Hué in time

Flowers of the Four SeasonsArt

Posted by Krystyna Kierebinski Sun, January 05, 2014 17:08:48

Considering the climate, the seasonal flowers of Hué might be the lotus, frangipani, flamboyan, or Cassia Fistula better known as Golden Shower tree. All of them represented within the Citadel.

As in China, so in the Imperial Hué, the decorative details associated to the nature in a certain way, obeying the Chinese aesthetic rules. Flowers of the Four Seasons is simply a category of symbols. Accordingly; the image of orchid represented spring, lotus represented summer, chrysanthemum indicated autumn, and early plum blossom stood for winter.

But those flowers were not only to please the eye. Emerging together on a different architectural details of the same building, or on a different sections of one set of paintings, they supposed to cause reflection over the time floating by...

Another aspect is the connection of the plants with certain qualities which respected and educated people (read: men) should posses. Three of the typical seasoning flowers had their prominent place among the "Four Gentlemen", plants associated with virtues like humbleness, loyality, love of poetry, firm character.

That is why, also here in Hué, the decorations presenting the orchid, the chrysanthemum, and the plum blossom are seen more often in the spaces occupied by men rather than women. But it was the right combination of different floral elements which actually indicated if the room was a male or a female domain.

One can only imagine the beauty of ornaments during the Nguyens times. Today only part of them is extend, painfully touched by turbulent times. Nevertheless, they witness of the former splendor and the tight connections to the Chinese taste rather than to local environment.

Blog imageSection of the gate within the central- Western part of the Imperial City. March 2012

I´m starting with winter season. One could as well have it as a last one but the plum blossom with its delicate flowers concurs the frost and snow being (in Central-Northern China) the first flower of the year.

Beside being a "winter flower", plum blossom is also a symbol of a new love or rather falling in love. It has also an erotic meaning which could be the reason for its presence among the "Four Gentleman".

The pattern for the plum blossom is a small white flower with five petals. It may remind of some other kinds of plants but it is meant to be a Prunus mume. No question about that.

Blog imageDetail from the Great Gate entering the temple section in the South-Western part of the Imperial City. March 2012

Trying to recognize the orchid one should not look for a showy flowers, on the contrary; in the Chinese culture the most appreciated orchid was the very humble one, growing on the rests of soil between some rocks or boulders, and having very small, insignificant, but fragrant, flowers.

Blog imageSection of the decorative board on the wall within the Forbidden City. March 2012

Here the orchid is recognized by its long, bended leaves.
Blog imageRelief is not so often seen among the ornaments of Imperial City. Here is a section of a Great Gate leading to South-Western temple section. March 2012

Lotus is Asia´s most symbolic flower thanks to its position within Buddhism. As a seasonal flower it has the summer to represent. Short is its time of blooming in Hué. Approximately one month in May/June period.


Blog imageLotus plant shown in the mosaic on the board decorating the roofed walking galleria connecting the Theater with the Emperor´s private apartments and leading farther, to the Queen Mothers´Compound. March 2012

Blog imageLocation as above. March 2012

Chrysanthemum´s bloom was traditionally associated with autumn. And, thanks to the classical Chinese poem, with patience, friendship, and loyalty.


Blog imageThis image of Chrysanthemum is decorating the The Mieu temple where all Nguyens kings have their altars. March 2012




Ninh Tho PalaceImperial Huè, upper North West

Posted by Krystyna Kierebinski Sun, January 05, 2014 13:03:31

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The Gate to the Secred GardenForbidden Hué South-West

Posted by Krystyna Kierebinski Sun, January 05, 2014 11:30:21

Blog imageThu´o´ng Uyen Mon.

The Royal Stables, Ma Khai SoImperial, South, center

Posted by Krystyna Kierebinski Sun, December 29, 2013 19:36:02




Blog imageOnce situated on the left (western) side of the Main Gate the building is not extant.



The Holy Cannons, Phao Xu´o´ng SoImperial, South, center

Posted by Krystyna Kierebinski Sun, December 29, 2013 19:33:33

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Those canons had never been used. The purpose with possessing and exposing them was to reach the higher status by showing The Nguyens´modern military equipment.


Blog image With time these heavy weapons lost their deterring role as well as the prominent place. They are still close to the Citadel but exposed in more discrete way.









The Meridian Gate, Ngo MonImperial, South, center

Posted by Krystyna Kierebinski Sun, December 29, 2013 19:30:35

Blog imageThe main gate Ngo Mon, called also the True South or the Meridian Gate. Placed in the middle of the southern wall faces the Perfume River.

Blog image March 2012

It has five entrances. The one in the middle was exclusively reserved for the emperor. Mandarins used the adjacent two and the side entrances served as a passage for soldiers, horses and elephants.


The whole distance between the gate and the riverbank was and still is arranged as the monumental plaza.

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March 2012


During the imperial times this field served as a scene for military parades, religious processions as well as for the gatherings honouring the emperor.

Blog image photo taken in March 2012


The emperor himself observed the festivities and official parades sitting on his throne placed among the gilded columns within the wooden section right above the entrances.

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March 2012


Above the emperors lounge was yet another room intended for the ladies of the palace. They climbed there by the wooden stairs flanked by beautifully carved railings.

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March 2012



The Bridge of Golden Waters, Kim Thuy KieuImperial, South, center

Posted by Krystyna Kierebinski Sun, December 29, 2013 19:28:30

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Ngo Mon Gate is passed trough and the Imperial City entered. It feels like the secret is about to be revealed. If You are lucky enough to avoid the crowd You can have Your moment with the Past. Or at least a trace of it.

Flanked by the rectangular basins the bridge was the passage reserved exclusively for the emperor.

Blog imageOn this postcard from 1963 the Imperial City is completely silent, deserted, and plundered. Interesting as a relic of the past for the people in Saigon and seen as en exotic spot by the "Silent Americans".


Blog imageLeaving the "Ngo Mon" Gate behind them, the tourists take a look at the ponds. March 2012


Blog imageWhat one can see at the early spring is the crowd of the golden fishes, hoping to get some food. In May or early June the lotus flowers cover the surface of the basins.


Blog imagePassing the bridge, one moves towards the Esplanade of Great Welcome and the Throne Room, which both can be seen on this photo behind the colorful portico gate. March 2012


Blog imagePortico-gate of this kind can be seen at few other places in the Imperial City. The one on the photo is decorated with lotus buds and several auspicious emblems, crested by the flaming pearl. March 2012


Blog imageCloser look at the auspicious symbols reveals the instrument of qin (blue bottom), painting scroll (yellow bottom), and mandarin´s fan, or a tablet accompanied by the brush (white bottom). All objects decorated with a luck-bringing red ribbon and surrounded by flowers. Very Confucian and China-inspired. March 2012







The Esplanade, Dai Trieu NghiImperial, South, center

Posted by Krystyna Kierebinski Sun, December 29, 2013 19:27:17

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TheThrone Room, Thai Hoa DienImperial, South, center

Posted by Krystyna Kierebinski Sun, December 29, 2013 19:26:12

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Room for the court dancers, Tinh Quan Du´o´ngForbidden Hué South-East

Posted by Krystyna Kierebinski Sun, December 29, 2013 19:16:24

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Royal Theater, Duyet Thi Du´o´ngForbidden Hué South-East

Posted by Krystyna Kierebinski Sun, December 29, 2013 19:15:14

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Blog imageAs we can see, there is a line of the roofed walking galleries leading from the theater to the Queen Mothers´Compound, outside the Forbidden City.



The Emperor´s bodyguards´house, Thi Ve Tru´c Phong, ThiForbidden Hué South-East

Posted by Krystyna Kierebinski Sun, December 29, 2013 19:12:20

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The house gathered the military mandarins who formed the emperor´s private guard. Their superior Thong Che was as well the "palace commandant".



Office of court physician, Ngu´Y VienForbidden Hué South-East

Posted by Krystyna Kierebinski Sun, December 29, 2013 19:06:49

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The office of royal hosehold, Can Tin TyForbidden Hué South-East

Posted by Krystyna Kierebinski Sun, December 29, 2013 19:05:10

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Under this roof arrangements were made with regard to the Emperor´s and Queen mother´s households. Their private secretaries worked here administrating issues like the list of visitors, festivities, ceremonies, and routines if everyday life.



The princes´ apartments, Du´o´ng Chanh Du´o´ngForbidden Hué South-East

Posted by Krystyna Kierebinski Sun, December 29, 2013 18:57:59


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The State Archive, Dong CatForbidden Hué South-East

Posted by Krystyna Kierebinski Sun, December 29, 2013 18:54:40


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The Secret Council Chamber, Co Mat PhongForbidden Hué South-East

Posted by Krystyna Kierebinski Sun, December 29, 2013 18:53:35

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The Co Mat Council was the place where the most important mandarins gathered to advice the emperor. The building was situated in the forbidden part of the citadel complex.
As the pictures below are showing, there must have been a quite significant entrance to the mandarins council. I´m not sure from which side the Co Mat could be entered, probably from the west, the area reserved only for the emperor.



Blog imageElephants infront of the gate leading to Co Mat Council. Postcard from private collection.


Blog imageGate leading to the Co Mat. Building itself partly visible in opening of the left gate section. Postcard from private collection.


Blog imageGate seen from the Co Mat Council. On the area between the gate and the building the wall-screen and the bronze ceremonial tripod. Postcard from private collection.


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Museum of Treasures, Phung TienImperial Hué, upper South West

Posted by Krystyna Kierebinski Sun, December 29, 2013 16:29:57

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In this building the belongings to the dead emperors were stored. The priceless objects were gathered here after moving them from the imperial tombs where they could be stolen.

The building was originally a place of worship of the Emperor Gia Long.



Hau Bo GateImperial Hué, North

Posted by Krystyna Kierebinski Sun, December 29, 2013 15:22:14

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Off-duty eunuchs´houseImperial Hué, upper North East

Posted by Krystyna Kierebinski Sun, December 29, 2013 15:19:53

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This building was placed outside the Imperial Cities´walls and had a private character. The eunuchs could find some rest here after their duties.



House of dying women, Binh An Du´o´ngImperial Hué, upper North East

Posted by Krystyna Kierebinski Sun, December 29, 2013 15:16:44

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The building was placed outside of the Imperial City. Here the dying women of the Place were taken and let to die. The privilege of dying within the walls of the Imperial City was granted only the to emperors and the queen mothers.



Kham Van Dien PalaceImperial Hué, lower North East

Posted by Krystyna Kierebinski Sun, December 29, 2013 15:05:51


Blog imageThe building housing the royal library and later used for the French education of the young generation of princes.

Contained a great collection of French literature.

Surrounded by beautiful gardens and greeneries.



GardensImperial Hué, lower North East

Posted by Krystyna Kierebinski Sun, December 29, 2013 15:01:10

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Lake Dai Tho So´nImperial Hué, upper North East

Posted by Krystyna Kierebinski Sun, December 29, 2013 14:59:55

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WorkshopsImperial Hué, East, center

Posted by Krystyna Kierebinski Sun, December 29, 2013 14:57:09

Blog imageCarpentry and ironmongery workshops. Together with the building of the Treasury House the workshops were forming the square yard.

Treasury Noi VuImperial Hué, East, center

Posted by Krystyna Kierebinski Sun, December 29, 2013 14:54:56

Blog imageBuilding in the French style, the treasury of the household, where the luxurious objects were stored; old crockery, ivory, silk, tortoiseshell, tiger bones, royal clothes.

Together with three others buildings the Noi Vu formed a square yard. These other buildings were workshops.

Dong Dai GateImperial Hué, East, center

Posted by Krystyna Kierebinski Sun, December 29, 2013 14:47:19

Blog imageExit from the Imperial City.

Blog imageUndated postcard taken probably in the 1950-ties or 1960-ties. The flag seen in the background is not the one of the Ho Chi Minh´s Vietnam, looks rather as the one of the South Vietnam. Private collection.

Blog imageThe more recent photo taken from another angle. March 212

Military mandarins´room, Thi Ve Xu´Imperial Hué, East, center

Posted by Krystyna Kierebinski Sun, December 29, 2013 14:40:10

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Second of the two long narrow building along the wall was the room for the military mandarins.



Mandarin´s meeting place, Tap Hien VienImperial Hué, East, center

Posted by Krystyna Kierebinski Sun, December 29, 2013 14:37:25


Blog imageAlong the wall neighboring with the forbidden part, there were two long buildings. One of them was "Meeting Place of the Wise Men". Here the mandarins met for drafts off the royal records.



Compound Dong KinhForbidden Hué South-West

Posted by Krystyna Kierebinski Sun, December 29, 2013 14:21:00

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Build in the Tonkin (todays North Vietnam) style by the Emperor Thanh Thai.



Apartments Doan Trang VienForbidden Hué North-West

Posted by Krystyna Kierebinski Sun, December 29, 2013 14:18:07

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The long and narrow building for the women without official status called Cung Nho´n.



Concubines´ buildingForbidden Hué North-West

Posted by Krystyna Kierebinski Sun, December 29, 2013 14:14:43


Blog imageThe concubines Tan were living here. Tan was their rank, third and fourth.