Hue Imperial Enclosure: Highlight of Vietnam’s Ancient Capital

Rachel Tran
Rachel Tran | Published: August 11, 2020

Visiting the Imperial Enclosure is definitely a highlight in your trip to Hue city. With an impressive history, amazing architecture, and the most stunning grounds, it is one of the most awesome tourist attractions that you should not miss. Hue itself is already a city full of unique cultural and historical traits, and the Imperial Enclosure just adds to this even more. Located inside Hue Imperial City, this historic centre would probably take you a whole day to explore. So, let’s get into everything you need to know about this destination.

    Location: the North of Perfume River, Hue city, Thua Thien-Hue.
    Opening hours: 8:00 am - 5:30 pm
    Entrance fee: VND 150.000/ adult, VND 30.000/ children

1. History of The Imperial Enclosure

Visiting the Imperial Enclosure, you will surely be surprised at how well this site has been preserved for almost 200 years. It took up to 27 years from 1805 to 1832 and has gone through 2 Kings’ reign (Gia Long King and Minh Mang King) to finish this building.

History of Imperial Closure in Hue
Source: urrbanistnetwork.com

It will not be exaggerating to say that this is the most gigantic architectural structure in Vietnam during the late modern period. To build it, thousands of workers were hired, millions of cubic meters of rock were used in the construction process. There are plenty of tasks done by these workers, including digging trenches, filling river, immigrating, moving graves, and building walls.

The location for this Imperial Enclosure was chosen by Gia Long King. After becoming the King, he found a proper place to build his palace. At this time, this was a huge land on the north bank of Huong River (or so-called Perfume River). This place is now the Imperial City. The Imperial Enclosure was decided to put behind 100-meter high Ngu Binh Mountain. The mountain has a flat top, beautiful shape, becoming the natural partition for this citadel. The 2 sides of the mountain are called Hen hillock and Da Vien hillock. While Hen represents Green Dragon, Da Vien is the symbol of White Tiger. They are believed to show the King’s great power.

2. Structure of The Imperial Enclosure

Structure of Imperial Closure

The first thing you can see is the giant wall of the Imperial Enclosure which stretches 10 kilometers with a height of 6.6 meters and the thickness of 21 meters. The wall was first built by mud under Gia Long King and then was changed into bricks at the end of his reign.

Surrounding this wall, you will find a system of trench, using for dependence. To enter the site, you can choose to go through one of its 10 gates including Chinh Dong, Chinh Nam, Chinh Tay, Chinh Bac, Tay Bac, Tay Nam, The Nhon, Quang Duc, and Dong Nam gates. The Imperial Enclosures comprises the Imperial City and Purple Forbidden city

The Imperial City plays an important role in protecting the most vital places. There are 4 gates, of which Ngo Mon (or Meridian Gate) is known as the main gate. Not only this part but also all the system of the palace was built in axisymmetric style with special constructions for the Kings placed in the center. Other buildings belonging to the Imperial city strictly followed the rules: constructions for men were on the left and for women on the right. Here, you will easily realize that all buildings were put close to nature like gardens, lakes, shady trees, and stone bridges. The materials used for the construction process were all high quality. For example, colorful floor tiles were made in Bat Trang – the most famous pottery making village in Vietnam. 

Purple Forbidden City used to be the private area for only the Kings as well as the royal. Purple Forbidden City is also called Tu Cam Thanh in Vietnamese. The name means the residents were not allowed to freely enter this place. This place is divided into many different areas with up to 50 works in different sizes. Inside the Purple Forbidden City, there is a palace called Can Chanh for the Kings to work. Can Chanh is in front of Noi Dinh, the place for Kings to eat and do different recreational activities. The Kings lived in Can Thanh which has a yard and a beautiful lake. Wives of the Kings stayed in the palace called Khon Thai.

3. What to See in Imperial Closure?

What to see in Imperial Closure

Visiting the Imperial Closure, you will have a chance to see many well-maintained relics which represents a part of Vietnamese history. So, what are the must-see ones?

  • Ngo Mon (Meridian Gate): The gate is located in the southern area and it is the largest gate among the 4 main gates of Hue Citadel. Ngo Mon is known as a great architectural work that contains the highest value of Nguyen Dynasty’s architecture until now. Owning some familiar architecture of Ngo Mon gate in China though, it still reflects the architectural traits of Vietnam.
  • Thai Hoa palace: This is considered one of the most important constructions of Hue Imperial City. Thai Hoa means the supreme harmony between yin and yang as well as between humans and nature. It has a typical royal architecture decorated with lacquer, gilding, and bronzeware. Here, you can catch many images of dragons and clouds used as the main decorative patterns. The throne of all Nguyen Kings are also displayed here.
  • Hien Lam pavilion: Constructed under Minh Mang King’s reign, this is known as the memorial of the kings under Nguyen dynasty and the meritorious mandarins. The 3-storey wooden structure is valuable in terms of fine-art and technique. The great talent of carpenters have made this pavilion exist for nearly 2 centuries. 

4. Tips on Traveling

  • If you are staying in Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh city, taking a flight is the most convenient way to get to Hue. However, we highly recommend taking a train instead because an overnight train will be an essential Vietnam travel experience.
  • There are plenty of accommodation options in Hue that suit different travel budgets, from budget to luxury. The best area to stay is around Perfume River, where you can feel the best of Hue.
  • If you plan to visit some temples or pagodas during your day, don’t forget to wear proper clothes. Shorts cut above the knee or short dresses are considered impolite there.

Generally, Imperial Enclosure will be one of the highlights in your trip to Hue city. Don’t miss your chance to visit this outstanding place. If you have any questions about the place, please contact us.

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