Located 660km from Ha Noi (1 hour by plane or 12 hours by train), 1,100km from HCMC (1½ hours by plane or 20 hours by train), 105km north of Da Nang (3 hours by car). From 1802 to 1945, Hue was the feudal capital of Vietnam and ruled by Nguyen Emperors.
At the meeting of the 17th session of the World Heritage Committee (WHC) in Columbia, from the 6th to the 11th of December 1993, UNESCO has come to the decision of recognising the architectural ensemble of Hue as a world cultural heritage. On 2 August 1994, the delivery of the recognising text has been organised at the Imperial Palace of Hue. This was a noteworthy event in the cultural history. For the reason that Hue is the first site in Vietnam ever listed in the World Heritage list.
The WHC has briefly assessed the value of Hue as follows:
The architecture of Hue, which has been the Capital of a unified Vietnam, built at about the beginning of the 19th century, combines the oriental philosophy with the traditions of Vietnam. Intimately mingled with the natural environment, the beauty and special richness of the architecture and decorative art of the building are an original image of the Vietnamese monarchy at its most prosperous period The fact that the imperial city of Hue is now listed as a World Heritage Site may represent a new chance for Thua Thien Hue Province and for the whole country in general.
The wonders of Hue can hardly be described to do them justice, and the best way to discover them is still to come in person and admire the beautiful constructions.
Location: Tomb of Tu Duc is located in a narrow valley in Duong Xuan Thuong Village (currently Thuong Ba Village, Thuy Xuan Commune, Hue City).
Characteristic: It is one of the most beautiful works of royal architecture of the Nguyen dynasty. The tomb lies in a boundless pine forest, 8km from Hue city-centre. Its construction started in December 1864 and finished in 1867.
On an area of about 12ha 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.
Entering Vu Khiem entrance, there is Luu Khiem Lake. On the lake are Xung Khiem Pavilion and Du Khiem Pavilion where the Emperor used to come to admire flowers, compose poems, read books, etc. Then, three Thanh stone steps to Khiem Cung Gate lead to Hoa Khiem Palace, which used to be the Emperor's working place, and is now the altar devoted to the Emperor and the Queen. On both sides are Phap Khiem House and Le Khiem House for the military and civil mandarins.
Behind Hoa Khiem Palace is Luong Khiem Palace, which was also the Emperor's resting place, and was later used to worship Mrs. Tu Du (Tu Duc's Mother). On the right of Luong Khiem Palace stand On Khiem Palace, where the royal utensils are kept. On the left of Luong Khiem Palace is Minh Khiem Theatre. Then, comes Chi Khiem, the altar to worship the Emperor's wives, Tri Khiem Palace and Y Khiem Palace were the accommodations of the Emperor's concubines.
Military and civil mandarins, is Bi Dinh (Stele Pavilion) with the biggest stone stele in Vietnam. It is inscribed with Khiem Cung narrative, composed by the Emperor himself, writing about his life and imperial cause as well as his misadventures and diseases, etc. On the hill, opposite the semi-circular Tieu Khiem Tri Lake is the Buu Thanh brick wall, in the middle is a stone house, where the Emperor was buried.
On the left of the temple is the necropolis itself slopping upward with the Honour Courtyard, the Stele Pavilion, and the sepulture. Right behind Bai Dinh (Honour Courtyard), with two rows of magnificent.
Tu Duc’s tomb is not only one of the most beautiful works of the Nguyen Dynasty, but it is also romantic.
Location: Tomb of Minh Mang is located 12km form Hue, on Cam Ke mount, near Bang Lang fork, on the west bank of the Perfume River.
Characteristic: Minh Mang's tomb is a standard architectural complex consisting of 40 constructions (palaces, temples, pavilions, etc.) designed on an symmetric axis running from Dai Hong gate to the foot of La Thanh (Surrounding Wall) behind the Emperor's tomb.
In September 1840, the construction of the tomb began. In January 1841, while the work was implemented, Minh Mang was sick and passed away. Emperor Thieu Tri, his successor to the throne, continues this task according to his father’s plans. Emperor Minh Mang's corpse was buried in Buu Thanh on August 20th, 1841. The construction was fully completed in 1843. The constructions are distributed into three main parallel axis of which Than Dao path is the centre.
Dai Hong Mon: It is the main gate to enter the tomb. The gate presents three paths with 24 heaving roofs covered with beautiful decorations. The gate was opened only once to bring the Emperor's coffin to the tomb, and had been tightly closed since then. Visitors have to use the two side-gates Ta Hong Mon (Left Gate) and Huu Hong Mon (Right Gate).
Bi Dinh: Behind Dai Hong Mon (big gate) is the Honour Courtyard with its two rows of mandarins, elephants and horses’ statues. Bi Dinh (Stele Pavilion) is on Mount Phung Than. Inside is the stele "Thanh Duc Than Cong", inscribed with the Emperor's biography and merits written by his son Thieu Tri.
The Salutation Court is divided into four steps - The Hien Duc Mon (gate) leads to the worship place. In the centre is Sung An Temple surrounded by Ta, Huu Phoi Dien (Left, Right Temples) in the front and Ta, Huu Tung Phong (Left, Right Rooms) in the back. The Emperor and Queen Ta Thien Nhan are worshipped in Sung An Temple. Then, Hoang Trach Mon (gate) leads to the Bright Pavilion (Minh Lau), built on Tam Tai Mount. It is a square pavilion with two storeys and eight roofs. On both sides of Minh Lau, two obelisks stand on the hills. In the back of Minh Lau are two flower gardens designed as the character "Longevity.
The tomb (Buu Thanh):
Tan Nguyet (New Moon) crescent Lake embraces the circular Buu Thanh (The wall surrounding the grave). There are three bridges on Tan Nguyet Lake. Visitors have to climb 33 Thanh stone steps to reach the sepulchre of the Emperor. 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
Location: Tomb of Khai Dinh is located on the slope of Chau Chu Mountain (also called Chau E), 10km from Hue City.
Characteristic: 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 construction of the tomb was started on September 4th, 1920 and lasted for 11 years. The overall construction of the tomb is an emerging rectangular structure with 127 steps, leaning against the mountain.- Entering the tomb area, one should climb a 37 steps gate with the biggest dragons in the country forming the side walls. In the courtyard, line two rows of left and right altar built according to traditional configuration of "double storeys with eight roofs", but all the rafters are made of reinforced concrete.
Climbing 29 further steps, one is reaching the imperial audience court, in the centre of which stands the octagonal stele monument also made of reinforced concrete. On both sides of the courtyard, two rows of statues are facing towards the court center. In addition to these statues, similar to those of the other tombs, there are six more couples representing bodyguard soldiers. These statues are made of stone, a material very rare in Khai Dinh's tomb. The courtyard is flanked on both sides by two high and imposing pillars.
Visitors have to go up three more levels in order to reach the altar monument. The Khai Thanh Palace is the main room of the Thien Dinh Palace, which contains many connecting rooms. The walls are densely decorated and inlaid with elaborate glass and porcelain designs. The floor is covered with enameled flowers bricks and the ceiling is painted with nine dragons, appearing in fine fleeting clouds. The rear room of the Khai Thanh Palace constitutes the main temple, which contains the statue of Khai Dinh, his grave and his altar. The tomb of Khai Dinh is one of the most surprising among the royal tombs of Hue.
Location: Thien Mu Pagoda is situated on Ha Khe Hill, on the left bank of the Perfume River, in Huong Long Village, 5km from center of Hue City.
Characteristic: 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 (2.58m high) erected on the back of a marble tortoise.
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.
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 (21m 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 visitors.
Location: Hue Citadel is situated on the Northern bank of the Perfume River.
Characteristic: With an area of 500ha and a system of three circles of ramparts, namely from outside to inside: Kinh Thanh Hue (Hue Capital Citadel), Hoang Thanh (Royal Citadel) and Tu Cam Thanh (Forbidden Citadel).
Hue 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.
Ngu Binh Mountain in the south is used as a front screening elevation. Two sand dunes of The Con Hen and Con Da Vien on the Perfume River are chosen as geomancy condition "dragon on the left, tiger on the right" to protect the capital city.
Kinh Thanh Hue (Hue Capital Citadel):
This construction stared in 1805 under the reign of Emperor Gia Long and completed in 1832 under the reign of Emperor Ming Mang. Under Nguyen Dynasty, the Kings had ordered to build ramparts, palaces and constructional works for royal. Over 200 years to now, it is still original with nearly 140 small and large constructions.
The Citadel, square in shape, is almost 10km in circumference, 6m high, 21m thick and 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).
Hoang Thanh (Royal Citadel or Imperial City):
The Imperial City is located in the centre of the Citadel where established highest offices of Vietnam's feudalism and sanctums honouring 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.
Sector for the Ngo Mon Gate and the Thai Hoa Palace: This is the place for setting up various grand ceremonies.
- Sector for worship shrines of the Kings Nguyen: Trieu Mieu, Thai Mieu, Hung Mieu, The Mieu and Phung Tien Temples.
- Sector for internal affairs office: Storehouse for precious objects, workshop for manufacturing various useful articles.
- Sectors for the Kham Van Palace and the Co Ha Garden: place where the princes are studying or enjoying.
Tu Cam Thanh (Forbidden Citadel):
Located inside the Imperial City, behind the Throne Palace, 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).
In addition, there are also famous royal tombs and temples of Kings Nguyen outside Hue Citadel. Seven tombs with different aspect 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 World cultural heritage.
The Nine Dynastic Urns:
Location: Nine Dynastic Urns are located in the shade of the Hien Lam Pavilion, in front of the The Mieu Temple.
Characteristics: The nine Dynastic Urns are the greatest bronze ones in Vietnam They were cast by Emperor Minh Mang in 1836 to symbolize the sovereignty of the dynasty.
Each of them is named after the posthumous title of the emperors worshipped in the The Mieu Temple. For example, Cao Urn is named after Emperor The To Cao (Gia Long), Nhan Urn after Emperor Thanh To Nhan (Minh Mang), Chuong, Anh, Nghi, Tuyen and Thuan Urns after Emperors Thieu Tri, Tu Duc, Kien Phuoc, Dong Khanh and Khai Dinh respectively. (Until 1958 only seven altars were established in The Mieu Temple corresponding to seven urns. Du and Huyen Urns did not exist yet).
After their casting, the Nine Dynastic Urns were placed in accordance with the disposition of the altars in the Temple. Cao Urn stands in the center, alone in the first row. The others line behind and are placed symmetrically on both sides. On each urn are 17 traditional Vietnamese patterns like stars, rivers, mountains, seas and oceans, vehicles, valuable forestry and sea products, etc. The 153 patterns on the 9 urns constitute a real encyclopedia on the country. This precious cultural heritage is incredibly well-preserved in spite of the harsh weather and the numerous wars.
At first sight, the nine urns are almost alike, but in fact, they all differ in weight and size.
Location: Deriving from Truong Son Mountain, the two springs Ta Trach (Left Tributary) and Huu Trach (Right Tributary) meet at the junction of Bang Lang fork and create the Perfume River.
Characteristics: Looking like “a silver sword upright to the sky”, Perfume River is really an invaluable godsend to Hue City.
The Perfume River is beautiful sight from its source, and runs among mountains, forest trees, plants, etc, bringing with it fragrances of tropical flora. The river runs slowly through the verdant and shady villages of Kim Long, Nguyet Bieu, Vy Da, Dong Ba, Gia Hoi, Dinh market, Nam Pho, Bao Vinh, mingling with the odors of flowers of Hue... The river with the shimmer blue limpid colour is like a pearl in the sun. Boats are rowed up and down with remote, meditative and deep folk melodies at deep night. It is an eternal pleasure for many generations of tourists who go boating to behold the poetic landscape, to listen to the folk melodies of Hue in tranquil nights.
The views on both sides of the river with the citadel, town, gardens, pagodas, towers and temples, etc. and their reflections in the waters make the already loveable river even more poetic and musical. Many people think that Hue City has peaceful, gentle and tranquil landscapes mostly thanks to the Perfume River. This river brings to the city a meditative poetic characteristics and the harmonious limpidity exhaling from a land of age-old culture.
Together with the Perfume River, 105m 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 (Huong River) and Ngu Binh Mount" or Huong-Ngu Land".
Hue owes its beauty not only to the Perfume River, Mount Ngu Binh and royal mausoleums but also to garden houses. This kind of house is a prominent feature of Hue. Each garden house has an area of about 2,000m2. In front of the house, there is always a tile-covered gate. Around the house is a garden with all kinds of fruit and flowers. The highlight in a garden house is a small rock-garden which is an artificial wood and mountain made of rock, water and plants. The house and the garden, the people and the landscape, etc. all blend harmoniously in a colorful atmosphere. All shows the love of nature of the owners, which is one of Hue people’s characteristics. Visitors can visit some garden houses such as Lac Tinh Vien (65 Phan Dinh Phung St.), Princess Ngoc Son (29 Nguyen Chi Thanh St.), Y Thao (3 Thach Han), etc.
On the way from Hue to Da Nang, 45km from Hue to the South , Bach Ma National Park, is a place where French built their hill station. Established in mid 1998, the area of the park is 22,030 ha. The forest, in addition to its indigenous flora, also has various species of plant originating in both the north and the south, that is the reason why this Park attracts many tourists yearly.
Located next to Trang Tien bridge, Dong Ba market has been one of the most famous commercial centers in Vietnam for more than 100 years. The old local market was built in 1899 and then destroyed in 1968, in 1986 the market was rebuilt on an bigger area of 5 ha. Up to now, all the typical features of a traditional Vietnamese market are still there such as the sampan landing, the bus station and the bazaars. Dong Ba market is a paradise forsnapshots of daily activities as well as for shopping with everything from souvenir items to bronze goods, Hue sesame sweetmeat, conical poem hats, etc.
The Museum of Royal Relics was built in 1845 and restored when the museum was founded in 1923. This is a precious wooden construction of Hue’s unique palace architectonics. The museum now houses a collection of hundreds of poems, decrees, and valuable relics salvaged from the Imperial City. On display in the museums front courtyard are various Nguyen Dynasty statues, gongs, and bells.