Famous for being one of Vietnam’s seven World Heritage Sites and a must-see tourist attraction. Hue Citadel has special interest to both local and foreign visitors. Unlike Hanoi, Danang or Ho Chi Minh City with its the luxurious and flashy beauty. Hue has the totally different beauty. Firstly setting foot in Hue, you feel that this city is quieter and more peaceful. It is a perfect combination of a romantic landscape of mountains and river and the ancient beauty of temples and tombs. Because of the poetic and charming beauty, Nguyen Dynasty chosen Hue to be the capital of nine generations in the Southern kingdom ((Dang Trong) during almost 400 years, from 1558 to 1945.
History of Hue Citadel
Emperor Gia Long planned to build Hue citadel since 1803. It started to construct in 1805 by thousands of workers from different areas. As the result, construction completed in 1832 under the reign of Emperor Ming Mang. The citadel lays on the Perfume (Huong) River’s north bank including some sections of Phu Xuan, Van Xuan, Dien Phai, An Van, An Hoa, An My villages. Some parts of Kim Long tributary and Bach Yen tributary were stopped and filled up. Perfume River is the main road, along with two sand dunes: The Con Hen and Con Da Vien. It represent “dragon on the left, tiger on the right” protecting Hue citadel. Across the river, not far away is Ngu Binh mount top with more 100 m in height, shielding the front Citadel from bad spirits.
Architecture of Hue Citadel
The citadel complex covers an area of 520 ha and comprising three circles of ramparts. It namely calls Kinh Thanh Hue (Hue Capital Citadel), Hoang Thanh (Royal City) and Tu Cam Thanh (Purple Forbidden City). All the structures are turning to the south with meaning of “Tking facing South to rule the country”. The Nguyen emperors has combined the principles of feng shui and Western military architecture Vauban style.
Hue Capital Citadel
The first place is Hue Capital Citadel, which has still remained nearly 140 small and large constructions after the past 200 years. With a square shape, it is almost 10km in circumference, 6m high, 21m thick, with 10 entrances. The Capital Citadel was originally built by soil, only to be replaced by bricks afterward. The outside of the Citadel is Ho Thanh Ha River nearly 7 km in length. It originates from the remaining parts of Kim Long tributary and Bach Yen tributary.
The canals serve both functions of defense and water transport (the west section of Van Ke River. Consequently, it also serve for north of the river segment An Hoa, east of the Dong Ba River section and the south section. Besides, the Citadel Hue has an ancillary gate connecting the Tran Binh Bastion. Its name is the Tran Binh Mon (Peaceful protector Gate) and two other gates from the river-way.
The second circle inside the Citadel of Hue is Hoang Thanh (Royal city). Royal city surrounding is a square wall, almost 600 metres in length on each side. It is the most important part, where the most important agencies of the monarchy and shrines dedicated to the kings. It started to build in 1804 with bricks of 4m high, and 1m thick, but totally completion in 1833, under King Ming Mang’s reign. The Royal City Hue has four gates. The south gate (Ngo Mon) is most typical in construction and is widely recognized as the symbol of Hue Citadel. Because it was the main entrance for the King and royal family as well as the place where important events of the dynasty took place. These buildings is located in the inside of Royal Citadel Hue including Thai Hoa Palace, ancestral temple and Forbidden City.
Forbidden City Hue
Forbidden City Hue is last circle of Hue Citadel, where was reserved for Emperor and his family only, was forbidden to the people. Built in the early 1803 under reign of Emperor Gia Long, it was initially named Cung Thanh, but was renamed into Tu Cam Thanh from in the second Minh Mang year (1821). By following the different eras, it had over 50 monuments of all sizes and 7 entrance doors. All of them was made primarily of wood and covered with yellow color which symbolizes the king.
The structure of the Forbidden City Hue is symmetrical. The palaces location arrange at two sides of the main axis from the South Gate: right for the Army, left for Culture, right for Women, left for Man…
Forbidden city inside
Inside of Forbidden City, there were several buildings of all sizes, seperate into many roles. Dai Cung Mon (the Great Palace Gate) is in the front side to enter to Hue Forbidden City. Can Chanh Palace is the place of residence of the king. Ta Huu Vu and Huu Vu Palace – Waiting rooms of Mandarins. Ta Tu Vu Palace – Secret Office, Can Thanh (Emperor’s Private Palace). Khon Thai Residence (Queen’s Private Apartment) served for the Queens. Noi Cung Palace used for concubines. Kien Trung Palace – king’s gazebo. Thai Binh Palace – king’s Library. Duyet Thi Duong – Theatre of the king. Thai Y – Bureau of Medicine of the king. Thuong Thien (the kitchen for the Kings’ food). Quang Minh Palace – place of residence of the princes…
In addition, Hue is also famous for royal tombs and temples of Nguyen dynasty. Their locations situate on both sides of the river, far away to the west of Hue citadel. Seven tombs are not only a wonderful art but also symbols for Hue architecture. They are achievements of architecture association with landscapes.
Unfortunately, the Hue Citadel today hasn’t keep the original structure. French colonial damaged some parts of the citadel including the temples, pavilions, walls, and gates during skirmishes in 1947. And then American forces destroyed most of them in 1968. However, we can’t deny that Nguyen lords and Nguyen dynasty left the country diversified cultural heritages with special values which helps Hue to become a cultural-tourist center, and a typical festival city of Vietnam.