Historic charm

10/01/2018 17:20

Located on the southern bank of the Perfume River, An Dinh Palace is a special neoclassical landmark in the Hue Citadel.

Exactly 100 years ago, by the river of An Cuu, commoners were intrigued by the construction of an imposing mansion built in an outlandish style in the Imperial Citadel. That mansion was An Dinh Palace, the secluded residence of Emperor Khai Dinh. Located on the southern bank of the Perfume River, An Dinh Palace is a special landmark, built in a neoclassical style that blends Western and Asian elements.


  An Dinh Palace was built on the extended foundations of An Dinh Pavilion, which the court granted to Prince Nguyen Phuoc Buu Dao, son of Emperor Dong Khanh, in 1902. The Nguyen court dictated that princes and princesses would receive private mansions upon marrying. As a result, at the height of the Hue Citadel there were hundreds of imperial pavilions of all sizes. An Dinh Pavilion was not very large, and constructed in the traditional Hue style with beams, artificial mountains, a partition and a garden. In 1916, Prince Buu Dao was proclaimed Emperor Khai Dinh. Using his own funds the emperor bought more land and extended his residence to over 23,400sqm, then constructed An Dinh Palace in a new architectural style.



  An Dinh Palace is located on the northern bank of the An Cuu River, facing south. On the right lies the Temple of Prince Kien Thai, who sired three Nguyen Dynasty emperors: Ham Nghi, Kien Phuc and Dong Khanh. To the left stands the External Hall. Elements were laid out on a vertical axis, including the main entrance gate, Trung Lap Titular Temple, Khai Tuong Pavilion, Cuu Tu Dai Theater and other related and lesser structures.  All structures were built of iron, steel, concrete and floral tiles imported from France, but decorated with traditional Hue patterns and motifs, such as dragons, qilins, tortoises, phoenixes, the Eight Fairies and the Four Seasons, etc. An Dinh Palace featured a wealth of ceramic mosaics on the main entrance gate, Trung Lap Titular Temple and Cuu Tu Dai Theater. Indeed, the emperor was dubbed “the king of mosaics”. 






  The palace's main entrance gate is located in the center of the southern side. Its pillars and roofs are decorated with numerous reliefs and Chinese parallel sentences crafted from mosaics. The effect is stunning.


 Located right behind the main gate, Trung Lap Titular Temple is an adorable octagonal titular temple built on a two-story pedestal. Its roof is covered with overlapping tiles and divided into two layers. The lower layer is octagonal and the upper one rectangular. Its gables are adorned with reliefs of 12 dragons soaring in four directions. Inside the titular temple stands a bronze statue of Emperor Khai Dinh in martial dress, unveiled in July 1924, in the run-up to the emperor’s 40th birthday.


  In stark contrast to the two frontal structures, Khai Tuong Pavilion is a colossal building modeled after a medieval European castle. Spanning 745sqm, the pavilion comprises three stories and 22 rooms, including seven rooms on the ground floor, mainly used for guest reception; eight residential rooms on the second floor; and seven rooms on the top floor, mainly for religious uses. Khai Tuong Pavilion stands out thanks to the decorative art on its interior walls and the reliefs on its exterior. Notable works include six murals portraying the five royal mausoleums of Gia Long, Minh Mang, Thieu Tri, Tu Duc and Dong Khanh. Two paintings depict the Mausoleum of Dong Khanh, who was Emperor Khai Dinh's father.






While the beautifully decorated Cuu Tu Dai Theater was destroyed in 1947, the rest of An Dinh Palace remains well-preserved. At the beginning of this century, the palace was properly renovated thanks to a project funded by the Federal Republic of Germany. The interior was also studied and laid out as it was at the end of the Nguyen Dynasty, allowing visitors to imagine Emperor Khai Dinh, Emperor Bao Dai, Prince Bao Long, Empress Nam Phuong, and Empress Dowager Doan Huy (Madam Tu Cung) in this magnificent space.

Story: Yen Chi
Photos: Nguyen Phuc Bao Minh, Nong Thanh Toan

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