Category: Hue Monuments.

Complex of Hué Monuments :: About

TOC | Hue Monuments | GPS & Maps | Travel Guide | Photo & Video Gallery | Tourism News

History Background

Hue served as the administrative centre of southern Vietnam (Dang Trong) in the 17th century and again in the 18th century. Gia Long, first ruler of the Nguyen dynasty, made it the national capital of united Vietnam in 1802, a position that it held until 1945. It was selected because it is situated in the geographical centre of the country and with easy access to the sea.

The new capital was planned in accordance with ancient oriental philosophy in general and Vietnamese tradition in particular; it also respected the physical conditions of the site, especially the Perfume River and Ngu Binh mountain (known as the Royal Screen). The relationship between the five cardinal points (centre, west, east, north, south), the five natural elements (earth, metal, wood, water, fire), and the five basic colours (yellow, white, blue, black, red) underlies the conception of the city, and is reflected in the names of a number of its most important features. The Perfume River is the main axis, dividing the capital into two.

The detailed planning was entrusted to Nguyen Van Yen, commander of an army unit specializing in the construction of citadels. Four citadels or defended enclosures made up the city Kinh Thanh (Capital City), for official administrative buildings; Hoang Thanh (Imperial City) for Royal palaces and shrines; Tu Cam Thanh (Forbidden Purple City) for the Royal residences (the two last-named are known collectively as the Dai Noi or Inner City); and Tran Binh Dai, an additional defensive work in the northeast corner of the Capital City, designed to control movement on the river. A fifth fortress, Tran Hai Thanh (Coastal Bastion), was constructed a little later to protect the capital against assault from the sea.

Planning lasted two years, from 1803 to 1805, and it was not until 1832 that construction was complete. The new capital was much larger than its predecessor, Dong Trang, and encompassed several villages as well. Over 30,000 workmen and soldiers were involved in the work, which involved filling in two small tributaries of the Perfume River and digging new moats and canals. The fortress itself was modelled on the European style of Vauban, the first of its type in southeast Asia.

The complex suffered considerably as a result of military operations in 1885, 1947, and 1968.

The Complex of Hue Monuments

The main enceinte, the Capital City (Kinh Thanh), is square in plan, each side measuring 2235 m; the total area enclosed is 520 ha. The defensive walls, originally 21 m thick and 6.6 m high, have six projecting bastions on each side; there are ten gates. The external defensive works comprise a berm, ditch, and glacis. The Fishes Gill Bastion (Tran Binh Dai) projects from the northeast corner of the defences. II;is an irregular hexagon in plan, in Vauban style. The buildings inside the Capital City (excluding those in the Inner City) include various former ministerial buildings, the Royal College, and the Hue Museum.

The Inner City (Dai Noi) is rectangular in plan (622 m by 604 m) and defended by brick walls 4.16 m high and 1.04 m thick, supplemented by a moat and wide berm; there is a single entrance on each of the walls. Inside it is divided by walls into a number of zones – the Great Ceremonies Zone, the worshipping Zone, the residential zone of the King’s Mother and Grandmother, the storage and workshop zone, the garden and school zone for Royal Princes, as well as the Forbidden Purple City (Tu Cam Thanh).

The palaces within the Inner City are similar in style and design, set CH1·B raised podium, with wooden trusses (usually ironwood), gilded and painted pillars and rafters, brick walls,and roofs of yellow- or blue-glazed cylindrical tiles. Roof edges are straight, not curved, as in northern Vietnam, and the decoration, both internally and externally, is abundant.

Among the most.important buildings in the Inner City are the Palace of Supreme Harmony (Dien Thai Hoa), the Royal reception hall; the Mieu Temple, the Royal place of worship; the Queen Mother’s Palace (Cung Dien Tho); and the Pavilion of Dazzling Benevolence (Hien Lam Cac).

At the heart of the complex is the Forbidden Purple City (Tu Cam Thanh), measuring 324 m by 290 m and surrounded by brick walls 3.72 m high by 0.72 m thick. There is a single gate in the front wall, reserved for the use of the King, and the other walls have several entrances, each with a specific purpose. Originally there were over 40 buildings within the walls, but most are now in ruins and only their foundations survive.

The Coastal Bastion (Tran Hai Thanh) is at the former mouth of the Thuan An River, 10 km north—east of the Capital City. It is also built in Vauban style, but its base is round, as protection against waves and storms. Its perimeter is 285 m and it is defended by stout brick walls and a moat. Coconut trees were planted and stakes driven into the shore to prevent erosion by the sea.

Outside the Capital City· there are several associated monuments of importance. These include the tombs of the Nguyen Dynasty to the south of the Perfume River, which are of interest not only for their architectural qualities but also for their landscaping, set in gardens surrounded by enclosure walls. Among these are the tombs of Gia Long, Minh Mang, Thieu Tri, Tu Doc, Duc Duc, Dong Khanh, and Khai Dinh. Other structures along both banks of the river are buildings related to the spiritual life of the dynasty, including the Temple of Literature (Van Mieu), the Esplanade of the Sacrifice to the Sun and Earth (Dan Nam Giao), the Royal Arena (Ho Quyen) and the Temple of the Roaring Elephant (Den Voi Re), and the Celestial Lady Pagoda (Chua Thien Mu).

Chronological table of the monuments of Hué

1358-1389: The Hoa Chan Citadel was built by the Tran Dynasty in Hué, close to the site of the present Citadel.

Construction of the first pagoda, the Pagoda of the Celestial Lady; later demolished, it was rebuilt in 1844.

1687: The Nguyen Dynasty established itself in Phu Xuan, the embryo of the future Hué, in the south-eastern corner of the site of the present Citadel.

18th century: Phu Xuan became a prosperous metropolis.

1802: Nguyen Anh proclaimed himself emperor under the name of Gia Long. Hué became the capital.

1802-1820: Reign of Gia Long; construction of the monuments of Hué and the imperial mausoleum.


  • Construction of the present Citadel, the Imperial City and the Forbidden Purple City (in the early years 50,000-80,000 peasants, soldiers and artisans worked there every day).
  • Ironwood (lim) came from the province of Nghe An;
  • Wooden planks from Gia Dhin;
  • Paving stones from Thanh Hoa;
  • Bricks and tiles from Quang Ngai;
  • Gold, lacquer and brass were imported from China.

1805: The first Throne Room was built.

1820-1840: Reign of Minh Mang.

1830: Construction of the arenas.

1833-1840: Construction of the South Gate (Ngo Môn). Reconstruction of the Throne Room in its current form.

1835-1839: The nine dynastic urns were cast.

1840-1843: Construction of the mausoleum of Minh Mang.

1841-1847: Reign of Thieu Tri and construction of his tomb.

1844: Construction of the seven-storey tower of the Pagoda of the Celestial Lady (Thieu Mieu).

1848-1883: Reign of Tu Duc and construction of his tomb.

1916-1925: Reign of Khai Dinh and construction of his tomb.

1947: A fire in the Imperial City and Forbidden Purple City destroyed nearly all the monuments.

1975: Beginning of restoration work.

Category: Hue Monuments