I couldn’t leave the central part of Vietnam without visiting the city of Hue, one of the most important cultural cities of the country, famous for being the former imperial capital. The Imperial City at Hue is considered the best-conserved remains of a vast citadel and royal palace complex passing through more than 200 years of History. The Hue Imperial City is the remaining witness of the last dynasty of Vietnam facing the last moments of the imperial era.
The person who played a key role in founding this city was Gia Long, the first emperor of the Nguyen Dynasty. The Emperor wanted to make a smaller replica of the Forbidden City in Beijing so he consulted the geomancers to find the right place to build a new palace and citadel. The construction of the imperial city began in 1804 in Hue, the capital of the Nguyen Dynasty. Under the command of Gia Long, thousands of workers were recruited to dig a ten-kilometer moat and earthen walls forming the area of the citadel.
The Imperial City of Hue was once a great complex full of all the executive institutions enclosed within a square fortress, known as the Hue Citadel. The Hue Citadel’s location is strategically chosen, along the Perfume River and the mountains here meant to protect the city because they looked like snakes and lions, important elements of the Vietnamese mythology.
I’ve spent one day walking through the remnants of the Imperial city feeling inside of a History bubble that was preserved to make us aware of cultural diversity and of the mixture of cultures around the world. The history of Vietnam and China intertwine over time and the architecture and the city of Hue it’s living proof of this fact. I was fascinated with each step visiting this city that gave me another vibe of Vietnam.
The central part of the imperial city is the area where the Emperor decided to locate his own palace. Called “Purple Forbidden City,” it was a place designed to offer access only for the Emperor and his trusted people.
Sadly, my walk into the History of Hue showed me also the consequences of the wars for this magnificent complex. During the Vietnam War, the North Vietnamese Army wanted to take over Hue in 1968 and the American forces responded with bombings. Of the 160 significant buildings within the site, only 10 major ones survived the battle. This is not the only example of a cultural massacre in this country after the Vietnam War.
Nowadays the city is on the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites since 1993. With all the damages, the city is still a fascinating proof of how the Vietnamese interpreted Chinese imperial architecture and introduced it to their culture. I hope you’ll have the chance to visit the Imperial City of Hue and have a long walk into its History.