The small city of Hue in central Vietnam was the nation’s capital from 1802 to 1945, under the 13 emperors of the Nguyen Dynasty. There the emperor lived in regal splendor in a series of walled cities rivaling (and influenced by) China’s Forbidden City. The wars that swept Vietnam in the mid-20th century left much of the imperial city in ruins. Despite Vietnam’s ambivalence about its past monarchy, the imperial city is gradually being restored and has become a major draw for foreign tourists.
In 1804, the first emperor of the Nguyen dynasty ordered all of the bronze wares of the previous dynasty to be collected, melted down, and used to make nine huge cannons to guard the citadel.
The cannons were never used for military purposes but were considered guardian spirits of the citadel.
The main gate to the citadel
A viewing platform above the parade ground in the citadel. The gold-star North Vietnamese (and now national) flag was first raised here during the Tet Offensive in 1968.
Chris and Francesca in front of the massive gate to the imperial city (a smaller walled city within the walled citadel)
Another view of the massive main gate (the building is too big to fit in a single shot)
Yellow roof tiles indicate a building or entrance reserved for the emperor
The main courtyard of the imperial city, where court officials (mandarins) would gather on official occasions to pay homage to the emperor
A 17th-century bronze urn in front of one of the buildings used by court officials
Vietnamese employees and visitors lounging around the citadel
Another building formerly used by court officials, this one has been set up like an audience chamber, where visitors can dress up as the emperor and get their picture taken
Posing in imperial dress for a picture
These beautiful long arcades are being restored to their original condition
AJ and Francesca in front of the Royal Library, one of the few undamaged buildings in the emperor's private area, the Forbidden Purple City
The Royal Library
Looking across a pond to the Royal Library
Most of the buildings in the Forbidden Purple City were destroyed during wars with the North Vietnamese, the French, or the Americans, so the area feels more open now than it was originally
This sign amused us (that decadent emperor "under the deep influence of the Western civilization")
One of the emperor's special reading pavilions (it looks like a lovely place to take a book)
Francesca was a tourist attraction herself
A side gate to leading to one of three beautiful temples left intact in the imperial city
The more ornate main gate to the temples (back view) . . .
. . . and front view
Inside one of temples, dedicated by various emperors to their parents
We loved these bamboo blinds painted with demons
A big bronze bell
These huge bronze urns were cast in 1836 to symbolize the sovereignty of the Nguyen dynasty and were named after previous emperors
Many of the urns have bullet marks from the battles fought in Hue
This little building, which resembles an old British phone booth, protects a bronze statue of a Chinese unicorn
A part of the imperial city not yet restored
Unfortunately, the shop was closing when we were there, so we couldn't get the best gifts for our relatives
The ornate north gate out of the citadel