Before recent wars Vietnam used to be a land of Emperors, with a ruling royalty that appreciated a love of traditional architecture, poetry, a passion for food, art and beautiful gardens. The Citadel at Hue stands as a crumpled monument to that time; an incredible collection of temples, public spaces, royal palaces and monumental halls.
In fact, the Citadel was a walled fortress enclosing the Imperial City, surrounded by a murky moat, as well as containing the impressive Purple Forbidden City where the Emperor spent his days entertaining concubines, Chinese officials, throwing lavish parties and relishing a golden period in Vietnamese history. Trespassers were swiftly dealt with by execution.
Then the new Communist rulers thought enough was enough and took control of the party, swiftly followed by another type of damage when the American war planes destroyed most of the buildings when they bombed much of the country. Cyclones and floods continued the carnage. Fortunately UNESCO stepped in around 1993 and started pouring funds in to the restoration and preservation of the historic site. All we can say is thank god!
The Imperial City is amazing. Even if you’re not that in to architecture, it’s hard not to be impressed by the shear size of the complex. Walking through the expansive gardens under white wintery skies; the bare frangipani and poinciana trees hinted at the splendour and colour of a summer to come. Massive colourful gates introduce new spaces and different areas of life that were all planned in harmony with the Feng Shui principles of the day.
If you’re in Hue it’s worth a lengthy walk and a full day exploring. The good thing is that the place isn’t heaving with tourists, so it’s pretty easy to get lost in quiet spaces and feel like you have the whole place to yourself, so dream on!
We need history, not to tell us what happened of to explain the past, but to make the past alive so that it can explain us and make a future possible. Alan Bloom