The Ancient Imperial City Of Hue, Vietnam

The Ancient Imperial City Of Hue, Vietnam

From Da Nang, we took a taxi to Hue (Pronounced Hu-ey).
The day before, we had taken a Grab taxi in Danang, and the driver offered to drive us to Hue, for a little less than a Grab taxi would regularly cost.
Since he was driving a nice car, we decided to go for it.
The next day another driver, supposedly his brother, picked us up with an older, smaller car, with a big painting sticking out of the trunk that took up most of the luggage space.

He shoved our suitcases into his trunk, covered them with the big painting which prevented the trunk from closing, wrapped the trunk with an old bungee cord and happily opened the door for us to get in.

Since we had discussed taking the scenic route over the Hai Van mountain pass, it seemed to me to be a very bad idea to drive with an open trunk.
I insisted that he leave the painting at our hotel and pick it up upon his return to Da Nang.
After I asked for our luggage to be taken out of his trunk and almost booked another Grab taxi, he relented and we started our journey to Hue.

The costal road was beautiful and the pass was pretty.
The fact that his car was smaller, meant he could not speed much, which was enjoyable for us.
We bought him coffee and cookies at the mountain pass café, and he seemed happy.

Our hotel in Hue is beautiful, built in the colonial style.
The rooms are spacious and classically designed.
Each floor has a beautiful lobby, and original art by talented Vietnamese artists decorates the walls.
It reminds me of the old Four Seasons hotel in Tokyo or the Shangri-La, except that staying here in Hue costs a fraction of the price.

Since we arrived early, we walked across a bridge over the Perfume River to visit the old imperial city and the citadel of Hue.

We rented audio guides and walked around the beautiful old palaces and temples.

Established as the capital of the unified Vietnam in 1802 CE, Hue was not only the political but also the cultural and religious centre under the Nguyen Dynasty, the last royal dynasty in Vietnamese history, from 1802 to 1945 CE.

Initially, it was a bit hard to figure out where to find the places marked on the map and how they corresponded to each sign.
The Imperial City is surrounded by a ten kilometer moat and a two meter tall defensive wall.
It includes three sets of enclosures, and each palace is enclosed in its own walls, with its own temple, garden or pond, so you have to enter and leave through the right gates in order not to miss any areas you might want to see.

The beautifully decorated palaces housed the imperial family, and the complex has ornate shrines and relaxation gardens, as well as villas for the mandarins.

The Mandarins were the bureaucrats, scholars and officials appointed through the imperial system, which sometimes included the eunuchs who all lived in the imperial city.

The inner part of the imperial city was also known as the “Purple Forbidden City.”
In ancient times, “Purple” stood for royalty, divinity, honor and the highest status.
The innermost areas were kept just for the royal family, as well as for the emperor’s concubines and servants who did not live there, but were allowed to enter.

The Purple Forbidden City reminded me of the Forbidden City in Beijing, although it had inner streets which are smaller and narrower, and felt more intimate and charming to me, and even nicely shaded in some places.

The construction of Hue Purple Forbidden City was indeed inspired by the Forbidden City of Beijing.

Hue imperial city was mostly destroyed by wars and hardships.
The core structures burned, and only a few buildings remained.

The Vietnamese government is still working on refurbishing and restoring the old structures of the citadel.

The architecture of the Forbidden city was designed and built by the most skillful architects and feng-shui experts.

The palaces in Hue face to the southwest, towards the Perfume river, to optimize the energy flow in order to increase prosperity, peace and harmony.

In the old days, there were about 50 buildings in the enclosed city.
Besides the residential buildings and the beautiful and incredibly long roofed corridors, there was a palace for meeting with the mandarins, a theatre, a library, a concubines’ palace, worship places, entertainment places such as pools, gorgeous flower gardens and tea-drinking houses which contained all high-end objects, some even made of pure gold.

The number of palaces varied between reigns.
Some kings preferred luxury and had special hobbies, so they built a magnificent opera house or palaces just for playing games.

There were nine levels of concubines, which determined how comfortably they lived and how much power they might have.
Stories tell how the concubines fought hard to get the love of the emperor.

One of the most important and beautiful aspects of the feng-shui design in the temples and palaces is that there is always an ornate entrance gate, often decorated with dragons and clouds.

Then there is a small wall, located exactly in front of the gate, hiding the entrance to the actual temple or house.
This wall is also beautifully decorated on both sides.
This wall is connected in order to prevent evil spirits from“rushing through the gate” and entering the house.

The roofs were always decorated with dragons and they often used a fish or a dragon to direct the flow of water into the roof’s gutters.

It was magical to walk around this old city with its beautiful gardens.
At sunset, the trees by the moat were laden with birds, as we made our way out of the gates.

From Hue with love,

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