Hue, Vietnam
Architecture,  Local Guide

The history of Hue Vietnam through its Magnificent Architectural Works

Hue City is one of the most ancient destinations in Vietnam. Contemplating these architectural works is the most exciting and rewarding way to discover the history of Hue Vietnam.

1.    The Imperial City and Royal Tombs – A glorious time

When you want to discover the history of Hue Vietnam, the Imperial City and Royal Tombs cannot be ignored. They are the last places where architectural and cultural traits of the Nguyen Dynasties remain.

In 1802, the first emperor of the Nguyen Dynasty, Nguyen Phuc Anh (Emperor Gia Long), was enthroned. He chose Hue City as the seat of power. The construction of the Imperial City was planned in 2 years, starting from 1805. Because this was the beginning of a new dynasty, the Imperial City was designed with three rounds and equipped with fortresses, moats, and weapons.

Everything aimed at protecting the royal family and the citizens. Also, the architects at that time based on geomancy as well as the Yin-Yang and Five Element theories to build a rigid Imperial City. If you pay attention, you will see that all of the buildings and houses face towards the South. It was a good direction for kings to rule the world, which had been remarked in the Book of Changes.


Inside a tomb (Source: Google)

This style is applied to the structure of Royal Tombs as well. Unlike the Imperial City, the Royal Tombs do not solely show the exclusiveness of the architecture in Hue City, which is the harmony of human and nature. They also disclose the personalities and the notions about life and death of the emperors. Profound philosophies about existence and the way of the world are hidden in every pattern.

For example, the structure of most of the tombs is sophisticated, resembling a palace. It proves how much the emperors love art and decoration. On the other hand, it also demonstrates the common thoughts of kings, in which the mundane world is only temporary. Even if you can live for a hundred years, your life is only a dream.

As a result, death is not petrifying. In fact, it must come someday so that the impermanence can end and the eternity can start. That is why you can find theaters, art museums, gardens, and many other landscapes within the tombs. They are the emperors’ deliberate preparation for death.

2.    Garden houses – The typical style of Hue people

Garden houses revive the history of Hue Vietnam in the late 19th century. You may think that they are just a combination of scenery and architecture. Nevertheless, they have cultural and historical values which make them a crucial heritage of Hue City.


Lac Tinh Vien Garden House (Source: Google)

Those are displayed through impressive characteristics, particularly the variety of genres. It means that a garden house can be created based on certain forms, such as a park or a royal garden. Popular gardens houses in the center and around the suburbs of Hue City that used to belong to the nobility follow those styles.

Some common ones that you can visit are the Phu Tuy Ly, Lac Tinh Vien, and An Hien Garden House. Their architecture has a principal and accessory design. This can tell how elegant the Hue people have always been. They know which detail needs highlighting and how to build a perfect background for it.

In that way, the primary scenery, including the trees, the flowers, and the grass, and the accessory parts, such as the gates, the hallways, and the rockeries, are always in sync. The beauty of people and landscapes in Vietnam in general and Hue City, in particular, is the main inspiration for the architects to design the garden houses.

3.    French architectural works – A modernized Hue in French domination

French domination is a phase in the history of Hue Vietnam. It lasted for about 80 years. Therefore, the French left a great number of architectural works in this city. The style of architecture in Hue at this time represents an urbanizing city but still keeping its exclusiveness and antiquity.

The French constructions are relatively diverse with different types, such as public buildings, villas, or offices. All of them were arranged professionally and in a rational manner. Public buildings that you can notice in Hue are usually hotels, stations, museums, and schools. The most prominent ones which you will want to pay a visit are Morin Hotel, Hue Station, Hue University, or Hue High-school for the Gifted.


A French work of art in Hue (Source: Google)

Most of them have new-classic or pre-colonial designs. Especially, Hue High-school for the Gifted is a perfect combination of Vietnamese and French architecture. Its 2-layered roofs are usually seen in pagodas and palaces in Hue City. Some typical details that you often see in French works are Doric poles, 2-layered windows, thick brick walls, and wide hallways.

Unlike the public buildings, the villas follow the French and Indochinese architectural design. Their most eminent feature is that they are two or three-storied. The first floor is paved by stone and the second floor is tiled, which follows the fundamental principles in interior design. Windows are dome-shaped and also 2-layered. The sill rails are a little steep, faciliating rapid drainage.

Khánh Huyền

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