Hue, the imperial citadel of Vietnam, has been known for the historical values that were preserved for hundreds of years. Hue Imperial City is also recognized as a cultural heritage by UNESCO. Many tourists come to visit Hue to contemplate the nearly intact architecture of an ancient capital city during a dynasty of feudal period in Vietnam. If you have a chance to set foot on Hue Imperial City, don’t forget to visit Thai Hoa Palace, aka Throne Palace, the most famous and outstanding sites of the whole construction.
I. Overview of Thai Hoa Palace
The name “Thai Hoa” of the palace signifies a lot of profound meanings. The word “Thai” means large and big, while “Hoa” means harmonious – the harmony of all things in the world. When everything is in harmony, life will flourish and develop. Giving this name to the construction, the kings of the Nguyen Dynasty seemed to wish to build a strong and prosperous dynasty and bring a happy life for the whole country.
Thai Hoa Palace used to be the symbol of the Nguyen Dynasty. The palace, along with the courtyard, was the place of important ceremonies such as the coronation ceremonies, the king’s birthday, the envoy reception and the meetings held on the 1st and the 15th of the lunar month. On these occasions, besides the king, only the royal family and four major officials were allowed to enter the palace. The others stood in the courtyard according to their rank, from the 1st position to the 9th position. All their positions were marked on the courtyard.
II. History of Thai Hoa Palace
King Gia Long started the construction of Thai Hoa Palace on February 2nd 1805, three years after his enthronement. Thai Hoa Palace was completed in October 1805. In 1833, when King Minh Mang reconstructed the whole imperial city, Thai Hoa Palace was moved to the south and rebuilt to be more imposing. In 1923, to prepare for the 40th birthday anniversary of King Khai Dinh in 1924, Thai Hoa Palace was restored on a large scale.
Besides, Thai Hoa Palace witnessed small reparation and restoration under the period of King Thanh Thai and Bao Dai, and during the 20th century. The restoration in 1960, 1970, 1981, 1985 and 1992 has somehow erased the antique appearance of the palace, but its architecture and decoration are still preserved in general.
III. Highlights of Thai Hoa Palace
The total area of Thai Hoa palace is 1,360 square meters. The floor of Thai Hoa Palace is 1 meter higher than the courtyard, and 2.35 meters higher than the surrounding ground. A highlight trait of this construction is the “double-house” structure with two halls linked with the other, and one roof overlapping the other roof.
80 ironwood pillars were used to support the roofs of Thai Hoa Palace. The pillars were decorated in dragons and clouds, which were the symbol of the meeting between the king and his mandarins. The front and main halls of the palace were connected by a system of arched ceiling, which looks like the crab shell. This connection creates a continuous interior space without the feeling of linking the two halls.
The application of this crab-shell-shaped roof is a creative idea of the architects who built Thai Hoa Palace. Due to the weather and the traditional architecture of Vietnam, the palace could not be built as high as some palaces in China, so the outer half of the roof is higher while the inner half is lower. Not only does this architecture conceal the concave area between the two roofs but also makes the outside outstanding and the interior much more majestic.
The roof tiles of the palace are divided into three parts overlapping on each other in order to make the palace higher as well as reduce the force on the pillars below.
The decoration of Thai Hoa Palace has a special noteworthy concept, which is the appearance of the number 5 and 9. These two numbers do not only appear in the interior but also the exterior of the palace. The stairs outside the palace include either 5 or 9 steps. There are nine dragons in different positions on the roof of Thai Hoa Palace. The throne in the main hall also has nine dragons. To explain the use of these numbers, many people consider that the number 5 is the center of the universe, which is the intersection point of land and heaven, while number 9 stands for spiritual perfection and development.
IV. What to See and Do near Thai Hoa Palace?
1. Admiring the art of architecture in Thai Hoa Palace
The entire construction of Thai Hoa Palace is the highest peak of Vietnamese architecture under the Nguyen Dynasty. To get to the main hall of this palace, you need to go through a three-door entrance that was decorated with the image of dragons, sun and lotus. A short path between two lakes leads to the courtyard of Thai Hoa Palace, where you can see two lines of stone slabs carved the positions of the mandarins in the court.
Thai Hoa Palace appears in front of your eyes with the outstanding orange-red color of glazed-tile roofs and the brown color of wooden doors. Both the exterior and interior of this palace contain solemn attractions, which impresses every tourist coming to contemplate the specific architecture. Despite many times of restoration, the structure of Thai Hoa Palace still remains, and you can even see the throne and incense stand in the main hall.
2. Paying a visit to Hue Imperial City
Thai Hoa Palace is only a small part of Hue Imperial City. This world cultural heritage consists of hundreds of smaller works, each of them has its own purposes. One day in Hue might be not enough for you to visit all the constructions, so some typical places that you should not miss are Ngo Mon Gate (Meridian Gate), Flag Tower, Thai Mieu, Trieu Mieu, Can Chanh Palace, Dien Tho Palace, Cuu Dinh, Tombs of King Nguyen and Forbidden City.
3. Enjoying Hue’s specialties
Hue has long been famous for its unique cuisine that cannot be found in any provinces in Central Vietnam. The specialties of Hue City that you should try at least once are mussel rice or noodles, Hue beef noodles, grilled spring rolls, sour shrimp, banh canh Nam Pho and banh khoai. One trait that you can easily feel in most dishes of Hue is hot spicy, which comes from fresh pepper and chili. In addition, sweet is also a typical spice that you can find in some delicious desserts such as sweetened porridge and “me xung” – a kind of candy in Hue.
V. How to Get to Thai Hoa Palace?
Hue does not have any international airport, so you need to depart from Noi Bai International Airport in Hanoi, Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minh City or Da Nang. It only takes you about 1 hour to go by plane from Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City, or to go by coach from Da Nang.
Phu Bai Airport is about 15 kilometers from Hue Imperial City, so you can take a taxi at this airport and reach Hue Citadel in 20 minutes. Passing the main entrance of Hue Imperial City in Ngo Mon Gate, you can immediately see Thai Hoa Palace in front of your eyes.
VI. Extra Tips
- Dress politely. Hue Imperial City is a historical and cultural monument, so every visitor should dress suitably with the solemn appearance of this construction.
- You are not allowed to take photos in the interior of some palaces and temples. This strict rule must be obeyed by all visitors.
- Do not touch the objects inside the constructions of Hue Imperial City in general and Thai Hoa Palace in particular.
- There are some paths that tourists are not allowed to use. You need to pay attention in order not to go in the wrong way.
- Remember to prepare a map of Hue Imperial City. Many constructions in a large area might make you get lost.
- Don’t forget to keep the environment clean.
Through the ups and downs in Vietnamese history, Thai Hoa Palace and Hue Imperial City still retain its antique appearance as the symbol of a historical period. If you want to know more about the culture as well as the architecture of Vietnam during the Nguyen Dynasty, let’s start your journey to Vietnam and visit the Imperial City of Hue!
Keyword: Thai Hoa Palace (Throne Palace) in Hue Citadel