From 1802 to 1945, Hue was the capital of Vietnam and home to the Nguyen dynasty. After the Vietnam War, Hue’s unique history fell to ruin because the imperial era wasn’t viewed favorably by the communist authorities. These days, however, the city’s temples and landmarks are national treasures, with millions of tourists arriving every year to see these fascinating sites.
By far the focal point of tourism in Hue, the Citadel is a sprawling complex on the northern side of the Perfume River, and within its deep moat and imposing walls are the courts, temples, gardens and pavilions of the Imperial City.
For most, this gate—also known as the South Gate—will be where you start your tour of the Imperial City. It was built in 1833 by emperor Minh Mạng and was used as a place from which to view ceremonies and troop movements. The five entrances you can see in the photo below are sized according to the status of the person allowed to enter through them: the middle and largest was for the emperor; the two smaller ones off the center were for mandarins, soldiers and horses; and the two arched entrances facing inward were for the commoners.
The emperor, Minh Mạng, ordered this temple built in 1823 to worship the previous nine rulers of his dynastic line, which is why there are nine tripod cauldrons around the courtyard in front of the temple. The temple itself is modeled off the Imperial Ancestral Temple, or Taimiao, in Beijing.
Following the Tet Offensive in 1968, a division of the People’s Army of Vietnam, or Viet Cong, occupied Hue, including the Citadel and the Imperial City. At first, the Americans were reluctant to bomb the historic sites, but when casualties began to mount, they changed their policy. Of 160 original buildings, only 10 complexes remained after the Battle of Hue. Most of the Purple Forbidden City, where the emperor lived, was destroyed, and you can still see many bullet holes in walls. The original structures were modeled off the Chinese Forbidden City in Beijing.
These gardens, located at in the northeast corner of the Imperial City, were built by the first four emperors of the Nguyen dynasty. For many years, they fell into disrepair, but a restoration project has brought them back to their former glory. You really feel like Vietnamese royalty when you stroll through this opulent area.