Hue Imperial Citadel has chosen to be the capital city of the Southern Kingdom by all Lords Nguyen and officially became the capital under Tay Son Dynasty. For approximately 400 years, Hue has become a great landscape and architectural site. Hue royal complex has been officially recognized by the UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

Hue Imperial Citadel or Hue Royal City was constructed between 1805 and 1832 on an expansive area of more than 5 square kilometers on the northern bank of Perfume River. Nguyen emperors had used thousands of laborers to build this mighty citadel, encompassing three circles of ramparts: the Defensive Fort (Capital City), the Imperial City and the Forbidden Purple City.

Unfortunately, much of them were ravaged by typhoons and wars. The government has recently shown an enormous determination to restore their lost grandeur. Though not much has been done so far, the relics in themselves still have a little for everyone. Even if you are not keen on architecture or history, you should not miss a relaxing wander around the site.

Hue Imperial Citadel

Hue Imperial Citadel is located in the center of the Citadel where established highest offices of Vietnam’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. Ngo Mon Gate is only used for the King. Royal Citadel consists of more 100 beautiful constructional works divided many sectors.

  1. Sector for the Ngo Mon Gate and the Thai Hoa Palace: This is the place for setting up various grand ceremonies.
  2. Sector for worship shrines of the Kings Nguyen: Trieu Mieu, Thai Mieu, Hung Mieu, The Mieu and Phung Tien Temples.
  3. Sector for internal affairs office: Storehouse for precious objects, workshop for manufacturing various useful articles.
  4. Sectors for the Kham Van Palace and the Co Ha Garden: place where the princes are studying or enjoying.

Ngo Mon Gate (Noon Gate)

Ngo Mon Gate is the most impressive among 10 entrances into Hue Imperial Citadel and perhaps the most beautiful structure remaining. It actually has five gates with the central one reserved for the emperors. The two adjacent were used by mandarins and the outermost were for servants. On top of the gates is Lau Ngu Phung (Five Phoenix Pavilion). Its biggest hall is where the kings proclaimed great events, including the announcements of the names of successful doctoral candidates who passed a number of rigid royal exams. This was also the place King Bao Dai declared his abdication and surrender to the North Vietnam in August 1945.

Thai Hoa Palace

Thai Hoa Palace (other names: Throne Palace or the Palace of Supreme Harmony) is the heart of the royal city. There are two separate halls: the first serves as an anteroom and the second is the main hall in which the throne of 13 Nguyen kings is housed.

Thai Hoa Palace was used for royal courts, ambassador-welcoming rites and solemn ceremonies like Coronation Day or Emperor’s Birthday Anniversary. Its architecture is typical of Oriental palaces, featuring two great dragons on the top and yellow tiled roof. Its interior reflects the emperors’ majesty with elaborate columns lacquered in gold and red.

The throne is covered with a luxuriously brocaded canopy. You may earn a chance to get a photograph of yourself in the royal gown sitting on that throne.

The Mieu Temple

The Mieu Temple is the biggest place of worship ever built in Vietnam. It was constructed in 1821 and dedicated to the 10 Nguyen kings and their queens. There are 9 compartments in the main building and 11 others in the front building. First, only 7 red and gold-lacquered altars were erected to worship 7 Nguyen emperors.

The three reddish ones dedicated to three anti-French kings (King Thanh Thai, King Duy Tan & King Ham Nghi) were added later in 1959. In the yard of the temple, there are Nine Dynastic Urns standing under the shade of Hien Lam Pavilion. Each urn represents the power of one emperor. They are the biggest bronze urns ever cast in Vietnam, including seven ones of more than 2 tons.

All are sculptured with motifs of moons, stars, clouds, mountains, rivers, flowers and various landscapes of the country. Most importantly, The Mieu was least hit by wars, so you can see the temple today as what it was before.

Forbidden Purple City

Located inside the Hue Imperial Citadel, behind the Throne Palace, the Forbidden City or the Forbidden Purple Citadel is reserved for Emperor and his family. Constructed early under reign of Emperor Gia Long in 1804 with brick walls of 3.72m high, 0.72m thick, about 1,230m in circumference. Its front and back sides are 324m each while either left and right side is more than 290m including 50 architectural constructions of different sizes and 7 gates for facilities of entrance and exit. Dai Cung Mon (the Great Palace Gate) is in the front side for the Kings. Can Chanh Palace (the place for daily 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 Kings’ food), Thai Binh Lau (King’s reading room)…

Hue Flag Tower

The riverside Flag Tower is found right in front of the Hue imperial citadel. For many, this is the city’s symbol, witnessing the rise and fall of powers. The tower, according to the chronicle of Nguyen Dynasty, was of 17.40-metre height, including three flat-topped pyramids, one piled upon another.

On the third terrace, there were 8 small buildings housing 8 cannons. The Flag Tower has undergone repeated restoration and reconstruction. The first wooden flagpole was erected in 1807 under the reign of King Gia Long. It was renovated and embellished in 1829, 1831 and 1840 during the reign of King Minh Mang.

In 1846, King Thieu Tri reconstructed both the tower and the pole as they were thought to be ill-looking. In 1904, the pole was crashed by a typhoon and then with the help of the French, it was replaced by a new one made from cast iron. In August 1945, the feudal flag was pulled off the tower as King Bao Dai surrendered to Ho Chi Minh Revolutionary Government.

In 1947, after the French controlled the citadel again, the pole was barraged and a concrete pole was constructed in 1948. During the Vietnam War, especially in the 1968 Tet Offensive, the Citadel was seriously destroyed by bombardments of both Vietnamese and American forces, but the flag tower survived.

The red flag with gold star of North Vietnam had flown on its top for three weeks before being crashed down by American bloody counterattacks and eventually rose again in Spring Uprising April 30, 1975.

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