Discover ancient capital city of Hue

Published: 05/06/2011 05:00



VietNamNet would like
to introduce to our readers– must-come destinations in the ancient capital
city of Hue city, a famous tourist city in Vietnam.

1. Hue Citadel

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’ cooking),
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

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.

Tu Duc Tomb is
one of the most beautiful works of royal architecture of the Nguyen dynasty.
The tomb lies in a boundless pine forest, 8 km from Hue. Its construction started in December
1864, and finished in 1867.

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

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.

Khai Dinh Tomb:
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.

3. Pagodas

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dieu De was the third site listed by King Thieu Tri in the
20 beauty spots of Hue.

4. Churches

Redeemer Church

The Cathedral was built in 1937 and completed in 1942. The
Cathedral located at the end of Nguyen
Hue street, in Hue City.

The particular architecture of the cathedral is its large
doors without partitions. The verandah of the Cathedral is largely designed in
order to make who ever stay in the verandah, feel that they were in the
interior of the church.

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.

5. Sea

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.

In Lang Co sea, there are various kinds of shrimp, lobster,
sea shrimp, crab, butter-fish, mackerel fish, oysters… Not far from the
beach, there is Chan May scenery, Lang Co fishing village.

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.

6. Mountains

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

From the top of Bach Ma, people can view landscapes of Hai
Van Pass, Tuy Van mount, Cau Hai lagoon with heaving fishing boats and even the
shimmering electric lights of Hue city at night,
as well as the huge and boundless Eastern

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

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


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