The name Hue first appeared at the end of the 15th century during the reign of King Le Thanh Tong. In 1636, the Palace of the Nguyen Lord was located in Hue and later moved to Phu Xuan, now Hue’s inner city.
In the early 18th century, Phu Xuan was the political, economic and cultural center of the region then dominated by the Nguyen lords. From 1788 to 1801, the city was the capital of the Tay Son regime.
Historian Le Van Lan said, “The first two Nguyen emperors, Gia Long and Minh Mang, decided to transform Phu Xuan into the capital of Vietnam, thus the Hue Citadel was born. The city has played an extremely important role as the country’s political capital. Having become the imperial residence and the seat of the court, Hue acquired great prestige and great refinement”.
From 1802 to 1945, Hue was the capital of a reunified Vietnam under the rule of 13 Nguyen kings. During this period, many architectural works of great value were built. The north bank of the Perfume River is home to the citadel, the royal city and the forbidden purple city of Hue.
The new capital was designed in harmony with Eastern and Western philosophy and respecting Vietnamese geomancy and the surrounding landscapes like Ngu Binh Mountain, the Perfume River, and Gia Vien and Boc Thanh islets.
The citadel is built on the banks of the Perfume River and surrounded by wide moats that delimit a square with a perimeter of more than 10 km and walls 6 meters high. The citadel is accessible by ten fortified gates, each with a bridge.
Inside the citadel are the “royal city” and the “forbidden city” separated by seven barriers. West of the citadel on the banks of the Perfume River are the tombs of the Nguyen kings, built in the purest Vietnamese architectural tradition.
The Perfume River, Ngu Binh Mountain, Thien Mu Pagoda, Bach Ma Mountain, and Lang Co and Thuan An beach compose a magnificent landscape.
Le Van Lan said, “At the beginning of the 19th century, poet Cao Ba Quat recited beautiful verses on Hue and the Perfume River. The romantic Perfume River was compared to a sword pointing at the sky. When Emperor Bao Dai abdicated in August 1945, he handed his seal and sword, symbols of royal power, to a delegation of the Government of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam.”
The World Heritage Committee, at its 17th meeting in Colombia in 1993, named the Hue monuments a UNESCO World Heritage.