Imperial Citadel and Antiquities Museum
Often referred to as ‘ancient’, Hue’s Citadel is comparatively
modern in European terms. Built over thirty years in the
early part of the 19th century, the Citadel encompasses
three ‘courts’ covering a total of 6 km.
outer court within the massive brick walls, ten metres thick
in places, is mainly open space and gardens.
Imperial City, built along the same lines as the Forbidden
Palace in Beijing, was the country's administrative centre.
Senior mandarins, court officers and civil servants would
have entered by the ‘Ngo Mon’ (noon gate). Directly behind
were the Dai Trieu Nghi (great rites courtyard) and the
Thai Hoa Palace (throne hall) where the Emperor would meet
foreign rulers and emissaries, high-ranking ministers and
the heart of the Imperial City was the ‘Tu Cam Thanh’ (Forbidden
Purple City). Only members of the royal family, the Emperor’s
concubines, and trusted senior mandarins and officers such
as the royal doctor were allowed through the sole entry
gate. Inside were various palaces and the Emperor’s private
than a third of the structures inside the citadel remain.
The French army shelled the building, and removed or destroyed
nearly all the treasures it contained. Most of the buildings
in the Forbidden City were destroyed by fire in 1947.
destruction occurred when Hue’s Citadel became the symbolic
epicentre of the 1968 Tet Offensive. Major artillery battles
were fought when the Viet Cong overran Hue and when the
US forces finally recaptured the citadel 25 days later.
more than fifty years of decay and attrition, the Citadel
is still imposing, and recent renovation work has restored
several of its buildings to their previous glory. In front
of the Hien Cam Lac, an elegant three-storey pavilion, are
nine large bronze urns, each dedicated to one of the Nguyen
Emperors, the largest being that of Gia Long, builder of
the citadel and founder of the empire.
is the Thé Temple. It contains altars commemorating ten
of the Nguyen rulers. Of the remaining three, two reigned
only briefly and were considered too friendly with the French,
and the last Emperor, Bao Dai, was a puppet ruler under
the French and died in exile in Paris.
Museum of Antiquities
Frequently misnamed by guide books as the Fine Arts Museum,
the Bao Tang Co Vat (Antiquities Museum) is housed in the
ancient Long An temple, once used as a temporary resting
place for the body of Emperor Thieu Tri until his tomb was
contains an interesting collection of assorted memorabilia
from the days of Empire. The trivial function and poor quality
of many of the exhibits reflects the extent of looting by
the French – a few pieces hint to the former opulence of
life in the Forbidden City.
the building is attractive and spacious, the Museum has
a run-down feel. When we last inspected it, admittedly some
months ago, the staff seemed bored and indifferent, the
display cabinets were dirty, and the lighting was inadequate.
There was hardly any attempt to describe the exhibits, let
alone interpret their significance, and no-one appeared
interested in enlightening us.
may have improved by now, so we would welcome feedback from
anyone who has visited recently.