Vietnam – HueBack to Story

Hue - Vietnam's cultural and historical centre

There is so much to explore in central Vietnam that you can (and many people do) take months to get to know this area. Time poor I decide to visit Hue because of the history the city holds. Hue was the imperial capital of the Nguyen Dynasty between 1802 and 1945 and has interesting architecture and monuments as a result. This is the reason why the city was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993. A tour down the Perfume River would also be an attraction during the warmer months of the year.

Tu Cam Thanh – The Citadel

The best known attraction in town is the Citadel, Tu Cam Thanh, which was home to the Imperial family. It was once known as the Forbidden Purple City but is now a shell of its former glory and suffered heavy bombing in 1968. The first thing you will notice is the riverside flag tower which looks more like a communist symbol that Imperial. You enter through the The Phoenix Gate where the Emperor used to make appearances and now you feel like you are entering royal residences. The grounds are sweeping and there are still some interesting buildings to look at and stories to read / hear about.

Thien Mu Pagoda

You need to take a cab, boat or decent walk 3km along the river to the Thien Mu Pagoda which was built in 1601 by  Nguyễn Hoàng. The pagoda is seven stories high and remains the tallest in Vietnam. It seems all the more imposing because it is built on a slight hill. Enter the temple complex via some steep steps from the river. In 1710 Nguyen Chu a follower of buddhism, funded the casting of a large bell which weighs a hefty 3285kg. The bell is being rung by a junior monk as I enter the temple which creates an immediate air of ceremony. The leading monk of the temple stands at the entrance to greet visitors. After asking for his photograph he stands regally in profile for the camera.

Tu Duc Tomb

Tu Duc Tomb deserves its reputation as one of the ‘must see’ tombs. From 1864-1867 Emperor Tu Duc built the tomb and used the grounds as his home and for his many wives and concubines. The complex is centred around a beautiful lake (Luu Khiem) which has a charming pavilion (Xung Khiem) on the banks. It is said that the Emperor used to go there to enjoy the breeze and write poetry.

The palace buildings are interesting with very intricate details particularly on the roof and gables. There is also an interesting theatre with costumes and artefacts including an emperors chair. Moving along the complex the Stele Pavilion is guarded by stone statues of elephants and men. It feels like a very royal welcome. There is a large steel plate on which Tu Duc reflects critically on his reign at the time. It would be interesting to know what he wrote given that there was an uprising at the time of building in 1886.

From here you can see through to Tu Doc’s Tomb which is an interesting building and has almost salmon pink tones to the stone. The site has had extensive restoration completed on it and as you move around there is a plaque dedicated to a German group who have been heavily involved in assisting the Vietnamese both in the restoration and the sharing of the ancient building techniques. It seems the humidity creates some extra challenges in keeping everything looking great.

The Minh Mang Tomb

The Minh Mang Tomb is a decent drive or boat ride away but well worth the journey. The tomb was built by Minh Mang who was was the ruling emperor of Vietnam from 1820 to 1841. He commissioned the building while he was still alive but it was completed in 1843 by his son and successor. When visiting you follow the sacred path which leads through to the Enlightening Pavilion. There is an obvious sense of symmetry to the design.

Khải Định Tomb

Emperor Khải Định was the 12th Emperor in the Nguyễn Dynasty and only ruled for nine years from 1916-1925. Emperor Khải Địnhwas rumoured to be unpopular with his people because of his collaboration with the French. There is a real aesthetic benefit to the building as you can see a fascinating combination of European building techniques and influence while also retaining a distinctly Vietnamese feel. The Emperor was said to be inspired to build this tomb after a visit to France.

The highlight is the climb up the stairs to the main building. The interior walls are clad with interesting porcelain mosaics, many of which tell a particular story. An example is on one wall signifies the passing of the four seasons. Look up to the ceiling and you will see a swirling colour of blue and black murals that combine fresco art with a Vietnamese twist.

Due to the relatively recent time of the reign of the Emperor the wall also contains photographs of the Emperor in life and death. First his coronation and then later his funeral processions and mourning. Looking at the pictures you can see why they were carried as I am sure walking would be difficult in those shoes.

Hue - Citadel, Tu Doc Tomb, Lang Khai Dinh Tomb, Chua Thien Mu Pagoda

Back to Story

ZeeGlobe Feedback