 showed the scale and architecture of the altar. There are 5 grounds, in which the size (length, width, height) of the grounds from upper to lower respectively are the first ground (23.3m, 15.3m 2.45m); the second (142m, 70.59m, 2.575m); the third (142m, 31.25m, 1.51m); the forth (142m, 32.2m, 0.7m) and the fifth (142m, 62.1m, 1.77m).
The excavation has revealed traces of many different buildings as Vien dan (the round altar symbolizes the heaven), wall, ground and gate of the altar, well, spiritual pathway, Troi Cung (the Purification Palace of the King before performing rituals), Than Tru (kitchen to prepare offerings)... All are arranged in two main areas, the Noi Dan (Inner Altar) and the Ngoai Dan (Outer Altar) which bounded by the largest wall round of the altar. Especially, the ancient well Ngu Duyen (well for King) is considered as one of the most precious ancient architecture in the history of architecture in Viet Nam. The well with square structure, round inside, about 5m depth, is located on a mountain so its water always clear, cool and flowing year round. Well water was mainly for the sacrifice and the king to purge before performing rituals. The archaeologists also found thousands of artifacts, mainly bricks, tiles, ceramics, porcelain, coins... at Nam Giao Altar.
La Thanh, the outer wall of the Citadel built to protect Thanh Noi was home to residents in the Citadel. La Thanh was approximately 10km in perimeter and its construction based on the natural terrain. The Ho Dynasty built La Thanh by banking up and making bamboo hedge to connect the mountains of Don Son (Vinh Thanh Commune), Hac Khuyen (Vinh Long Commune), Xuan Dai, Trac Phong, Tien Sy (Vinh Ninh Commune), Kim Ngo (Vinh Tien Commune), Kim Nguu, Tuong Son (Vinh Quang Commune) with two rivers of Buoi and Ma. Now, the trace of La Thanh in Beo Village (Vinh Long Commune) with a length of more than 2,000m has been localized for protection.
Showroom located adjacent to the South Gate displays the overall materials, photographs and artifacts of the Citadel of the Ho Dynasty. In particular, two most typical collections are "Collection of artifacts in the excavation of the Citadel of the Ho Dynasty - Nam Giao Altar" and "Collection of objects to build the Citadel of the Ho Dynasty".
The ancient quarry in An Ton Mountain (Vinh Yen Commune)
is about 2km from the North Gate to the west. Archaeologists have discovered here 21 large stones weighing more than 10 tons each, scattering at the foot and halfway of the mountain. These stones with three to four smooth surfaces are visible the traces of carving. The majority of the edges and corners of the stones were broken, considered as reasons why they were left at the quarry. In particular, in An Ngua Valley where found 10 of 21 stones, there are many traces of the exploitation of stones filled thickly with macadam.
Binh Khuong Temple
is situated close to the East Gate area (Dong Mon Village, Vinh Long Commune). The temple worships Binh Khuong, wife of Tran Cong Si who directly supervise and speed up building the eastern walls. When her husband was killed, she had suicided by hitting her head on a stone. Local people mourned for her and established the temple in the place she died.
Dong Mon Communal House
is about 300m from the East Gate to the east (Dong Mon Village, Vinh Long Commune). The communal house with high artistic value has dated from the Nguyen Dynasty. Some artifacts relating to the Citadel of the Ho Dynasty are preserved in the communal house.
Tran Khat Chan Temple
was built on the eastern side of the Dun Mountain (or Don Son Mountain), often called Dun Temple (Vinh Thanh Commune).
Tran Khat Chan was born in Ha Lang (Ha Luong Village of Vinh Thanh Commune nowadays). Thanks to the feat of arms in killing Che Bong Nga, he was nominated for senior lieutenant-general. In 1399, Ho Quy Ly held an oath-taking ceremony in Don Son. Tran Khat Chan and generals of Tran Dynasty attempted to kill Ho Quy Ly. The thing was discovered, he and more than 370 people involved were beheaded. The temple was established where he was beheaded to commemorate his merits.
Giang Pagoda (also named Tuong Van Pagoda)
is located at the foot of Don Son Mountain belongs to Giang Village (now Vinh Loc Town). The pagoda was built during Tran Due Tong reign (1372 -1377). Legend has it that Hung Dao Vuong's nephew wished Tran Dynasty lasting forever. He set up a small pagoda to practice the True Lam Zen and named Tuong Van, inverting read as Tran Vuong (means Tran King). By the time of Ho Dynasty, Ho Quy Ly found Tuong Van Pagoda located in good feng-shui position. He had allowed repairing it as the national pagoda.
Nang Cave (also named as Ngoc Thanh Cave)
is located on An Ton Mountain (Yen Ton Thuong Village, Vinh Yen Commune). According to legend, Nang Cave was the place where Ho Quy Ly detained King Tran Thieu De and his two servants.
Ho Cong Cavern
is located on Xuan Dai Mountain (Vinh Ninh Commune), about 5km to the south of the Citadel. In the old days the cavern was named as "Among thirty six caverns of Nam country, Ho Cong is the first". The cavern has seductive beauty with multiform stalactites. Natural scenery of the mountain and the river mixed with each other has created landscape of the cavern.
Ben Ngu (Royal landing place)
is located at the Buoi River right bank (Co Diep Village, Vinh Phuc Commune). The legend says the kings and queens of Ho Dynasty often taking a bath there. The background of Ben Ngu is a flat laterite layer, up to 100m in length. There are traces of the perforated holes on the surface of the stone to put up parasol, curtains, tents...
Ancient house of Mr. Pham Ngoc Tung
is about 400m from the West Gate to the west (Tay Giai Hamlet, Vinh Tien Commune). This valuable and rare house was built in 1810. As for its architecture, it is recognized by UNESCO as one often typical ancient houses of Viet Nam. In 2002, JICA of Japan invested expenses in researching, preserving, restoring this ancient house.
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