In June 1802 Nguyễn Phúc Ánh took control of Vietnam and proclaimed himself Emperor Gia Long. His rule was recognized by China in 1804. Gia Long confided with geomancers to decide which was the best place for a new palace and citadel to be built. After the geomancers had decided on a suitable site in Huế, building began in 1804. Thousands of workers were ordered to produce a wall and moat, 10 kilometers long. Initially the walls were earthen, but later these earthen walls were replaced by stone walls, 2 meters thick.
The citadel was oriented to face the Huong River to the east. This was different from the Forbidden City in Beijing, which faces south. The Emperor's palace is on the east side of the citadel, nearest the river. A second set of walls and a second moat was constructed around the Emperor's palace. Many more palaces and gates and courtyards and gardens were subsequently added. The rule of the last Vietnamese Emperor lasted until the mid-1800s. At the time, the Purple Forbidden City had many buildings and hundreds of rooms. It suffered from termite and cyclone damage, but was still very impressive. Many bullet holes left over from the war can be observed on the stone walls.
The American bombing in 1968 in response to a communist takeover of Huế flattened most of the Imperial city. Only a few buildings survived, such as the Thái Hòa and Cần Thanh temples, Thế Miếu, and Hiển Lâm Các. The city was made a UNESCO site in 1993. The buildings that still remain are being restored and preserved. Unfortunately, most of the buildings were destroyed by the Americans during the Vietnam War. During the past few years, most of the destroyed buildings have already been reconstructed with the cooperation of the Vietnamese government, UNESCO, and other organizations.
Photo details: Cropped very slightly, applied saturation and contrast adjustments.
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