An Hien Garden House
Originally the residence of Emperor Duc Duc’s 18th daughter, the An Hien garden house was transferred to Pham Dang Thap at the end of the nineteenth century. He was the son of Tu Du, a high-ranking mandarin under Emperor Gia Long. Twenty-five years later, it changed hands again and was finally passed on to Nguyen Dinh Chi, a provincial leader, in 1936.
When Mr. Chi died, his widow took over the ownership of the house and has been the householder ever since. Mrs Dao Thi Yen is well known in Hue city as an anti-colonial agitator in the 1920s, a teacher and school principal, and a National Assembly member who achieved high office.
The entrance to An Hien is from the road that runs alongside the Perfume River. A short flight steps lead through large gateway, richly decorated with symbols and designs. From there, a path leads through the garden to a wind-screen, a white painted brick wall designed to prevent both harsh wind and deny curious eyes a view of the house from the gate.
Between the wind-screen and the house is a large rectangular lily-pond.
The house is an excellent example of traditional Vietnamese architecture. A large tiled roof is supported by massive pillars thus creating three large bays, the middle of which houses the family altar. Most of the timber is ironwood, but the four central pillars are of Jackfruit wood. Beams and doors are richly carved and ornamented.
The house and garden take up almost five thousand square metres of land. The garden surrounds the house on all sides, and is full of flowers and fruit trees.
A richly decorated gate leads into a classic garden with many varieties of flowers. Popular flowers such as jasmine, pomegranate, sunflowers and indigenous roses mingle with exotic species of orchids.
Jasmine, pergularia, pomegranate, sunflowers, climbing roses and wild indigenous roses jostle for attention with exotic species of orchids. A feature of An Hien garden is a large camellia presented by a Japanese Flower Association.
The garden contains many precious fruit trees characteristic of all three of Vietnam’s regions: lychees, persimmon and pears from the north, mangosteen and durian from the south and pomelo, jackfruit and oranges from the south, and many others. Several have been brought from afar, and some are rare, particularly a Tien Dien persimmon renown for its delicious seedless fruits every July.
Sitting in the shade overlooking the pond, one senses the essence of the carefully planned and executed complementary elements of the house, the garden, the use of water and the other traditional features. The overall impression is of elegance, tranquillity and harmony, and a deep sense of a continuous link to the past as a guide to the future.