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Girls wearing traditional "áo dài" outside the Ngọ Môn Gate of the Imperial City, Huế, Viet Nam.

The áo dài dresses probably mark out these girls as students of Hue University.

The grounds of the Imperial City are protected by fortified ramparts 2 kilometers square, and ringed by a series of moats, one of which is seen here. The water in the moat is routed from the Huong River (Perfume River) through a series of sluice gates. This enclosure is the Citadel (Kinh thành). Inside the Citadel is the Imperial City (Hoàng thành), with a perimeter wall some 2.5 kilometers in length. Within the Imperial City is the Purple Forbidden City (Tử cấm thành), built on the lines of the Forbidden City in Beijing.

In June 1802 Nguyễn Ánh took control of Vietnam and proclaimed himself Emperor Gia Long. His rule was recognized by China in 1804. Gia Long consulted 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 reigns of the last Vietnamese Emperors lasted until the mid-1900s. 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 Vietnam War can be observed on the stone walls.

In the early morning hours of January 31, 1968, as part of the Tet Offensive a Division-sized force of North Vietnamese Army and Viet Cong soldiers launched a coordinated attack on Huế seizing most of the city. During the initial phases of the Battle of Hue, due to Huế's religious and cultural status, US troops were ordered not to bomb or shell the city, for fear of destroying the historic structures;[citation needed] but as casualties mounted in house-to-house fighting these restrictions were progressively lifted and the fighting caused substantial damage to the Imperial City. Out of 160 buildings only 10 major sites remain because of the battle, such as the Thái Ḥa 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. The latest and so far the largest restoration project concluded in 2015.

The Ngọ Môn Gate, also known as the Gate of Noon, is the main gate to the Imperial City, Huế. It was used by the sovereign as an observation point for troop movements and ceremonies. The gate is divided into two levels: the stone and brick fortress-like base structure, and the more elaborate, palace-like upper level. The ground level has five entrances, of which the centre one was always reserved for the monarch's use only. The two, slightly smaller, side entrances were reserved for mandarins, soldiers and horses. The two small arched entrances on the side were for the rest and commoners. The upper level consists of a grand pavilion, called the Lầu Ngũ Phụng (Five-Phoenix Pavilion). From the main hall, the emperor would watch troop movements and his subjects bringing homage. The pavilion's roof is decked in imperial yellow, glazed ceramic roof tiles. On the roof tiles are various animals and creatures to ward off evil. The main hall is flanked by two side pavilions, which were reserved for members of the court.

The Ngọ Môn was able to survive the large-scale destruction during the Vietnam War.

(Wikipedia)

Shutter speed: 1/250 sec
Aperture: f/7.1
ISO: 200

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Additional Photos by Will Perrett (willperrett) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 1056 W: 301 N: 2850] (13186)
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