Hue Imperial City

The Royal Citadel took nearly thirty years to build (from 1803 to 1832). It is enclosed by a long rampart 6.6 m high and 21m thick, with an approximate perimeter of 9,000m. In the old days, twenty-four bastions existed here. The rampart is encircled by a deep moat for defensive purposes.

The Royal Citadel has connection to the outside through eight gates built in eight directions: East, West, South, North, Northwest, Southwest, Northeast, and Southeast. Furthermore, there are two gates - The Nhon and Quang Duc located on both sides of the Flag Tower. At the two ends of Ngu Ha River are two more gates for waterways of the Dong Thanh Thuy Quan and Tay Thanh Thuy Quan. In the direction of the Imperial City, there is a small fortress called Thai Binh built under the reign of Gia Long and Tran Binh Dai in the Minh Mang Dynasty with an approximate perimeter of 1km at the northeastern corner. There is also a wide canal connected with the Imperial City’s moat to the outside.

According to the principles of Oriental geomancy, the philosophy of Yin and Yang and the five basic elements of the Book of Changes, the Royal Citadel faces a Southern direction, using the Ngu Binh Mountain as a natural screen. In addition, two small islets on the Perfume River (the Con Hen and the Con Da Vien) represent attending dragon and lying tiger (Left Dragon - Right Tiger). These islets were used for guarding the Imperial Capital. The Perfume River, running in front of the Royal Citadel, is used as a “Minh Duong” (or Bright Pond). The four sides of the Citadel are enclosed by a river system called Ho Thanh (or Citadel Protecting River).

Inside the Citadel, the Imperial City and Forbidden Purple City are generally called Dai Noi (or the Great Enclosure). The Imperial City is used to protect the most important ritual and political bodies of the Court and temples. The Forbidden Purple City was a daily working and living place of the Emperor and his family.

Constructed from 1804 to 1833, the Great Enclosure is almost square in shape with the front and rear sides measuring 622m in length and with right and left sides spanning 604m. The surrounding protective wall was built by bricks (4.16m high and 1.04m thick) with a system of defensive moats outside called Kim Thuy Ho. Four entrances, piercing each side, include the Noon Gate (front), Hoa Binh Gate (back), Hien Nhon Gate (left) and Chuong Duc Gate (right). The main entrance of the Noon Gate was reserved only for the Emperor.

With over 100 monuments of beautiful architecture, the Great Enclosure is divided into various quarters:

  • Quarter of Noon Gate and Thai Hoa Palace (Palace of Supreme Harmony) is a site for the important court ceremonies.
  • Quarter of Trieu, Thai, Hung, The and Phung Tien temples are places for worshiping the Nguyen monarchs.
  • Quarter of Dien Tho and Truong Sanh Residences are private apartments reserved for the Queen Mother and the Grand
  • Queen Mother.
  • Quarter of Home Affairs is a royal factory and treasury.
  • Quarter of Co Ha Park and Kham Van Palace is for the princes’ studies and entertainment.

The Forbidden Purple City is also almost square in shape, measuring 3.7m high. The front and rear sides of this enclosed city are 324m long with left and right sides of 290m long with ten entrances. Dai Cung Gate, now completely damaged, is the main gate at the front side - reserved only for the Emperor. The big screen constructed behind Can Chanh Temple (place of daily work of the Emperor) separated the private world of the kings and their families from the other areas. Within this City, hundreds of imperial maids and tens of eunuchs resided to serve the Royal family. Here exists nearly fifty resplendent architectural works, including Can Thanh Palace (the Emperor’s residence), Khon Thai palace (the Queen’s residence), Duyet Thi Duong (the Royal Theatre), Thuong Thien (the Royal Kitchen), Thai Binh Lau (the Royal Reading Pavilion), Quang Minh palace (princes’ residence), Trinh Minh palace (royal concubines’ residence), Kien Trung palace, Cam Uyen Garden, and many others.

The architectural system of the Great Enclosure was planned in accordance with the strict and well-proportioned principles. All locations in the front, back, left, right, top and bottom are consistently divided. This division shows the concepts of the Confucian political philosophy of the Orient. Most of the architectural works here are made of precious wood. However, because of severe climate and natural calamities, as well as fierce wars, some of them have been unavoidably damaged. At present, the government is investing in gradual restoration and embellishment of these precious monuments.

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