The main landmark of Hue is the Perfume River (Huong Giang) dividing the Old City and the Citadel on the north from the newly developed modern City on the south side.
Hue, a city of palaces, pagodas, temples and tombs is steeped in history. I will try to recount this history both old and new to the best of my ability bearing in mind that I am not an historian and being a peacemaker at heart, I hold no opinion whatsoever about politics.
In 1802 the Emperor Gia Long moves the capital of his dynasty from Hanoi to Hue and starts to build the Citadel, in an effort to unite northern and southern Vietnam under his rule.
The grounds of the Citadel are protected by fortified walls, towers and gateways and by a mote whose water is routed from the Perfume River.
As far as I can understand, this Citadel is built on many levels each a separate entity from the other.
The lowest level you will find he non- royal commoners who generally live in wooden huts on the outer aspect nearest the city wall.
The Priests Mandarins and important personnel lived in the next level, which is like a citadel within a citadel reached through a series of doors. Here you will find separate buildings such as the Halls of Mandarins where mandarins prepare for ceremonial occasions.
The inner layer -called the Imperial Forbidden City, boasts of hundreds of ornate rooms resembling the Forbidden City of Beijing. No one is allowed in this inner sanctum except the Royal family member’s concubines and eunuchs
In 1885 the French storm the Citadel burning the imperial city and library.
From 1885 onwards the Emperors continues to reside in the Citadel but their power is greatly reduced under French domination and rule.
In 1945 Emperor Bao Dai abdicates and the communist government, is established. There is no dynasty after this.
Hanoi becomes the capital once again in the north.
In 1949 the returning French colonists briefly proclaim Boa Dai as ‘Head of State’ and move him to Saigon in the south.
In 1968 the American Vietnamese war climaxes in what is referred to as the Tet Offensive where North Vietnamese and Viet Cong (VC – Southern Vietnamese guerrilla fighters loyal to communism) seized Hue and controlled the Citadel.
As in all wars, tens of thousands of civilians and soldiers alike lose their lives violently, brutally and painfully. Many of the buildings within the Citadel are destroyed. After the war tornados and termites continue to destroy what was once magnificent buildings.
Today, many of Hue’s population still reside within the Citadel walls.
Great efforts are now being made to return the Citadel to its former glory.