Most of Hué's sights and a sizeable chunk of its population
reside within the 2m-thick, 10km-long walls of its Citadel on the north bank of the
river. Begun in 1804 on a site chosen by Emperor Gia Long's geomancers, it was
originally made of earth and later strengthened with brick.
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Dien Tho Residence
The stunning, partially ruined Dien Tho Residence (1804) once comprised the apartments and audience hall of the Queen Mothers of the Nguyen dynasty. The audience hall houses an exhibition of photos illustrating its former use, and there is a display of embroidered royal garments. Just outside is their Highnesses' enchanting pleasure pavilion, a carved wooden building set above a lily pond.
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Forbidden Purple City
Behind the palaces, in the very centre of the Imperial
Enclosure, the Forbidden Purple City is a citadel-within-a-citadel-within-a-citadel.
Reserved solely for the personal use of the emperor, the only servants allowed into
this compound were eunuchs who would pose no threat to the royal concubines. It was
almost entirely destroyed in the wars, and a large part is now draped in green
foliage. Take care as you wander around the ruins as there are some gaping
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General Museum Complex
The General Museum Complex is housed in an exquisite building
once a school for princes and the sons of high-ranking mandarins. It combines, in an
odd juxtaposition, a pagoda devoted to archaeology, a small Natural History Museum
and a building devoted to the 'movement of revolutionary struggle and anti-French
colonialism resistance war'. There's a tank collection out front.
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Housing the emperor's residence and the main buildings of state, the Imperial Enclosure is a citadel-within-a-citadel, with 6m-high walls that are 2.5km in length. The enclosure was badly bombed during the French and American wars, and a large part of it is still park-like ruins. Restoration of the least damaged sections and the complete rebuilding of others is an ongoing project.
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Museum of Royal Fine Arts
The beautiful hall that houses the Museum of Royal Fine Arts was built in 1845 and restored when the museum was founded in 1923. The walls are inscribed with poems written in nom (Vietnamese script). The most precious artefacts were lost during the American War, but the ceramics, furniture and royal clothing that remain are well worth the visit. The outside courtyard has interesting ceremonial cannons, stone court sculptures and large brass bells and vats.
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Thai Hoa Palace
Built in 1803, Thai Hoa Palace is a spacious hall with an ornate timber roof supported by 80 carved and lacquered columns. It was used for the emperor's official receptions and other important court ceremonies, such as anniversaries and coronations. During state occasions, the emperor sat on his elevated throne and his mandarins paid homage.
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To Mieu Temple
On the other side of the courtyard is the long, low, red and gold To Mieu Temple itself. Inside are shrines to each of the emperors, topped by their photos. Under the French only the seven liked by the colonial power were thus honoured - Ham Nghi, Thanh Thai and Duy Tan were only added in 1959. The temple is flanked on the right by a small robing house and on the left by a shrine to a soil god.
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