Huế (Vietnamese: [hwě] is a city in central Vietnam that was the seat of Nguyen Dynasty emperors and the national capital from 1802–1945. A major attraction is its vast, 19th-century Citadel, surrounded by a moat and thick stone walls. It encompasses the Imperial City, with palaces and shrines; the Forbidden Purple City, once the emperor’s home; and a replica of the Royal Theater.
Huế originally rose to prominence as the capital of the Nguyễn lords, a feudal dynasty that dominated much of southern Vietnam from the 17th to the 19th century. In 1775 when Trịnh lord Trịnh Sâm captured it, it was known as Phú Xuân.
In 1802, Nguyễn Phúc Ánh (later Emperor Gia Long) succeeded in establishing his control over the whole of Vietnam, thereby making Huế the national capital.
Minh Mạng (r. 1820-40) was the second emperor of the Nguyễn Dynasty, reigning from 14 February 1820 (his 29th birthday) until his death, on 20 January 1841. He was a younger son of Emperor Gia Long, whose eldest son, Crown Prince Cảnh, had died in 1801. Minh was well known for his opposition to French involvement in Vietnam, and for his rigid Confucian orthodoxy.
During the French colonial period, Huế was located in the protectorate of Annam. It remained the seat of the Imperial Palace until 1945, when Emperor Bảo Đại abdicated and a communist DRV government was established with its capital at Hà Nội (Hanoi), in the north.
While Bảo Đại was proclaimed "Head of the State of Vietnam" with the help of the returning French colonialists in 1949 (although not with recognition from the communists or the full acceptance of the Vietnamese people), his new capital was Sài Gòn (Saigon), in the south.
During the Republic of Vietnam, Huế’s central location very near the border between the North and South put it in a vulnerable position in the Vietnam War. In the Tết Offensive of 1968, during the Battle of Huế, the city suffered considerable damage not only to its physical features, but its reputation as well, due to a combination of the American military bombing of historic buildings held by the North Vietnamese, and the massacre at Huế committed by the communist forces.
After the war’s conclusion, many of the historic features of Huế were neglected because they were seen by the victorious communist regime and some other Vietnamese as "relics from the feudal regime"; the Vietnamese Communist Party doctrine officially described the Nguyễn Dynasty as "feudal" and "reactionary." There has since been a change of policy, however, and many historical areas of the city are currently being restored.
The city is located in central Vietnam on the banks of the Perfume River, just a few miles inland from the East Sea. It is about 700 km south of Hanoi and about 1,100 km north of Hồ Chí Minh City.
Huế features a Tropical monsoon climate under the Köppen climate classification. The dry season is from March to August, with high temperatures of 35 to 40 °C. The rainy season is from August to January, with a flood season from October, onwards. The average rainy season temperature is 20 °C, sometimes as low as 9 °C. Spring lasts from January to late February.
Located in the center of Vietnam, Huế was the capital city of Vietnam for approximately 150 years during feudal time (1802–1945), and the royal lifestyle and customs have had a significant impact on the characteristics of the people of Huế. That impact can still be felt today.
Historically, the qualities valued by the royal family were reflected in its name-giving customs, which came to be adopted by society at large. As a rule, royal family members were named after a poem written by Minh Mạng, the second king of Nguyễn Dynasty. The poem, Đế hệ thi", has been set as a standard frame to name every generation of the royal family, through which people can know the family order as well as the relationship between royal members. More importantly, the names reflect the essential personality traits that the royal regime would like their offspring to uphold. This name-giving tradition is proudly kept alive and nowadays people from Huế royal family branches (normally considered ‘pure’ Huế) still have their names taken from the words in the poem.
The design of the modern-day áo dài, a Vietnamese national costume, evolved from an outfit worn at the court of the Nguyễn Lords at Huế in the 18th century. A court historian of the time described the rules of dress as follows:
Thường phục thì đàn ông, đàn bà dùng áo cổ đứng ngắn tay, cửa ống tay rộng hoặc hẹp tùy tiện. Áo thì hai bên nách trở xuống phải khâu kín liền, không được xẻ mở. Duy đàn ông không muốn mặc áo cổ tròn ống tay hẹp cho tiện khi làm việc thì được phép.
Outside court, men and women wear gowns with straight collars and short sleeves. The sleeves are large or small depending on the weather. There are seams on both sides running down from the sleeve, so the gown is not open anywhere. Men may wear a round collar and a short sleeve for more convenience.
— Đại Nam thực lục
This outfit evolved into the áo ngũ thân, a five-paneled aristocratic gown worn in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Inspired by Paris fashions, Nguyễn Cát Tường and other artists associated with Hanoi University redesigned the ngũ thân as a modern dress in the 1920s and 1930s. While the áo dài and nón lá are generally seen as a symbol of Vietnam as a whole, the combination is seen by Vietnamese as being particularly evocative of Huế. Violet-coloured áo dài are especially common in Huế, the color having a special connection to the city’s heritage as a former capital.
The cuisine of Huế forms the heart of Central Vietnamese cuisine, but one of the most striking differences is the prominence of vegetarianism in the city. Several all-vegetarian restaurants are scattered in various corners of the city to serve the locals who have a strong tradition of eating vegetarian twice a month, as part of their Buddhist beliefs. Another feature of Huế dishes that sets them apart from other regional cuisines in Vietnam is the relatively small serving size with refined presentation, a vestige of its royal cuisine. Finally, another feature of Huế cuisine is that it is often very spicy.
In Hue cuisine, it has both luxurious and rustic popular dishes. All are cooked with talent skills of the Hue people, creating special flavor of Hue food. With such a rich history, Hue’s royal cuisine (foods served for the King) is the combination between taste and aesthetic. It consists of several distinctive dishes from small and delicated creations which originally created to please the appetites of Nguyen feudal lords, emperors and their hundreds of concubines and wives. Furthermore, there is another thing making "amazing cuisine" of Hue is traditional foods. Hue’s traditional cuisine is so distinctive from other regions in the country, which is considered as the best in Vietnam.
The imperial court practiced various religions such as Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism. The most important altar was the Esplanade of Sacrifice to the Heaven and Earth, where the monarch would offer each year prayers to the Heaven and Earth.
In Huế, Buddhism enjoyed stronger support than elsewhere in Vietnam, with more monasteries than anywhere else and the nation’s most famous monks.
Famously in 1963, Thích Quảng Đức drove to Saigon to protest anti-Buddhist policies of the South Vietnamese government and set himself on fire on a Saigon street.
Thich Nhat Hanh, world-famous Zen master now living in France, originates from Huế.
Huế is well known for its historic monuments, which have earned it a place in UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites. The seat of the Nguyễn emperors was the Imperial City, which occupies a large, walled area on the north side of the Perfume River. Inside the citadel was a forbidden city where only the emperors, concubines, and those close enough to them were granted access; the punishment for trespassing was death. Today, little of the forbidden city remains, though reconstruction efforts are in progress to maintain it as a historic tourist attraction.
Roughly along the Perfume River from Huế lie myriad other monuments, including the tombs of several emperors, including Minh Mạng, Khải Định, and Tự Đức. Also notable is the Thiên Mụ Pagoda, the largest pagoda in Huế and the official symbol of the city.
A number of French-style buildings lie along the south bank of the Perfume River. Among them are Quốc Học High School, the oldest high school in Vietnam, and Hai Ba Trung High School.
The Huế Museum of Royal Fine Arts on 3 Le Truc Street also maintains a collection of various artifacts from the city.
In addition to the various touristic attractions in Hué itself, the city also offers day-trips to the Demilitarized Zone lying approximately 70 km north, showing various war settings like The Rockpile, Khe Sanh Combat Base or the Vinh Moc tunnels.
The first 11 months of 2012, Huế received 2.4 million visitors, an increase of 24.6% from the same period of 2011. 803,000 of those 2.4 million visitors were foreign guests, an increase of 25.7%.
Although tourism plays a key role in the city’s socioeconomic development, it also has negative impacts on the environment and natural resource base. For example, services associated with tourism, such as travel, the development of infrastructure and its operation, and the production and consumption of goods, are all energy-intensive.
Research by the Climate and Development Knowledge Network has identified traditional ‘garden houses’ as having the potential to increase tourist traffic and revenue. Apart from the environmental, economic and cultural benefits provided by garden houses, their promotion could pave the way for other low carbon development initiatives.
IN POPULAR CULTURE
The second half of Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket takes place primarily in and around the bombed-out ruins of the city of Huế. The scenes were filmed in the disused Beckton Gas Works a few miles from central London.
The 6th Campaign mission in Call of Duty: Black Ops, takes place in Hue City.
vietcong 2 from 2005 is set in hue. The player assumes the role of an American MACV soldier and young Vietcong recruit fighting before and during the Tet Offensive.
The Huế Central Hospital, established in 1894, was the first Western hospital in Vietnam. The hospital, providing 2078 beds and occupying 120,000 square meters, is one of three largest in the country along with Bạch Mai Hospital in Hanoi and Chợ Rẫy Hospital in Ho Chi Minh City, and is managed by the Ministry of Health.
Huế has a railway station with connections to all major Vietnamese cities. Phu Bai International Airport is located just south of the city centre.
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