Wednesday, September 07, 2005

The Restoration of Hue

Imperial Reading Room
Originally uploaded by yellojkt.
Hue lost its government function after the division of the country and the last emperor abdicated (Although there is apparently a misguided group somewhere trying to reinstall the dynasty. Good luck with that, guys.), and Ho Chi Minh moved the capital back to Hanoi. During the Tet offensive, North Vietnamese Army (NVA) forces occupied and held the Imperial Palace grounds for nearly a month. The fierce hand to hand combat and intense shelling destroyed most of the existing buildings.

One of the few buildings to survive was the Royal Reading Room. This building has very ornate styling but is structurally unsound and not open to the public. Carefully camouflaged buttresses hold the building up. One side of the building has a small lake and garden designed around feng shui principles.

The government is slowly restoring or rebuilding the rest of the grounds under auspices of UNESCO. The restored buildings are stunning in both beauty and size. A large diorama shows the entire complex before it was destroyed. The entire royal city was a large fortified enclave complete with multiple sets of moats. There were separate areas for the mandarins, the military, the emperor’s concubines, and different members of the royal family.

In the northwest corner of the complex, a large construction project is underway to restore the corner of the palace dedicated to the Emperor’s mother. The artist rendering on the construction fence bore no resemblance to the massive earthwork and construction going on within the fence. The final product will be gorgeous. Several temple areas and the main palace have already been completed.

The Tet Offensive was military victory for the US and South Vietnam, a propaganda watershed for North Vietnam, and an incalculable tragedy to the people of Hue and the country’s cultural heritage.

See this website for more information about the Imperial Palace in Hue as well as the surrounding area.

No comments: