Hue once served as capital of Vietnam and there are many interesting things to see inside and around the city
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 Vau Ban 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 travelers and two gates for water routes. It is 21 meters thick and equipped with 24 embrasures.
The Imperial 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.
Forbidden 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.
The whole royal complex of Hue has been Officially recognised by UNESCO as an item listed in the World Heritage.
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 organised to announce the names of laureate 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 received foreign ambassadors.
Thai Hoa Palace
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 coronations.
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 worshop 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 reverved 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 organised 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
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 meters 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 tones 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, clounds, mountains, rivers, and various Vietnamese landscapes and people’s life. Many consider the nine urns as a summary encyclopaedia of Vietnam’s landscapes and farm produce and animals.
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 recognised 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 meters high. This is the tallest architectural project in Hoang Thanh (Imperial Enclosure).
Cung That: 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 Palace.
Dien Tho palace was built in 1804. A special creature in this architectural structure is that the cordon 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.
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 or 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. 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 point of view, personalities and tastes.
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 center 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 characterised 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 te (Praying) where worship services were organised. 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 stele house and to the right side is the big altar.
Tomb of Minh Mang:
It is also called Hieu Lang 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 center 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 kilometer from the center 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 indispensable to a royal tomb there ate 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 wideness 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.
Thien Mu Pagoda
This is also known 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 stories. The tower was built by King Thieu Tri in 1844 and has become the unofficial symbol of Hue. Each of the seven stories 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 story facing to the southern direction. Especially in the top lever 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.
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, symbol 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.
Ngu Binh Mountain
This is one of the best sights for scenic beauty in Hue. It has another name of Bang Son, three kilometers from the royal city of Hue. Ngu Binh is a trapezium figure. The top of Ngu Binh mountain is flat, 103 meters above sea level. From a distance, visitors can see the mountain range as a massive curtain protecting the imperial city of Hue from storms and strong winds. Together with the Huong (perfume) River, Ngu Binh mountain is a symbol of Hue.