The garden houses are a unique feature
of Hue. The houses are traditional, privately owned, and
set in attractive formal gardens. Some have connections
with the old Royal Imperial Court. Hue traditional architecture
has long been close associated with the natural environment.
The garden houses reflect this association. Each is highly
individual - house and garden, people and scenery, plants,
clouds and water co-exist and blend with each other in a
Nearly all the garden
houses have direct links with the Imperial Court. Some are
descendents of royalty or mandarins, others received patronage
from the royal family.
The garden houses
are an important feature in Vietnam’s cultural landscape.
Not only are they old and attractive, but also invaluable
resources for understanding the practical applications of
the ancient sciences that governed their construction. Even
in Hue, very few remain intact, and those that survive do
so solely because of the Vietnamese tradition of the beliefs
and rituals of ancestor worship.
that the house cannot be sold out of the family if the links
to the ancestors are to be maintained, but rocketing land
values have increased the value of the properties to astronomic
levels. As time passes, the power of tradition grows weaker,
and the temptation for succeeding generations to capitalise
on the asset grows stronger.
For example, the
present occupant of the An Hien is the owner’s grandson
and is already advanced in years. His wife is currently
resident in France. Their eldest son lives in California,
their daughter is an MBA and works in London, and another
son lives with his mother. All return for Tet each year
to worship and maintain the continuity of the ancestral
line, but the bond of kinship that sustains the family is
strained by distance. One or two generations hence might
see them break altogether.
owner of Ty Ba Trang garden house died, and his successors
decided to turn the house and garden into a large cafe.
The former owner was the famous Professor Nguyen Huu Ba,
a renowned musician, who made the house a museum of Hue’s
traditional music, and blended the elements of song and
melody with the design of the garden and the architecture
of the house. Sadly, the intangible knowledge and wisdom
stored in the garden house, and the insights into a past
way of life, are now lost forever.
The owners of
the garden houses receive no extra benefits for opening
up their houses and acting as guides. In each case, their
motivation is to preserve the traditions and culture of
the past by making their homes accessible to interested
visitors. We usually include a visit to at least one garden
house for all our tours in Hue, and strongly encourage our
guests to make a donation to the house owner to help with
maintaining his or her property.