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An experience we will never forget
March 24, 2012

Hue Imperial City

Hue Imperial City was constructed between 1805 and 1832 on an expansive area of more than 5 square kilometers on the northern bank of Perfume River. Nguyen emperors had used thousands of laborers to build this mighty citadel, encompassing three circles of ramparts: the Defensive Fort (Capital City), the Imperial City and the Forbidden Purple City. Unfortunately, much of them were ravaged by typhoons and wars. The government has recently shown an enormous determination to restore their lost grandeur. Though not much has been done so far, the relics in themselves still have a little for everyone. Even if you are not keen on architecture or history, you should not miss a relaxing wander around the site.

Ngo Mon Gate (Noon Gate) is the most impressive among 10 entrances into Hue Royal city and perhaps the most beautiful structure remaining. It actually has five gates with the central one reserved for the emperors. The two adjacent were used by mandarins and the outermost were for servants. On top of the gates is Lau Ngu Phung (Five Phoenix Pavilion). Its biggest hall is where the kings proclaimed great events, including the announcements of the names of successful doctoral candidates who passed a number of rigid royal exams. This was also the place King Bao Dai declared his abdication and surrender to the North Vietnam in August 1945.


Thai Hoa Palace (other names: Throne Palace or the Palace of Supreme Harmony) is the heart of the royal city. There are two separate halls: the first serves as an anteroom and the second is the main hall in which the throne of 13 Nguyen kings is housed. Thai Hoa Palace was used for royal courts, ambassador-welcoming rites and solemn ceremonies like Coronation Day or Emperor’s Birthday Anniversary. Its architecture is typical of Oriental palaces, featuring two great dragons on the top and yellow tiled roof. Its interior reflects the emperors’ majesty with elaborate columns lacquered in gold and red. The throne is covered with a luxuriously brocaded canopy. You may earn a chance to get a photograph of yourself in the royal gown sitting on that throne.


The riverside Flag Tower is found right in front of the citadel. For many, this is the city’s symbol, witnessing the rise and fall of powers. The tower, according to the chronicle of Nguyen Dynasty, was of 17.40-metre height, including three flat-topped pyramids, one piled upon another. On the third terrace, there were 8 small buildings housing 8 cannons. The Flag Tower has undergone repeated restoration and reconstruction. The first wooden flagpole was erected in 1807 under the reign of King Gia Long. It was renovated and embellished in 1829, 1831 and 1840 during the reign of King Minh Mang. In 1846, King Thieu Tri reconstructed both the tower and the pole as they were thought to be ill-looking. In 1904, the pole was crashed by a typhoon and then with the help of the French, it was replaced by a new one made from cast iron. In August 1945, the feudal flag was pulled off the tower as King Bao Dai surrendered to Ho Chi Minh Revolutionary Government. In 1947, after the French controlled the citadel again, the pole was barraged and a concrete pole was constructed in 1948. During the Vietnam War, especially in the 1968 Tet Offensive, the Citadel was seriously destroyed by bombardments of both Vietnamese and American forces, but the flag tower survived. The red flag with gold star of North Vietnam had flown on its top for three weeks before being crashed down by American bloody counterattacks and eventually rose again in Spring Uprising April 30, 1975.


The Mieu Temple is the biggest place of worship ever built in Vietnam. It was constructed in 1821 and dedicated to the 10 Nguyen kings and their queens. There are 9 compartments in the main building and 11 others in the front building. First, only 7 red and gold-lacquered altars were erected to worship 7 Nguyen emperors. The three reddish ones dedicated to three anti-French kings (King Thanh Thai, King Duy Tan & King Ham Nghi) were added later in 1959. In the yard of the temple, there are Nine Dynastic Urns standing under the shade of Hien Lam Pavilion. Each urn represents the power of one emperor.  They are the biggest bronze urns ever cast in Vietnam, including seven ones of more than 2 tons. All are sculptured with motifs of moons, stars, clouds, mountains, rivers, flowers and various landscapes of the country. Most importantly, The Mieu was least hit by wars, so you can see the temple today as what it was before.


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