Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Imperial City Hue

Just an hour by plane south of Hanoi, Hue seemed peaceful, quiet and organized after the bustle and havoc that was Hanoi.  Hue is famous as the home of the Vietnamese Imperial City from the time of the Emperor Gia Long, built in the early 1800's, modelled on the Forbidden CIty of China and even bore a similar name.  Many of the buildings were destroyed during the Tet offensive in the Vietnam War but a number are being restored.

Looking at the historical structures made us realize the close ties that Vietnam had with China, including the use of a modified set of Chinese characters in its written language, likely the result of it being under Chinese rule for a thousand years.  We were surprised that we could read everything that was written on the historical monuments, including the stelae identifying the national scholars, who had to go through a system of exams very similar to the ones in imperial China.   And of course, many of the symbolism used in the food and culture had Chinese origins. 

I am writing this during an unsettling time in Vietnam when centuries old animosities towards the Chinese were bubbling to the top.  I am relieved that we visited Vietnam when we did, before the attacks on the Chinese took place but saddened by the situation - it would have been so much more productive otherwise.

Thien Mu Pagoda built in 1601 dedicated to the "Celestial Mother"

Bronze bell cast in 1710 weighing over 3000 kg could be heard 10 km away

Lovely lily pond on the grounds

Burial stupa in the garden of pine trees

The temple had extensive patronage from the dynastic rulers

The Citadel of the Imperial CIty, surrounded by a wall and moat

The Noon Gate under restoration - one of ten gates into the Citadel, it was also the one where important announcements were made

Thai Hoa Thien, Palace of Supreme Harmony, was used for important ceremonies and meetings.   The roof was crowned with nine dragons.  It was also known as the Throne Palace and this could be seen in the elaborate interior, supported by red pillars decorated with gilded dragons, the symbol of the emperor.

A side gate to the Hiem Lam Pavillion and the Temple Hung Mieu

Temple Hung Mieu built in honour of the parents of the emperor.

Hien Lam Pavillion, across from the temple, built in 1824 in honour of all those had contributed to the Nguyen Dynasty.  There are nine bronze dynastic urns in front of the Pavillion, each dedicated to an emperor, symbolizing his qualities.

The ornate entrance gate to the Hiem Lam Pavillion

Inside the Hiem Lam Pavillion

Long corridors of lacquered wood displayed achievements of centuries of academic awards based on an old Chinese system 

On the outskirts of Hue, we visited the tomb of the emperor Khai Dinh, who became emperor in 1916.  Construction of the elaborate tomb began before his death in 1925 and was completed in 1931.  
The gate to the Khai Dinh Tomb

A second set of steps to climb before what appeared to be the mausoleum but which in fact was not

Stele monument 

Stone bodyguards

Carved dragons on pillars

Khai Tanh Palace - where the actual grave of the emperor was located

Chinese porcelain decorations inside the palace with Japanese bottled glass trims

Statue of Emperor Khai Dinh cast in Marseilles

Roof decoration

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