Hue Citadel was chosen as the capital of the Nguyen Dynasty during the 143 years from the first king Gia Long in 1802, to the last king Khai Dinh abdicated in 1945 – including Hoang Thanh and Tu Cam Thanh, collectively referred to as the Citadel. This work began construction in 1805 and was completed in 1832 – taking a total 27 years to complete and an estimated 20 thousand workers were mobilized to build this great place.
Hue Citadel was recognized by UNESCO as a World Cultural Heritage in 1993 and also the first World Cultural Heritage of Vietnam with more than 147 works.
The Citadel is symbolizes the authority of the Nguyen Dynasty in Dang Trong, which is also the residence and working place of the king and the royal family. it spent 5 times of large-scale restoration but it still retains the ancient and unique features from the old days.
The Architecture of Hue Citadel
Surrounding the citadel is a wall system with a perimeter of nearly 10 km, 6.6m high and 21m thick built with fortresses, cannons and ammunition. Previously, the wall system was built with soil until the end of Emperor Gia Long, which it then began to be rebuilt with bricks.
Outside the wall is a system of moats surrounding it – 16m wide, 4m deep with 2 sides of the bank made of stone, named Ngoai Kim Thuy. Between the wall system and moat system is vacant land called the defense area (in case of being attacked and the wall has fallen, the bricks will fall down here, not pouring into the ditch, making enemy infantry not easily penetrated). There are a total of 10 bridges built of stone bricks across the Ngoai Kim Thuy moat to connect Hue Citadel to the outside.
Hue Citadel’s architecture is greatly influenced by Feng Shui and I Jing. The overall work is a series of symmetrical architectural forms with Ngo Mon Gate and Thai Hoa Palace as the center. The successive works are arranged in a right-to-left concentric axis, applied according to the rule “harmonious interactions – opposition ” in harmony with yin and yang in a large-scale structure.
The Citadel’s architecture was created thinking the worship of King, and Thai Hoa temple and Can Thanh temple created the central axis where the king reigned.
Hue Citadel has 4 main doors to entrance:
– The south door is Ngo Mon Gate
– The north door is Hoa Binh gate
– The east door is Hien Nhon door
– The western door is Chuong Duc
Thing to see in Hue Citadel
Hue Citadel is located on the northern bank of the poetic Huong River in the heart of Hue City, a place you simply must visit when coming to Hue.
The Citadel is an architecture with a very large area, It’s take you about 3-4h to be able to visit all of its internal works.
Now, Let’s visit some of the main buildings in Hue Citadel:
1, Ngo Mon Gate :
– Ngo Mon Gate is the main gate of Hue Citadel, facing to the south
– Ngo Mon is not just a gate, but it is also a massive architecture with 2 floors: the platform with the gate below and Ngu Phung floor above. The platform is nearly 5m high, with a U-shaped ligature with the wall system. There were a total of 5 entrances to the Citadel, all built of bar stone. The main entrance is called Ngo Mon, reserved only for the king – Ta Giap Mon and Huu Giap Mon for Mandarin literature and Mandarin martials . Furthermore, two more entrance are Ta Dich Mon và Huu Dich Mon for soldiers, horses and elephants.
– The upper is Ngu Phung floor with a frame consisting of 100 ironwood pillar, with two floors and 9 sets of roofs. The lower roofs are interconnected, running around covering the corridors in a U-shape. The roof of the upper is divided into 9 different sets of small, big, high and low – on the top of the roofs decorated with many phoenix shapes. The biggest middle roof set is roofed with royal yellow tiles because this is the place for the king to attend ceremony. On the two sides are eight smaller roof sets roofed with blue tiles, which is the place for officials. In the past, this place was used to organize some most important festivals of the Nguyen Dynasty such as Ban Soc (new calendar from king), Truyen Lo (announced new the Ph.D).
– The left side of Ngu Phung has a large bronze-bell, cast in 1822 (the 3rd year of Minh Mang). The bell is beautifully crafted and carved in the shape of dragon’s head. On the right side of Ngu Phung floor is a large drum, put on the shelf where it was painted red and overlaid by gold.
-The Ngu Phung floor was previously used to organize some great annual ceremonies of the old Nguyen Dynasty
– Today, Ngo Mon Gate is still open daily to welcome visitors to the Citadel.
2, Thai Hoa Palace and Dai Trieu Nghi yard:
2.1. Dai Trieu Nghi yard is connected to Ngo Mon Gate by a bridge called Trung Dao bridge across Thai Dich lake. This is the place used for important meetings of the court, such as the king’s official coronation, the birthday of the king, receiving the official emissaries and the great meeting held twice on the 1st and the 15th monthly lunar calendar.
On these great occasions, the King will sit on the throne in Thai Hoa Palace and only the great Mandarins and royal family will be allowed to enter the palace. Other Mandarins were in full presence and stood in line at Dai Trieu Nghi yard according to their rank. The Mandarins literature stood on the left, and the Mandarin martial stood on the right.
It can be said that the Dai Trieu Nghi yard is the place to witness the prosperity and decline of 13 Nguyen Dynasty kings. Now, this place is an outdoor stage to perform Hue royal court music in the “Hoang Cung by night” program and also the place where cultural activities of Citadel are held.
2.2. Thai Hoa palace:
This palace was built by King Gia Long in 1805, with the first meeting of king and Mandarins in 1806. Compared to all other palaces in Hue, Thai Hoa Palace is the most important architectural structure because this is the place where the throne is located – symbolizing the power of the feudal state.
– Thai Hoa palace is built on a 1m high ground and 1360 m² wide, designed in the form of twin houses and “Thua Luu”roofs. Inside, there are 80 columns of Lim wood support, decorated with dragon in the clouds.
– The palace roof is covered with royal tiles, decored 9 dragons in many different postures.
– Inside the palace is the place where the king sits, the throne is placed on the third pedestal and above is “Buu Tan” that was paintedred and overlaid by gold.
3, Can Chanh Palace:
Can Chanh temple was built in 1804 and is the place where the king held a meeting ceremony on the 5th, 10th, 20th and 25th day of the lunar month. In addition, palace is also the place where Nguyen king welcomed important emissaries , where parties are held.
In the palace, in the middle of the main house, the throne was placed, with the two sides hung paintings about the beauty of the country and the map of the provinces . Can Chanh Palace is also a place to display many treasures of the Nguyen Dynasty such as Chinese rare and precious porcelain, golden statues, jade stamp of the dynasty.
It can be said that Can Chanh palace is the most beautiful palace shrine in Dai Noi, showing technical and artistic qualifications at the peak stage of Vietnamese traditional architecture in the 19th century.
In 1947, palace was destroyed and now reconstruction is still underway
4, Can Thanh palace :
Place where the king sleeps
Can Thanh palace before 1811 named Trung Hoa Palace was located in the Forbidden City, this is the place to eat and sleep of King Nguyen Dynasty.
5, Dien Tho palace:
This is the residence and guest reception of King’s mother. Dien Tho palace was built in 1804 with more than 20 works and underwent many restoration, but so far the only works are:
– Main hall of Dien Tho palace : The place of receiving guests of King’s mother
– Tho Ninh palace: the residence of other King’s mothers
– Ta Truong Du palace: The relaxing place of the King’s Mother
– Phuoc Tho Am palace : a place of worshiping the Buddha and pray of the King’s Mother
6, Trường Sanh Palace:
Truong Sanh Palace(Truong Sinh Palace) is located right behind the Dien Tho Palace. It was built in 1821. At first, this place was a garden where the royal womans excursions. At the end of the Nguyen dynasty, this place became a place to live for them.
Truong Sanh Palace is one of the 20 most beautiful scenes of Hue (ranked 7th) under the reign of King Thieu Tri.
7, Hung To Mieu:
This is the area of worship of Gia Long’s parents , his father is Mr. Nguyen Phuc Luan (or Nguyen Phuc Con) and his mother is Mrs. Nguyen Thi Hoan.
This place was burnt in 1947 and then rebuilt by Doan Huy Hoang Thai Hau (King Bao Dai’s mother) in the old platform of the main temple. The most recent restoration took place in 1995.
8, The To Mieu:
This is the place to worship the Nguyen kings and where the court came to sacrifice the late kings, women in the court (including the queen) were not allowed to attend these ceremonies.
The shrine was built over 2 years (1821-1822), originally devoted to worshipping Emperor Gia Long (hence the name The To Mieu), but later became a place to worship all kings of the dynasty Nguyen.
9, Trieu To Mieu:
Trieu To Mieu was built under Gia Long King (1804) and is one of the five important shrines of the Nguyen Dynasty.
Trieu To Mieu Temple worshiped the Emperor Nguyen Kim – Triệu Tổ Tĩnh – grandfather of 9 Nguyen lords and Emperor Nguyen later
Over 200 years, this work was rarely remodeled. The last time was more than 30 years ago
10, Thai To Mieu:
This place was built in 1804 under Gia Long King was a shrine to the Nguyen lords in Vietnamese history.
This Temple worshiped from the first Lord Nguyen Hoang to the last is Nguyen Phuc Thuan
During the war period of 1947,Thai To Mieu was completely destroyed. In 1972, it was restored on the old platform of the main palace.
In addition, this palace also has two additional areas is Ta Vu where worshiping the Mandarins literature and Huu Vu worshiping mandarins martial
11, Hien Lam Cac Palace:
Hien Lam Cac was built in 1821 and completed in 1822. It is 13m high and is the tallest building in the Citadel. It is also a place to remember the merits of the Nguyen kings and the great mandarins
This is also the most beautiful and outstanding art work in the Royal Palace with a 3-storey building, connected by a small wooden staircase is the main highlight of this work.
Because it is a place to record the merits of kings and great mandarins, all that is built in the royal City must be lower than Hien Lam Cac.
12, Nine Peaks:
In front of The Mieu, there is a large yard with 9 of the largest bronze-peaks in Vietnam is called the “Cuu Dinh”(9 peaks). This was also considered a work and the Nine Peaks were cast in 1836 and completed after 8 months.
Nine Peaks was inspired from the Nine Peaks of China – King Minh Mang gave the casting of 9 bronze-peaks with the dream of the eternal longevity of the Nguyen court and the richness of the country.
Nine Peaks is associated with the number 9, a sacred number according to the Eastern concept that symbolizes Gods, in absolute perfection, for the power of the king.
On each peak is engraved a proper name in Chinese characters – the name is taken from the name for worship of a Nguyen Dynasty and is considered the symbol of that king. For example: “Cao Dinh” – King Gia Long, “Nhon Dinh” – King Minh Mang, “Chuong Dinh” – King Thieu Tri, “Anh Dinh” – King Tu Duc, “Nghi Đinh” – King Kien Phuc, ” Thuan Dinh “- King Dong Khanh,” Tuyen Dinh “- King Khai Dinh, and for some reason, “Du Dinh “and” Huyen Dinh “did not become the symbol of any king. The peak in the middle is the only peak placed 3 meters in front of. It has the purpose of honoring the founding king.
At first glance 9 peaks seem to be the same, but in reality they are very different: different in weight, the sole is different and also the straps above. However, the most distinctive difference is the 17 carvings surrounding each peak that are typical of the country and are attributable to the theme: stars, mountains, seas, boats, vehicles, rare things in the forest and into the sea. They are gathered into a panorama of the reunification of the Nguyen Dynasty. A total of 153 meticulous and elaborate carved scenes on the hips of 9 peaks.
13, Phung Tien palace :
The temple used to worship the emperors and the Queen of the Nguyen Dynasty. Unlike The Mieu, this palace also worships the Emperors and Queen of the Nguyen Dynasty, but women in the Court are allowed to come here to sacrifice.
Previously, this temple was made of Wood with named Hoang Nhan, then King Minh Mang renamed Phung Tien palace.
Phung Tien Palace was a place to store many treasures of the Nguyen Dynasty, but unfortunately by February 1947, all were burned. Currently only Tam Quan gate and the wall remain relatively intact.
How to go to Hue Citadel
The beautiful and dreamy city of Hue is famous for the Trang Tien Bridge across the poetic Huong River, but it will be very lacking if you come to Hue without ever visiting Dai Noi.
Located on the northern bank of the Perfume River, it is very easy for you to visit the Citadel from the Hue city center.
– Opening hours: from 7:00 am to 5:30 pm daily.
– Ticket price: 150,000 VND / person
– Tip: Because the Citadel is very large, we recommend you to visit in the morning
It sounds like a pretty good choice for travelers visiting Citadel, due to it being quite near the tourist center (20m by walk). Many tourists choose this way to both admire the Perfume River and enjoy the extremely gentle atmosphere of Hue.
2, motorbike or bicycle:
About 10 minute away from the the tourist center, traveling by motorbike or bicycle is an extremely convenient option for you – the rental price is quite cheap and also gives you freedome to explore on your own terms
Motorbike rental prices range from: VND 120,000 – VND 150,000 / motorbike / day and bicycle from VND 40,000 – VND 50,000 / bicycle / day
This is a truly local experience. A great way to sit back and relax, to take in the scenery at a slower pace.
However, one thing that you must always be aware of is that you have to ask in advance for prices for certain road segment, if you don’t want to get in trouble for your trip.
If you really want to feel secure, you should go to a travel agent to rent a cyclo and they will ensure that you will not have to pay any extra costs for the road agreed in advance except for gratuities.
Taxis from the Travel Center to the Citadel are also cheap and you can choose any time that suits you to depart. Most taxi drivers can’t speak English, so if you want him to wait for you to visit and take your time, remember to pay an extra fee:
Some reliable taxi firms in Hue are:
Mai Linh Taxi: 018.104.22.168.89
Taxi Thanh Cong: 0234 3575 757
Yellow taxi: 022.214.171.124.79
Taxi Hoang Sa: 0126.96.36.199.75
Taxi Gili: 0188.8.131.52.82
Huong Giang Taxi: 0184.108.40.206.78
5, Private cars :
We recommend that when traveling to another country, it is best to take a private car. This option is worth the small extra amount of money you will pay to depart at your own time, have an experiecned English speaking driver and also a modern vehicle with air-conditioning to escape the extreme heat or rain. There is also no time limit on how long you spend – the driver is always willing to cater to your needs. The cars are also equipped with Wi-Fi for your convenience. If satisfied with the service by the end, you can tip the driver a small amount to thank him for his service.
Extra tip: If you are taking the time to rent a private car, it is best to plan 2-3 destinations so that you can enjoy the service whilst visiting all of the most notable places in Hue city that cannot be missed.
4, Take a city tour:
Another great option is to take a specialised local city tour with a small group. As well as it being affordable, the tour is all inclusive: Tour guide, entrance fees, lunch, transportation, dragon cruise boat ride and bottled water. It is becoming one of the most popular ways to discover Hue city in a single day, whilst learning about the fascinating history.
Hue city tour offers 2 types: A big group and Deluxe group (small group), but we recommend that you choose small group for the following reasons:
– Due to there being less guests, the guide will have more time to take care of you and answer your questions
– You will hear the explanation clearly and be asked more when you select small group
– Time to visit each destination on the tour will be longer
– Cost of sightseeing tickets will be reduced to the minimum price (combo ticket)
– Lunch at the restaurant with local and clean dishes
– And especially because that is a small group, you will always enjoy the best services
Now, you are ready to visit Hue Citadel, right!
Let’s Go !!!
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