VietNamNet would like to introduce to our readers– must-come destinations in the ancient capital city of Hue, a famous tourist city in Vietnam.
1. Hue Citadel
Hue has chosen to be the capital city of the Southern Kingdom by all Nguyen Lords and officially became the capital under Tay Son’reign. For approximately 400 years, Hue has become a great landscape and architectural site. Hue’s royal complex has been officially recognized by the UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
Situated on the Northern bank of the Perfume River, with an area of 500 ha and a system of three circles of ramparts, namely from outside to inside: Kinh Thanh (Capital Citadel), Hoang Thanh (Royal Citadel) and Tu Cam Thanh (Forbidden Citadel).
The Ngu Binh Mountain in the South is used as a front screening elevation. The Con Hen and Con Da Vien (both are sand dunes) on the Perfume River are chosen as a geomancy condition “dragon on the left, tiger on the right” to protect the capital city.
The construction of Hue Citadel stared in 1805, under the reign of Emperor Gia Long and completed in 1832 under the reign of Emperor Ming Mang. Under Nguyen’s reign, Kings have ordered to build ramparts, palaces and constructional works of royal. Over 200 years to now, it is still original with nearly 140 small and large constructions.
The Citadel, square in shape and almost 10 km in circumference, 6 m high, 21 m thick and with 10 entrances. On the top of the walls that surround it, 24 bastions are established for defensive purposes. Besides, the Citadel has an ancillary gate connecting the Tran Binh Bastion called the Thai Binh Mon (Peace Gate).
The Imperial City is located in the center of the Citadel where established highest offices of Viet Nam’s feudalism and sanctums honoring the cult of decreased Emperors. The Citadel, also has a nearly square form, with more than 600m long for each side, built of brick 4m high, 1m thick, around which is ditched a system of protection trench. Access to the Imperial City can be made by four entrance gates. Noon Gate is only used for the King. Royal Palace consists of more 100 beautiful constructional works divided many sectors.
Forbidden citadel: Located inside the Imperial City, behind the Throne Palace, the Forbidden Purple City is reserved for Emperor and his family. Constructed early in Emperor Gia Long’reign in 1804 with brick walls 3.72m high, 0,72 m thick, about 1,230 m in circumference. Its front and back sides are 324 m each, while either left and right side is more than 290 m, including 50 architectural constructions of different sizes and 7 gates for facilities of entrance and exit. Dai Cung Mon (the Great Place Gate) is in the front side for Kings. Can Chanh Palace (the place for every day working of Emperors). Can Thanh (Emperor’s Private Palace), Khon Thai Residence (Queen’s Private Apartment) reserved for the Queen. Duyet Thi Duong house (Royal Theatre), Thuong Thien (the kitchen for the King’ food), Thai Binh Lau (King’s reading room)… Besides, Hue is also famous for royal tombs and temples of Nguyen Kings. Seven tombs with different aspects are not only a wonderful arch but also combining beautiful, imposing nature and poetic of Hue.
Ancient Hue including Perfume River and Ngu Mountain, palaces and citadels, tombs and temples with hundred of historic years are being embellished and recovered by material contribution of Vietnamese and International community in order to keep Hue City as cultural heritage of world.
Ticket to the Imperial City is VND30,000-40,000 ($1.5-2)/person.
2. Royal tombs
There are many tombs of kings of the Nguyen Dynasty in Hue, including the tombs of Gia Long, Minh Mang, Thieu Tri, Tu Duc, Duc Duc, Dong Khanh, Thanh Thai, Khai Dinh, etc.
Gia Long Tomb: The tomb of Gia Long is in fact a group of tombs including those of the Emperor’s relatives. The whole compound is spread on a joint mountain with 42 small and big mounts, amongst which Dai Thien Tho is the biggest.
The Emperor’s Tomb is located on a flat, big hill. In the front, Thien Tho Mount forms a natural screen, and in the back seven hills rise like natural defenses. On the left, 14 peaks form the “left blue dragons” (Ta Thanh Long), and on the right, another 14 form the “right white tigers” (Huu Bach Ho).
Gia Long’s tomb is a wonderful picture of nature and architecture, which provides a superb view of the boundless mountains and the solitary pine forest.
Inside the surrounding walls about 12 hectares wide, nearly 50 constructions were built on terraces of various levels (about 10m difference). All constructions include the word Khiem (Modesty) in their names.
The tomb is divided into two main parts: the temple area and the tomb area. Tu Duc’s tomb is not only one of the most beautiful works of the Nguyen dynasty, but it is also romantic scenery of mounts and lakes.
Minh Mang Tomb is 12km form Hue, on Cam Ke mount, near Bang Lang fork, on the west bank of the Perfume River. In September 1840, the construction of the tomb began. In January 1841, while the work was implemented Minh Mang was sick and passed away.
Emperor Thieu Tri, his successor to the throne, continued this task according to his father’s plans. Emperor Minh Mang’s corpse was buried in Buu Thanh on August 20th of 1841. The construction was fully completed in 1843.
Minh Mang’s tomb is a standard architectural complex consisting of 40 constructions (palaces, temples, pavilions, etc.) designed on a symmetric axis running from Dai Hong gate to the foot of La Thanh (Surrounding Wall), behind the Emperor’s tomb.
The constructions are distributed into three main parallel axis of which Than Dao path is the center.
Besides nearly 60 word boxes of carved poems in the Stele Pavilion, Hien Duc gate, Sung An Temple, and Minh Pavilion are also remarkable and constitute an anthology of chosen poems of Vietnam’s early 19th century.
Visiting Minh Mang’s tomb, one is impressed by the majesty and symmetry of the architectural constructions.
: Emperor Khai Dinh came to the throne in 1916 and he chose the slope of Chau Chu Mountain (also called Chau E), 10 km from Hue, as the location to build his tomb. The construction of the tomb was started on September 4th, 1920, and lasted for 11 years.
In comparison with those of the preceding emperors, Khai Dinh’s tomb is much smaller in surface (117m x 48.5m) but it is very elaborate. It is the result of the interminglement of many architectural trends: European and Asian, as well as ancient and modern.
The tomb of Khai is one of the most surprising among the royal tombs of Hue.
Hue is one of the cradles of Buddhism in Vietnam, so pagodas are a very important part of the city.
Thien Mu pagoda
The name of the pagoda comes from a legend: a long ago, an old woman appeared on the hill where the pagoda stands today. She told local people that a Lord would come and build a Buddhist pagoda for the country’s prosperity. Lord Nguyen Hoang, on hearing that, ordered the construction of the pagoda of the “Heavenly Lady”.
The pagoda is situated on Ha Khe hill, on the left bank of the Perfume River, in Huong Long village, 5km from Hue city. It was built in 1601, and then Lord Nguyen Phuc Tan had it renovated in 1665. In 1710, Lord Nguyen Phuc Chu had a great bell cast (2.5m high, 3.285kg) and in 1715, he had a stele (2.58 m high) erected on the back of a marble tortoise.
Several kings of the Nguyen Dynasty, such as Gia Long, Minh Mang, Thieu Tri and Thanh Thai, all had the pagoda restored. Phuoc Duyen tower (at first called Tu Nhan tower) was erected in 1884 by King Thieu Tri. This octagonal tower has seven storeys (2m high). Dai Hung shrine, the main-hall, presents a magnificent architecture. As well as bronze cast statues, it shelters some precious antiques: the bronze gong cast in 1677, the wooden gilded board with Lord Nguyen Phuc Chu’s inscriptions (1714). On both sides of the pagoda are a room for the bonzes and a guest-room for visitors.
The pagoda is surrounded by flowers and ornamental plants. At the far end of the garden stretches a calm and romantic pine-tree forest.
The pagoda was heavily damaged in 1943. Bonze Thich Don Hau hence organized a great renovation of the pagoda, that lasted for more than 30 years. Nowadays the pagoda is very well-maintained and very welcoming to all visitors.
Tu Dam pagoda
Tu Dam pagoda is one of the biggest pagodas in Hue. The pagoda was founded at the end of the 17th century (in about 1695) by the Venerable Minh Hoang Tu Dung, a Chinese who belonged to the 34th sect of the Lam Te school of Zen. He was the high-ranking monk who taught and gave the certification to monk Lieu Quan, the Buddhist initiator of Vietnam in the South.
Tu Dam pagoda is now in the district of Truong An, on a beautiful piece of land: high, wide and flat. The pagoda is only 2km from the center of Hue city, along Dien Bien Phu street, across Nam Giao Bridge up to the end of the first slope. The pagoda has a south-east orientation. Kim Phung mounted in the front served as a natural wind-screen. Linh Quang pagoda and the temple dedicated to respectable patriot Phan Boi Chau stands on the left, and Thien Minh pagoda, in the back.
Tu Dam is not the biggest, nor the oldest pagoda in the country, but it is famous and nationally known for its important role in the process of development of Buddhism, and the struggle for peace and for freedom of religion.
Tu Dam pagoda was designed following the model of a conference pagoda (Chua Hoi). The old and new architectures blend together creating spacious and harmonious elements. The three main parts of the pagoda are the three entrance gate, the main sanctuary and the conference House.
The gate is high and wide with a tiled roof. Just inside the gate is a big bodhi tree, providing shadow all year around. As a branch, this bodhi tree was taken right from the bodhi tree under which Buddha reached Nirvana. Mrs Karpeies, Head of the French Buddhist Association, brought it back from India as a present offered to the pagoda and planted it there in 1936. The pagoda yard was built on a very large surface so that it can provide enough space for thousands of people. Every year, on Buddha’s birthday, it is a gathering place where many important and most crowded festivals of Hue’s Buddhists take place.
The main sanctuary consists of a service hall and an ancestor’s altar. The service hall was built on a marble foundation 1.5m high with an old style roof forming a towering and impressive pagoda. On the edge and top of the roof are many curving, gentle, symmetric pairs of dragons creating a well-balanced and harmonious beauty. Under the ancient roof are frescoes telling Buddha’s stories. Many long couplets are hung on the pillars of the Service hall. The building is flanked by two stele and drum towers.
Tu Dam pagoda worships one Buddha only, so that its appointments are rather simpler than that of other pagodas in Hue. In the temple, there is a Buddha Sakyamuni sitting on a lotus pedestal. There are an ancestor’s altar house and a monk’s house behind the main temple. The two storey Conference Hall is large and wide building with 10 rooms to meet the requirements of a conference pagoda.
Tu Hieu pagoda
The pagoda is located at Duong Xuan Thuong III hamlet, in Thuy Xuan village, 5km southwest of Hue. It faces the southeast and uses Ngu Binh mount as a front screen.
The pagoda was originally a small hut built by Nhat Dinh in 1843, who was formerly recognized by royal authority as the monk of Giac Hoang Pagoda. In 1848, the pagoda was restored by monk Cung Ky with the help of the king’s eunuchs and courtiers. Tu Hieu hence became a large pagoda.
In 1894, it was rebuilt by Cuong Ky with the support of King Thanh Thai and the King’s eunuchs created the half-moon lake. In 1962, the pagoda was renovated by Most Ven. Chon Thiet. And in 1971 the three entrance gate and the staff houses were rehabilitated by senior monk Chi Niem.
The pagoda was built in the shape of the Chinese character “Khau” (mouth), with the main building consisting of three rooms and two wings. The main sanctuary is devoted to the worship of Buddha. Behind there is a room honoring former monks of the pagoda. Across a courtyard, the Quang Hieu Duong Hall houses an altar dedicated to local Buddhist devotees on the right, another to the deity Quan Cong in the center, and a third to the eunuchs on the left. A separate altar in this hall honors Le Van Duyet, an outstanding mandarin during the reign of Emperor Gia Long. On the left side of the courtyard are the living quarters of the monks (Ta Lac Thien) and to Tu Hieu right is the guest-house (Huu Ai Nhat).
Dieu De Pagoda
The pagoda is located at 100 Bach Dang street, Phu Cat district, in Hue city. It was built by King Thieu Tri in 1844 on the platform (5,000m2) of his old residence, where he was born in 1807.
The pagoda was constructed on a large scale, but was badly damaged during the successive wars. In 1889, Bonze Tam Truyen was granted fund by King Thanh Thai to restore the pagoda, but once again, it was badly damaged during a storm, in 1904. The present construction was made in 1953. The pagoda includes a main sanctuary with two statues of the Eight Vajra Deities. Behind the pagoda are a guest-room and a kitchen. In the courtyard stand a stele house and a bell tower. The two-storey entrance gate is topped with Dhamma Guardian’s pavilion.
Dieu De was the third site listed by King Thieu Tri in the 20 beauty spots of Hue.
The Cathedral was built in 1937 and completed in 1942. The Cathedral located at the end of Nguyen Hue street, in Hue City.
Main altar is made of rose marble and its bloc is 3.6m long, 1.25 m wide and 2.8 m high. Near by the main altar, there are two smaller ones also made of rose marble in bloc. In the Cathedral, there are drums, gongs deeply characterizing East-Asian characters.
Beyond the verandah, there is a small room to maintain remains of dead Christian’s ashes in small earthenware for worshipping (with burning incense stick).
The campanile consists of four bells operated by electricity. The Cathedral of the Redeemer has its pointed cone stretching out to the sky and its main roof is covered by tiles, all of these show the combination of western and eastern architecture in design and construction. This is a cathedral of fine architecture in Hue City.
Phu Cam Cathedral
It is situated at Phuoc Vinh, Hue City. The Cathedral was built with modern architecture, designed by the architect Ngo Viet Duc.
In early 1963, the construction of the Cathedral was built. To 1967 only the Saint Palace was built and then to 1965, the Cathedral was basically completed .Phu Cam cathedral was built by new concept of physical structure. Supporting pillars were concreted closely attached to the walls and gradually and supplely bended ahead. The three supporting pillars at each of four corners stretch out and create a fairly large space to embrace the whole of Saint Palace and Saint Altar.
The interior of the Cathedral was built following classical tradition with Latin Holy Cross and two opening doors. There are two rows of color glass windows located in the upper interior of the Cathedral and in the middle, there is a Holy Cross made of steel and concrete.
The Saint Palace is a round shape with footsteps, and on the top there is a smaller round shape with the altar made of marble bloc. Temporary house was closely built to the backstage of the cathedral fitted in the concave part behind and settle on a high platform in the center.
In the two wings of the crucifix, there is the tomb of the former archbishop Philipe Nguyen Kim Dien (1921-1988), in the left and in the opposite right – the altar for presenting the Saint.
In front of the Phu Cam main cathedral there are two molded statues: the Saint Phero is on the right, and on the left is Saint Paulo and other missionaries of the Phu Cam diocese. The open-space of Phu Cam main cathedral looks like an opening-mouth-dragon, and in general Phu Cam cathedral with its top perpendicularly stretching to the sky, is very purified and full of artistic and religious characters.
Thuan An beach is situated near by Thuan An mouth, where Huong River runs to Tam Giang lagoon and then to the sea…
In the beginning of the 19th century, King Minh Mang named the place as Thuan An, assigned to build Tran Hai frontier post for the defence of the Capital.
Far from Hue 15 km, only 15 minutes by car, tourists are able to reach the beach. Plenty small boats, junks drift up an down the river in the left of the route, and on the right there are houses, temples, pagodas, rice field, and gardens successively spread out….
Thuan An is a very enjoyable place for all tourists after a full day to visit Citadel, mausoleums, pagodas, and Hue scenery… Thuan An is also the place, where Hue people gather to enjoy the fresh air and sea-bathing in summer time. Intensive activities of the beach lasts from April to September, while Hue temperature being fairly hot.
Besides sea bathing, tourists are able to visit Thai Duong temple, where Thai Duong Goddess is very esteemed by villagers or visit the temple devoted to the whale, the sacred animal of the local people.
Lang Co Beach: With its 10 km in length, Lang Co beach bordered a section of the 1A National Highway, nearly Hai Van pass, and 24 km from Bach Ma area. With its gradually slopping, white sand beach, the average depth of under 1m, and the average temperature in the bathing season of 25°C, Lang Co is an ideal beach for tourists.
Tam Giang Lagoon: The Thua Thien Hue plain along the sea coast has many lagoons, such as those of Tam Giang, Thuy Tu, Lap An, into them are converged the water of almost all the rivers of the province of Thua Thien Hue before going to the sea, through the mouths of Thuan An, Tu Hien, or through the great lagoon of Lang Co.
Tam Giang and Cau Hai are the 2 biggest lagoons with fresh water, the 2 most representative lagoons in Vietnam with a length of 70 km in whole for the two. They form an ideal habitant for many sea species all along the province.
The lagoon of Tam Giang has a depth of 2 – 4m, in some places, to 7m. The immense water surface is an area of important economic activity bringing high income with its sea products. Yearly thousands tons of sea products are brought on here (fish, shrimp and others). In the recent years, the cultivation and the raising of sea products, mainly the raising of shrimp and cultivation of “gracilaria” has developed in this zone of lagoons. Today the province is researching on investment for building a bridge through the Tam Giang lagoon in order to have favorable conditions to develop the economy and tourism of this region.
Bach Ma Mountain: (White Horse) Mount is 60 km south of Hue city. It is still a famous resort. It is about 1,450m above sea level in a transition zone of the northern and southern climate, so it bears a temperate climate, similar to Sapa, Tam Dao, Da Lat, etc. There, the green vegetation is abundant all the year round. The animals are also rich with chirps and calls all days and nights which sound both wild and familiar…
Bach Ma Mount also has many limpid brooks and picturesque waterfalls. At the 16th kilometer on Cau Hai – Bach Ma road, turning left and walk for 20 to 30 minutes, tourists will also find 400m high, 20m wide Do Quyen waterfall which suddenly appears as if it were suspended in the sky… In the summer, rhododendron flowers are blooming on both sides of the fall like two huge flowery silk carpets. In the centre of the resort is Bac (Silver) waterfall, only 10m high and 40m wide and look like a spotless white curtain swayed by the wind.
More than half a century ago, the French recognized the beauty of Bach Ma and began to develop it. Within 5 years (1942-1946), 139 villas were continuously built under the foliage of old trees and by sheer cliffs.
Ngu Binh Mount: The 105m Ngu Binh has a striking and symmetric figure. On both sides of the Even Mount (Bang Son) are 2 small mounts called: Ta Bat Son (Left Mount) and Huu Bat Son (Right Mount). The Nguyen dynasty was established and decided to build up the Hue Capital. When seeing that Bang Son look like a front screen. Gia Long Emperor approved the design of geo-mancers: To choose this mount as a front altar of the imposing and solid defending wall system, and renamed it Ngu Binh.
Together with the Perfume River, Ngu Binh Mount is the second invaluable gift endowed by Nature to Hue. These two mingle with each other creating the romantic mountain and river beauty of Hue. For a long time, this beautiful mount and the blue limpid Perfume River have become the symbol of Hue city. Therefore, people often call Hue “The land of the Perfume River and Ngu Binh mount” or “Huong-Ngu Land”.
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