Not only Hue is famous for its stunning and poetic landscape but also a city filled with long-standing history. Through seven centuries of establishment, Hue is still home of the biggest cultural and religious centers of Vietnam. It will surprise you how much you learn of our history with these wonderful places to visit in Hue.
Hue Imperial Citadel
Centuries ago, Nguyen Lords has chosen Hue as the Capital of the Dang Trong. After taking control of Vietnam, in 1802, Emperor Gia Long discussed with the geomencers to find the best place to build a citadel complex. Subsequently, Hue was selected as the suitable site and constructions began in 1804.
1. The Ideal Location
Located on the Northern Bank of Perfume River, it took 27 years to complete Hue Imperial Citadel. Thousands of workers were appointed to finish a huge burden of workload. With a perfect geomancy, the Citadel is a unique combination between Oriental architecture and some Western military characteristics.
The Feng Shui principle and its practice in Hue Citadel is the most interesting part to learn about this place. The Ngu Binh Mountain, known as a protecting wall and the Perfume River, which winds through the city, give this old city an entire setting of great natural beauty as well defining its symbolic importance. The site was chosen for a combination of natural features such as hills representing a protective screen in front of the palaces, or taking the role of “a Green Dragon” to the left and “a White Tiger” to the right – which shield the main entrance and prevent the entry of unwanted spirits. With these features propeled UNESCO to recognize Hue Citadel as part of an outstanding Eastern Feudal Capital.
2. The Well-Planned Structure
The Imperial City has three layers, the first one is the Hue Capital Citadel with a unique zig zag shape serving as an effective defense wall for its people and palaces. Inside the Citadel is the Imperial City, with a perimeter wall of 2.5 kilometers total in length. It is the most important part of the Citadel, which houses many political palaces. Many sections in Imperial City are used for grand ceremonies, storing precious objects and teaching principles.
Finally, within the Imperial City is the Purple Forbidden City. People started building this area in the early 1803 for the ruling Emperor and his family. The whole site consisted of many constructions with different purposes. For example, Can Chanh palace was the working place for the Emperors, Khon Thai Residence is for First Ladies, Duyet Thi Duong house is serving as a royal theater and Thai Binh Lau as a King’s reading room.
3. The Royal Art
Apart from the historic value, Hue Citadel is also one of the most interesting places to visit in Hue because of its artistic merit.
If you enjoy discovering mysterious and antique architectures, this place has to be in your must – see list while in Hue. With a sanctuary atmosphere and great feudal architecture, Hue Imperial Citadel will bring you back to the past and give you wonderful experiences.
Thien Mu Pagoda
Serving as the old capital, all Nguyen Lords and Emperors aspired Hue to be an important center of Buddhism in Vietnam. There are around ten pagodas constructed more than 300 years ago, among them, stands Thien Mu Pagoda as the most noticeable one for its legend and values it keeps for Hue people.
Thien Mu Pagoda was built in 1601, and then renovated by Lord Nguyen Phuc Tan in 1665. Originally, there was a legend about its name: Once upon a time when Hue was still an unknown land, an old woman dressing in red appeared on the hill which is the current location of the pagoda. She told people in the area that a Mighty Lord would come and build a Buddhist pagoda for the country’s prosperity. Hearing that, Lord Nguyen Hoang ordered the construction of the pagoda and gave it the name “Thien Mu”, “Heavenly Lady Pagoda”.
2. Its Generation Values
In 1884, King Thieu Tri erected Phuoc Duyen Tower – a famous symbol of Thien Mu Pagoda – to honor his Mother. In 1710, Lord Nguyen Phuc Chu funded the casting of a giant bell, which was one of the most valuable cultural relics in Vienam is now displayed on the side of Phuoc Duyen Tower.
There are a bonsai garden in the side of main temple made by the famous Master Dao Tan who was the father of Vietnamese Folk Performance and an Austin Car which belonged to Venerable Thich Quang Duc who set himself on fire in 1963 to reject Diem regime.
Nowadays, there are a lot of flowers and ornamental plants surrounding the pagoda. At the far end of the garden stretches a calm and romantic pine-tree forest. For tourists who want to discover the ancient beauty and traditional architecture of Hue Pagoda, they can reach there by car or boat. Visiting the pagoda in the afternoon, not only can we observe the monk pray but also enjoy the beautiful sunset on Perfume River.
Note: Visitors should pay more attention to what you wear. It’s best to wear something full-length (skirt or trousers), not shorts or sleeveless shirt.
Khai Dinh Tomb
Apart from the Citadel, the tombs of Nguyen’s Emperors is also very popular in Hue. There are seven unique royal tombs, among them, Khai Dinh Tomb is the most outstanding one.
1. Khai Dinh as a King
It is clear that Khai Dinh Tomb is one of the most outstanding structures of Nguyen Dynasty. Financially speaking, this tomb took 11 years (from 1920 to 1931) and a lot of money to complete. During its construction, the Emperor did raise 30% tax on peasants, which made Vietnamese people very angry and outraged.
Unlike his predecessors, Khai Dinh has broken the traditional rules to build a completely extraordinary tomb. It is built mainly of concrete and the triple gate is made from wrought – iron. On the second layer, the architecture of the tomb is a blend between Eastern and Western elements with 4 religious symbols and philosophies ( Budhhism, Catholicism, Hidduism and Confucianism) weaving to each other making such unique combination.
About Khai Dinh’s private life, he was a puppet ruler for French Indochine power for 9 years. During his reign, he was more into fashion and art than making life-changing decisions for his own people. He worked closely with French government and made a lot of decisions which favored more of himself and French government than benefiting his people. Rumors had it that his only son from one of his 12 women was not his, deprived from the fact that he enjoyed male company and entertaining shows.
2. The unique style of Khai Dinh Tomb
It is probably his character that creates a special style for his tomb. Despite its small size, the building is much more elaborately designed than other tombs with expensive materials. The whole structure is located in the outskirts of Hue, which leaning against Chau Chu mountain. Moreover, the ceiling of the palace is decorated with the picture of nine intricate dragons. Until now, it is still sharp and beautiful after almost 100 years. Surprisingly, the artist painted this incredible artwork by his feets as a way to oppose Khai Dinh’s rule. Lucky for him to create such a masterpiece, otherwise, Khai Dinh would have killed long before his work finished.
Although Khai Dinh is not a great king, no one can deny the value of his tomb. Nowadays, many critics do admit that he is a great and creative architect in the early of 20th century.
Minh Mang Tomb – A Must-See Place in to Visit Hue
Another wonderful tomb of Nguyen’s King is the tomb of Minh Mang. This majestic tomb is renowned for its architecture and beautiful forest. During the reign of Emperor Minh Mang, he planned to build his tomb. However, it was only built later by his son, Thieu Tri.
Minh Mang Tomb nestles beautifully in An Bang village, which is about 12 kilometers from Hue. With a balance of nature and structure, this tomb is one of the most popular places to visit in Hue.
Following Confucian’s philosophy, Emperor Minh Mang did not like trading with the West. He just focused on building and refining Vietnam’s infrastructure and agricultural reforms. During his reign, he did many great contributions for improving the life of people. We can see that every details in his tomb all follows the traditional style of Vietnamese architecture.
The structure of Minh Mang tomb stays on a main straight pathway. All constructions of this tomb follow an axis with the order: Dai Hong Mon gates, the court yard, the stone tablet, the worship yard, Hien Duc gate, Sung An temple hall, Trung Minh lake, Minh Lau house, Tan Nguyet lake, Quang Minh Chinh Truc gate, Trung Dao Buu and finally the tomb of the king. This order to show you that this man is a discipline, decisive and a strong ruler of all Nguyen Emperors.
The tomb of Minh Mang has reflected clearly his points of view, personalities, and tastes. Its imposing beauty will satisfy every single tourists and no one could ignore one of the most beautiful old citadel vestiges in Hue.
To sum up, if you are planning a trip to Hue, remember to take note all these tourist attractions, they are one of the most popular historical sites in Hue that you should not miss. Or you can also explore the whole city in a special way with our tours here. I am sure that it will be unforgettable memory when you come to our old capital.