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Hue Attractions Hue City Tour
Chua Thien Mu, Heavenly Lady Pagoda, Hue
According to legend, the people around this area used to see a vision of an old lady appearing on the hill where the pagoda now sits. Upon seeing people, she always said that someday a great leader would build a pagoda at this site to bring peace to the country. One day, when Lord Nguyen Hoang passed by this area, upon hearing the story, he ordered the construction of the pagoda in 1601. He named it Chua Thien Mu - Heavenly Lady Pagoda.
Overlooking the southwest bank of the Perfume river, the Pagoda has two sections. The front of the Pagoda can be accessed from the Perfume river and has the Phuoc Duyen tower which can be seen from many points in Hue. This area also houses the great bell which was cast in 1710. It also has the turtoise bearing a great stele carved in 1715.
The rear of the pagoda is the main hall where Buddha is enshrined. It is also an area where the monks of the temple live and practice Buddhism. The Pagoda was the center of Buddhism in central Vietnam. In 1963, in a defying act against the Diem regime, Thich Quang Duc burned himself in downtown Saigon. Today, the car that took him to Saigon is stored in the rear of Thien Mu Pagoda.
Dien Thai Hoa, Palace of Supreme Harmony, Hue
The Palace of Supreme Harmony houses the thrones of the 13 emperors in the Nguyen Dynasty from Gia long to Bao Dai. It was built in 1805. The palace and San Dai Trieu (Esplanade of Great Salutation) were the site for all major festivities such as Coronation Ceremony, the Emperor's birthday, and where the king held court during the first and fifteen day of the lunar month. On these occasions, the king sat on the throne located in the palace, and the mandarins lined the court according to their rank and title from first to ninth grade, civil mandarins on the left and military mandarins on the right.
Hue garden houses, Hue
Cultural characteristics of Hue such as its cuisine, royal court music and royal architecture are being exploited effectively. Besides, the garden house is a typical and unique characteristic, contributing to the greater beauty of Hue.
Yet, Hue garden houses seem to have been forgotten. Many garden houses have disappeared and researchers are warning that if there are no suitable solutions, Hue garden houses won't exist in the future. Garden houses began two hundred years ago, during the Nguyen dynasty in the former capital city, Hue. While the royal family lived in the palace, many other royal relatives lived in private residences or smaller palaces in villages such as Nguyet Kieu, Vy Da and Kim Long. They were aristocracy, enjoying gifts of land and gardens across the city.
Owners of the garden houses used strict rules of geomancy to build houses. All rations of the house, from the front gate to the back door were calculated carefully. The direction of the house was chosen carefully so that it can welcome winds and avoid ghosts and the harsh weather of the central region. Behind the front gate is a wind- screen that was made of bricks, usually bearing legends or being planted with jasmine to prevent both wind and the curious eyes from outsiders. It also creates openness for the garden and reduces the separation between the house and its surroundings. Behind the wind-screen are rockworks or small ponds with lotus flowers. There are two rows of hibiscus, roses, and laurel along the path leading to the main house.
The houses are solemn and bear an old atmosphere removed from modern life. The houses have elegance and soul, and love for art of the owner. Houses turn their backs on the road for two reasons, firstly good direction choice, suitable to the owner's age and an escape from the noise and effervescent atmosphere of urban life. The houses are divided into three spaces: the left for men and the right for women, and in the middle an altar to pray Buddha or ancestors.
From thousands of houses in 1995 to 115 houses in 2001 and there are now only 50 houses. Several houses were rebuilt with cement. Most garden houses disappeared under the weight of progress. Owner's houses sold parts of their houses to build more modern dwellings. Several were rebuilt as restaurants or Karaoke bars. Therefore, the number of garden houses is getting smaller and researchers are warning that if there are no suitable solutions, garden houses will soon disappear.
In Hoi An, a world cultural heritage, not far from Hue, people have well maintained their old houses. As owners of such old houses as Diep Dong Nguyen and Tan Ky could regularly receive financial and technical support to preserve the traditional architecture. They have attracted a great number of tourists and eared a good living by collecting fees and selling souvenirs.
The tourism industry can learn from these experiences to preserve Hue garden houses. Tourism agencies should co-ordinate with owners of garden houses to open more tours, besides traditional tours to castles, and palaces, to attract tourists' attention. This can help the owners of these houses earn money to protect their houses. This is just a suggestion as it needs coordination among many related agencies, but a suitable solution is needed to protect Hue garden houses.
Ngo Mon, Midday Gate, Hue
Ngo Mon was constructed in 1833 during the reign of Emperor Minh Mang. The gate leads to the Imperial Palace and was the observation point for the Emperor to review his troops and for ceremonial use.
Midday Gate is divided into two levels. At ground level, the gate actually has five entrances. The one in the center is used only by the king. On each side are two entrances used by mandarins, soldiers and horses. On the second level is Lau Ngu Phung - the Five-Phoenix Pavilion. The king reviewed his troops and subjects under the center hall of the pavilion. The roof of this hall is covered with gold enameled tiles. The two halls flanking the center hall were reserved for other members of the court.
The Citadel, Hue
The Citadel is a square enclosure with a circumference of 10,000 m, a height of 6.6 m and a thickness of about 21 cm. The center of the wall is packed with dirt while the outer shell is built with bricks. There are ten gates to access the Citadel each with a two story watch tower. The gates are named according to their direction of exit. The southeastern gate is also known as Thuong Tu gate, The Eastern gate is also called Cua Dong Ba etc...The Citadel was built to accommodate 24 bastions with over 400 canons.
Mount Ngu Binh & Perfume River
Based on the ancient practice of geomancy, the Citadel was designed and planned around the natural elements in the area north of the Perfume river. The complex faces southeast, taking Mount Ngu Binh (Royal Screen Mount) as a natural screen. Two islets in the Perfume river, Ta Thanh Long (Left Green Dragon) and Huu Bach Ho (Right White Tiger) play the role of sentinels for the Citadel. The construction of the Citadel took place from 1805 to 1832.
The Royal Tombs of Hue, Hue
The Nguyen Dynasty (1802-1945) is the last of Vietnam's Royal families. In all, there were 13 kings, however, due various reasons, only seven had tombs. The seven imperial tombs were planned and constructed in a hilly region southwest of the Citadel. Gia Long, Minh Mang, Thieu Tri, Tu Duc, Duc Duc, Dong Khanh and Khai Dinh all had a tomb built. All tombs were constructed during the reign of the respective kings for which they were named. Each tomb was laid out with statues and monuments in perfect harmony with one another to form a poetically natural setting. The following elements were incorporated in all the tombs: walls, triple gate (Tam Quan Gate), Salutation Court, Stele House, temples, lakes and ponds, pavilions, gardens, and finally the tomb.
In 1957, Les Merveilles du Monde (France) published a list which included the royal tombs of Hue as part of the World's Wonders. Unfortunately, most of the artifacts in the tombs have been stolen by the French and local bandits.
Minh Mang Tomb
The height of the Nguyen Dynasty was reached during the reign of Emperor Minh Mang (1820-1840). His tomb was built 12km from Hue in four years (1840-1843). The king had the plans drawn and the location chosen by the royal advisor, the mandarin Le Van Duc. The king passed away as construction commenced. His successor, the Emperor Thieu Tri sought the completion of the project.
It took ten thousand soldiers and artisans to complete the project. The tomb consists of about 40 monuments of various sizes; all lie within an oval shaped wall with a circumference of 2000m. A walk of about 700m in length bisects the interior of the complex into two equal halves. Along it are the Salutation Court, Stele House, Sung An Temple, Minh Lau Pavilion, and the tomb itself being at the very back of the complex.
Tu Duc Tomb
Born in 1829, Emperor Tu Duc had the longest reign of all in the Nguyen Dynasty. The King died in 1883 after 35 years on the throne. Built between 1864-1867, his tomb includes 50 monuments surrounded by a 1500m wall.
Emperor Tu Duc was an expert in eastern philosophy, history, and literature. He left 4,000 verses and 600 proses, yet during his reign he the king failed to gain the respect of the citizens. It was during the construction of his tomb that the soldiers and artisans rebeled and joined Ung Dao (a distant cousin of the king) in the attempt to overthrow the king.
Being a romantic, the king immersed himself in the world he created at the site of his tomb. The king ordered the construction of his tomb to be a fairyland with poetical features, making it a lifetime dream and a world for his eternal life after death.
Architectural features of Tu Duc Tomb include poetry elements in free form. It was designed to blend with the natural setting of the landscape. Man-made elements were built and placed in strategic areas to achieve perfect harmony.
Khai Dinh Tomb
Emperor Khai Dinh (1885-1925) ruled Vietnam for 9 years. His tomb took 11 years to complete. Construction began in 1920 and was completed in 1931. Under Khai Dinh, Western culture and influence began to seep into Vietnam. The king himself visited France in 1922. As a result, his tomb has many elements of Western architecture. In fact, of all the tombs, Khai Dinh's probably least resembles oriental architecture.
Emperor Khai Dinh's tomb is built using concrete, its roof with slates and the gate is made of wrought iron. The builder made use of the lighting rod and electricity is used to light the place. Beyond these modern building materials and designs, the tomb had elements of eastern art mixed with western designs.
Throughout the interior of the tomb, colored glass and ceramic chips were used to form mosaics of oriental design. The ceilings were hand painted much like the ceilings of western churches, but the designs were of dragons and clouds. In the book, 'Art Vietnamien', Emperor Khai Dinh's tomb was cited as an example of Vietnamese 'neo-classicism'.