Travel to Vietnam: Hue: the Citadel
Vietnam has a very long history, and Hue figures only in a near-to-final chapter as the capital of the country's last dynasty. The Nguyen Dynasty ruled from 1802 to 1945, and much of that time it was a French puppet. What did this dynasty's capital look like? Vietnam had been ruled directly by the Chinese for over a thousand years, and so it is no surprise that Hue was designed as a Chinese capital in all but name.
The citadel is roughly square, with an outer wall of about 6 miles in total length.
The citadel is built on the Perfume River, and at the midpoint of the side facing the river there is a bastian with a flagpole tower. There's nothing "oriental" about the design: it's straight from the Vauban pattern book, except that the flagpole marks the south end of an axis that runs north through the palace grounds. Along that axis everything is symmetrically balanced.
The entrance to the citadel on the river side is through the Tian Mon, or Front Gate.
The citadel moat, with a bit of the next gate peeping over the trees.
Once inside the citadel, you immediately face another moat and wall, this time that of the Imperial Enclosure. Entry is through the Ngo Mon or Moon gate. It may look timeless, but it was built when Andy Jackson was in the White House. Construction of the citadel as a whole spanned three decades, from 1804 until 1833.
The axis beginning at the flagpole runs right through the center of this gate.
The gate is in two parts, with the Ngu Phung Pavilion atop a masonry foundation. This was the site where the last Nguyen emperor, Bao Dai, abdicated in 1945.
Inside the gate, the view is north across a pond, the Thai Dich Lake, to the Hall of Supreme Harmony or Thai Hoa Palace.
A view from the gate-top pavilion over Thai Dich Lake, the Trung Dao Bridge, and Hall of Supreme Harmony.
The columns are undersized, at least in comparison with those at Beijing.
The interior, with 80 ironwood columns, is more impressive. Audiences were held in this room on the first and 15th day of each lunar month, and there were additional ceremonies on special days such as the emperor's birthday.
Continuing north, there is a courtyard sheathed right and left by identical buildings, the Halls of the Mandarins. The cauldrons are from the 17th century, which means that they were antiques before the palace was even begun.
An air photo looking south over the Hall of Supreme Harmony, the Trung Dao Bridge, the Moon Gate, and th4e Flagpole Tower. Beyong, the Song Huong or Perfume River.
View across the courtyard.
A third wall, circling the Forbidden Purple City.
The king's and queen's residences were here.
Within this innermost enclosure, the only building to escaped destruction in 1947, when the French reoccupied Hue, was the Thai Binh Reading Pavilion.
It's in poor but recognizable shape.
Ornamentation is lavish.
Bits of ceramic tile are assembled like jewelry.
A screen flanks the east side of the building.
Looking southwest across a pond toward the reading room.
Moat feeding the pond.
Water gate leading out of the Forbidden Purple City.
The western third of the Imperial Enclosure is devoted to temples and subsidiary palaces. Here, the entrance to the To Mieu Temple, where Nguyen monarchs were worshipped.
Nine dynastic urns, cast in honor of the Nguyen Dynasty kings.
Interior, restored in 1951.
Hien Lam Cac, one of several places for worship of meritorious officials.
The Imperial Enclosure occupies probably little more than a tenth of the area within the citadel, most of which is a very lively residential neighborhood.
Streets and alleys are neatly gridded.
The Ngu Ha Canal runs through the citadel north of the imperial enclosure.
Market within the citadel.
East gate of citadel, with later fortification.
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