CITADELS (CO LOA)
257BC, King An Duong (Thuc Phan) built Co Loa or Loa Thanh (Snail-Form Citadel), located 15KM from Hanoi,
in the province of Phuc Yen (presently Vinh Phu). Co Loa formed by 3 inter-twined mud-enclosures in labyrinthine fashion that looked like
a snail-shell. The first enclosure measured 2X3KM, the second enclosure
measured 6.5KM was positioned on higher ground, and the rectangular
citadel formed the third enclosure. In the center was the royal palace,
surrounded by quarters reserved for the guards. The first betrayal of Viet Nam recorded in history was committed by
My Chau, a royal princess who enticed by the charms of Trong Thuy, a
northern prince. She told him the defense secret of the Snail-Form Citadel.
Subsequently, the fortress fell into the hands of Ch'ao To (Trieu Da),
Trong Thuy's father.
In 3BC, the Ch'in rulers of China deported massive numbers of ethnic
Chinese into the south hoping to assimilate the Viet people. The Han
who succeeded to the Ch'in actually imposed government control over Giao Chi. From this contact
the Vietnamese learned military construction techniques from the Chinese
and eventually put them to use in the defense of their territory. In 43AD, when Chinese general Ma "the Conqueror of Waves" Yuan came
south to repress the rebellion of the Trung
sisters, he met with resistance coming from 65 fortresses or fortified
residences. These constructions were built with primitive techniques,
consisted of a huge square yard enclosed by mud-walls with cornered
watchtowers. Entrance structures with holes covered by thatch through
which small archers may be shot were on 4 sides of the citadel. Three
little forts formed the outer defense line as alarm posts.
In 968, after defeating the Twelve Feudal Lords, Dinh
Tien Hoang realized that the ancient capital was exposed and difficult
to defense. He decided to retrench back to Hoa Lu, his native land
and at the base of the cordillera. Dinh Tien Hoang practiced the art of movement warfare. He believed
it was illusory to build a solid or permanent citadel. Rather, Hoa
Lu was conceived by him to be a temporary structure, permitting a
holding action while his army could prepare to fight guerrilla-style
in the bushes when confronted with huge and powerful Chinese army. The walls of Hoa Lu fortress were made of huge brick blocks and wooden
watchtowers in the distance. The royal palace located in the center
of this defense system has been ruined, leaving no traces.
In 1397, Ho Qui Ly built Tay Do
("Western Capital"), located in Tay Giai village, Quang Hoa subprefecture,
Thanh Hoa province. In 1407, it was abandoned when Ho Qui Ly and his
son, the ruling prince Ho Han Thuong, were taken prisoners by the Ming
troops. The citadel was built out of solid materials and according to a well
studied plan. The enclosure was a square with 4 vaulted stone entrances
on 500M length sides. In the center was Nhan Tho Cung, a royal palace.
The citadel located behind a series of hills that served as defense
enclosures and a river to the west served as a defense ditch. Thick
ramparts were made out of cob and reinforced by a freestone wall that
would shelter various constructions inside. The 7M long X 1.5M wide
freestone blocks, weighing about 16 tons each, still standing which
bear witness to an advanced construction.
In 1790, Gia Long built Gia Dinh
Thanh, the first French-style citadel, with the assistance of Olivier
de Puymanel who was an architect of fortifications and military arts. In 1802, Gia Long became Emperor. Two years later, he selected the ground
for the Hue Citadel based on geomantic, natural and
strategic considerations. In 1805, the construction started and
continued under Minh Mang until
its completion in 1831. These quadrilateral or polygonal structures (5, 6 or 8 sides) were built
in important provincial capitals of Viet Nam: Nam Dinh, Thai Nguyen, Thanh Hoa (shown), Dong Hoi, Quang
Tri, Hung Yen, Ha Tinh and Saigon.
was introduced into Viet Nam by Indian monks that followed the trade routes
around the beginning of the Common Era. Buddhism has since grown and flourished
over time to become one of the main religions of Viet Nam. Through Vietnamese
history, there were many big and famous temples built by national leaders
to commemorate their reign, but the great majority was the shrines and
worship halls built by the local people that are present in every villages
The first Buddhist temple recorded in the historical annals is
the Khai Quoc (Founding the Nation) erected by King
Ly Bi in the 6th century. From the 7th to the 9th century, as Chinese
Buddhism gained more influence, many temples were constructed and then
cloistered by Chinese monks. When Viet Nam finally gained independence
from the Chinese in 938, Buddhism already had a prominent role in
both the spiritual and political life of Viet Nam. The Ngo, Dinh, Le, Ly and Tran dynasties that followed the independence was all ardent supporters of
Buddhism. During the Ly and the Tran periods, hundreds of temples were
constructed throughout the nation, some of them were of monumental scale
such as the Phat Tich (1050) and the Dam (1086) temples which were built
on high leveled planes on mountain side. Other temples displayed very
high level of architectural originality such as the Dien
Huu temple (also known as Mot Cot or One Pillar) built in 1049 in
the shape of a blossomed lotus. The large temples of the Ly and Tran periods
usually have tall, multiple story towers (12 or 13 stories) erected on
two sides of the main building (the Bao Thien, the Phat Tich and the Pho
Minh). The interior of the temples and towers was decorated with very
fine statues and bas-relief made of stone. These works were decorated
with distinctive Vietnamese design motifs such as dragons, elephants,
lions, chrysanthemum, lotus and water waves. Few of the sculptures also
showed influence of Cham art from
the southerly kingdom of Champa such as the sacred Garuda birds or the
When the Later Le dynasty was founded in 1428, Buddhist influence had somewhat declined as compared
to Confucianism, but it still played a pivotal role in the spiritual and
religious life of Viet Nam. The Buddhist temple was no longer just for
the worship of Buddha but also the many Saints of the nation. From the
16th century on, Vietnamese society gradually lost its stability due to
repeated civil wars between the ruling lords, first between the Trinh
and the Mac and then the Trinh and
the Nguyen. Buddhism once again
flourished as the people was looking for spiritual guidance and support
from religion. Numerous new temples were built and existing ones reconstructed.
The Mac-period temples are particularly well known for their collection
of wooden statues displayed on the altars. A great number of statues of
Buddha, national saints and royal personalities (such as the queen-mothers,
princesses, kings, etc. were sculpted from jackfruit wood and painted
with lacquer. Also displayed was ceremonial pottery such as incense-burners
and lamp stands from Chu Dau and Bat Trang,
two most famous pottery villages of the time.
When the Nguyen lords established their territory in the South
between the 17th and 18th century, they constructed many temples in the
newfound colony such as the Thien Mu (1601) and Sung Hoa (1602) in Hue.
The Nguyen's march to the South continued with the construction of the
Tu An (1752) and Thien Truong (1755) in Gia Dinh province and many more
smaller temples in the Mekong delta during the later half of 18th century.
After 1802, not many new temples were erected, but a great number of existing
ones were continually restored and expanded, especially those located
in large cities such as in Ha Noi, Hue and Saigon.
Contact with Western civilization in the early 20th century brought
in a new architectural formation of the Buddhism temple, one that is constructed
with iron, steel and concrete to take place of the traditional materials.
Many of these newly built temples showed sign of design influence from
foreign countries such as Japan, China, India as well as Western Europe.
BUDDHIST TEMPLE'S LAYOUT
The temple is usually comprised of not a single building but an architectural
complex of many buildings standing in line or side by side. The simplest
form of architectural layout is patterned after the Chinese letter Dinh
( T ), consisting of the main sanctuary laid in perpendicular to the
bai duong (praying hall) in the front. A more common layout is the Cong
( H ) letter where the main sanctuary and the bai duong laid in parallel
and linked by a transversal hall called nha thieu huong (incense burning
hall) where Buddhist rites are conducted. Another common layout is the
Tam letter which includes three buildings, the lower, the middle and
the upper building, lay in parallel of each other. The most common layout
pattern is called noi cong ngoai quoc which has two corridors linking
the front with the rear building forming a rectangular frame around
the incense-burning hall located in the middle. Around the main buildings
are secondary buildings such as the house of patriarchs, the residence
for the monks, the bell tower and the cong tam quan (three-door entrance)
served as the entry gate of the temple.
One-pillar PAGODA, Hanoi
The pagoda owes its existence to a dream of King Ly Thai Tong. One night in his dream, Kwan Yin led him to a lotus shine... Waking up, he consulted his officials about the dream. Among them was Thien Tue, a cultivated and respectable monk. Thien Tue advised the king to built a pagoda with a stone pillar amidst a pond and setting the shrine on top of the pillar.
PAGODE à un pied. Hanoi. Bâtie au XI siècle, reconstruite après 1955. Le pilotis situé dans un bassin d'eau est sensiblement moins haut que celui existant à l'origine.
Chua BUT THAP
About 11 meter high. Gallery to upstairs in spiral form. SALLE de la "TOUR AUX NEUF ÉTAGES" XVI siècle. But thap Environ 11 mètres de haut. XVI siècle. Temple de But-thap. Derrière les portes ouvertes du faîtage du premier étage, se trouve une galerie conduisant aux étages supérieurs de la tour pivotante.
Chua tap PAGODA
16-17th century. The pagoda was situated in the vicinity of Thanh Hoa and Nam Dinh provinces. Exterior walls as well as walls inside the front court were erected to separate the evil spirit. A small statue of sitting Buddha and traditional lion were seen in two exterior lateral columns. At interior columns, bas relief of brush and ink-plate indicated that the pagoda has been dedicated to the memory of a famous philosopher and writer.
PAGODE de Chua-tap XVI-XVII siècle. PAGODE de Chua-tap. A proximité de Thanh Hoa et de Nam-dinh. Devant elle, le mur, qúon ne voit pas sur le tableau, de protection habituel que l'on élève soit à l'exterieur soit dans la cour intérieure, en face de l'entrée; ce mur est destiné à écarter les esprits maléfiques. Ses deux colonnes latérales portent un petit Bouddha assis, ainsi que le lion traditionnel. Sur les colonnes du mur intérieur, on remarque un pinceau et un encrier qui indiquent que la pagode fut érigée à la mémoire d'un écrivain ou d'un philosophe répute.
Chua thap Bac Ninh
17-18th century. About 10 meter high. The temple was constructed of flat stones, with 5 stories, windows and relief of Buddha were alternated in each story. The pagodas of this style were rare in Viet Nam. PAGODE à stûpas de But-thap (Bac Ninh). XVII-XVIII siècle. Environ 10 mètres de haut. XVI siècle. A côte des salles du temple, se trouvent plusieurs Stûpas, en particulier celle du premier bonze qui célébra les offices dans ce temple. La pagode, construite en pierres plates, possède cinq étages; à chaque étage, alternant avec les fenêtres, des reliefs représentant Bouddha. Les pagodes de ce genre sont assez rares au Viêt-nam.
TEMPLE OF LITERATURE (VAN MIEU)
In 1070, King Ly Thanh Tong erected Van Mieu (Temple of Literature) and the carvings of Confucius, Chu Cong the four disciples, and 72 other scholars who were considered to be model Confucians.
Quoc Tu Giam (National University)
In 1076, King Ly Thanh Tong erected Viet Nam’s first university, Quoc Tu Giam (National University), near Van Mieu for the purpose of instructing the children of Mandarins, the aristocrats, and the brightest commoners. During its more than 700 years of instruction (1076-1779), Quoc Tu Giam educated thousands of talented men for Viet Nam. Among the most notable are the mathematician Luong The Vinh, the historian Ngo Sy Lien, the encyclopedist Ly Don, and the politician-diplomat Ngo Thi Nham.
Valued relics representing the millenary civilization are well preserved, such as stelae with inscriptions of the names of distinguished scholars, the Thien Quang Tinh (Well of Heavenly Clarity), the pavilion in dedication of the Khue Van Cac ( Constellation of Literature), the statue of Confucius, the Great House of Ceremonies, the ancient wall, kowtow portico and the sanctuary, the stone dragons, and the ink stone stands.
82 stone stelae which rest upon large stone tortoises were created between 1484 and 1780 and are engraved with the names of 1,306 doctor laureates, their birth places and achievements. These stelae were erected to encourage learning and bestow honor on the talented men who assisted the Kings in defending the country.
EVOLUTION OF THE HOUSE
THEORIES & PRINCIPLES OF THE IMPERIAL COURTS
In his efforts to assure the unity of the country under the imperial house, Emperor Gia Long ordered the construction of the imperial courts in the capital Ph Xun (Hu) in 1805. Although the planning of the capital city was conducted earlier with help from his French advisors and engineers such as bishop Chaigneau and Olivier de Puymanuel, the Hue imperial courts were closely and systematically modeled after the Peking courts but at a smaller scale. To fully appreciate the architecture of the Hue imperial courts mandates an understanding of the concepts and principles of behind ancient Chinese architecture.
Geomantic considerations for siting ancient cultures of China and Viet
Nam placed great importance of phong thuy (geomancy or feng-shui) in the siting of a house, a tomb or a palace. Earthly and heavenly currents had to combine in a harmonious knot in the heart of the building in order that whoever resided there should reap the good spirits and is capable of keeping away the evil ones. The capital city of Ph Xun (Hu) best exemplified the geomantic requirements of a good site: the city is facing the Hng (Perfume) river with the hills of Ni
Ng on the horizon
to protect the imperial gates from evil spirits.
In the ancient Chinese cosmology, which considered Heaven round and Earth
square, space is imagined as a series of overlapped squares. The center
of this "ranked" space is the capital-a square core marked by four gates
at the four cardinal points towards which the cosmic influences coverage.
Architectural space is like a series of closed worlds, of complete independent,
progressively smaller units which repeat on a reduced scale the forms
of the larger units. The imperial city is a series of enclosures cunningly
encasing the throne room, which is the very heart of the Empire.
The concept of order and harmony in the universe is reflected in the many
rules that governed the siting of an edifice. One of the principle rules
is the main North-South axis. According to ancient belief, North represented
the rigors of winter and the threat of barbarian invasion-namely evil
influences. Hence all important buildings of the imperial court opened
towards the south. This axiallity implied a median avenue and the procession
of the architectural complex as one moves northward along it. The major
buildings such as Ng Mn (Noon Gate),
Thai Hoa palace, Can Chanh palace follow each other along the median axis,
proceed by vast courtyards and entoured on the East and West by buildings
of secondary importance.
Theories of Am Duong (Yin and Yang) and the NgU HAnh (Five
The theories of Yin and Yang and the Five Elements exerted strong influences
on accent Chinese architecture. According to Chinese classics, "Yin
and Yang" is the "cardinal principle of all things, of the way of heaven
and earth", meaning that everything can be divided into the mutually
opposing and independent elements. Yin stands for shady slopes of mountains,
for cold rainy weather, for the right hand, for all that is feminine
and passive. Yang stands for the sunny side, for heat and drought, for
the left hand, for all that is masculine and active. Universal harmony
is the sum of these opposite and complementary energies. Man is conditioned
by this rhythm of a nature that is in a constant state of flux. The
human space therefore was made to harmonize as far as possible with
the rhythm of nature. The design of the imperial city closely reflected
this concept of harmony: in each court delightful gardens are replicas
in microcosm, with rocks and miniature trees and tiny lakes, of the
great world with its mountains, forests and limitless oceans.
In additional to the principles of Yin and Yang, ancient Chinese architecture
also followed the theories of Five Elements such as "water, fire, wood,
metal and earth" or "north, south, east, west and center" or "green,
yellow, red, white and black" or "coldness, heat, wind, dryness and
dampness". The five elements represent the five different kinds of matter
that people constantly come in contact with. For example green is the
color of sprouting leaves symbolized the spring and youth, and corresponds
to the east. Following this pattern, Thai Mieu palace where the shrines
of the founding lords of Nguyen dynasty are housed, is located in the
western side of the court while Thê Miêu palace housed the
stele of the later Nguyen emperors are located in eastern side.