VIETNAMESE ARCHITECTURE AND GARDENS

VIETNAMESE ARCHITECTURE

Vietnamese architecture has been influenced by the Chinese, Khmers and Chams. There are also examples of Chinese, Khmer and Cham architecture in Vietnamese. Due to dense lakes, swamps, rivers, and highly humid tropical climate, the most appropriate building material is bamboo and wood to set up houses on low stilts. At the end of the 19th century, houses on stilts remained in mountainous areas, midlands, and plains throughout the country.

According to vietnamarchitecture.org: "The process development of Vietnam’s ancient architecture is related with the natural environment and socio-economical situation. From small monuments to the complicated and grandiose buildings like palaces, local materials— such as bamboo, wood, and stone and later, brick, ceramic, and tile—were used. The systems of pillar, frame, and beam are stipulated in terms of ratio, correlation and dimension. Many buildings have been restored many times, some are still kept in the original form, some are mixed due to the internal or external factors. [Source: vietnamarchitecture.org For more detailed information check out this site **]

Vietnam’s ancient architecture is divided into the following types: 1) Military architecture such as bastions, citadel and city gates. This architecture contains the shapes and arrangement of squares, rectangulars, regular polygon, circles, stars and special. In the mountainous area, people used timber. In the midlands, laterite was used, and in plains, mortar was used. 2) Palace architecture is typical of the imperial dynasties of Vietnam. This type requires mobilizing and gathering material and labor forces of the whole country or a region, which expresses the wealth and power of each period of each King. 3) Religious architecture includes pagodas, towers, temples and tombs. 4) Landscape gardens are a manifestation of the art of making models of nature in a small space to elevate the value of main buildings or whole monument. Landscape garden of Vietnam are influenced by Oriental styles with some similarities to Chinese and Japanese gardens. They have three main parts: water, tree and small mountain. **

Before the 10th century B.C., according to several tales of Linh Nam, villages and hamlets appeared and ancient Vietnamese used wood to build houses to protect themselves from tigers and wolves. Two kinds of houses were depicted on the bronze drums; one in the shape of a boat and the other in a shape similar to a turtle shell.In order to be suitable with the rugged terrain, Co Loa Citadel was made out of clay during Thuc Phan Dynasty in the 3rd century B.C. The architecture during the Chinese sovereignty, from the 2nd century B.C. to the 9th century, consisted of various structures like ramparts, royal tombs, citadels, folk-houses, and pagodas. [Source: Vietnamtourism. com, Vietnam National Administration of Tourism]

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Vietnamese Architecture in the Early Imperial Era

During the 11th century while a united-feudal state was developing, the Ly Dynasty initiated a new phase in architectural development. Generally, the architecture of Ly Dynasty, 11th and 12th centuries, had five orthodox styles: citadels, palaces, castles, pagodas, and houses. Thang Long Citadel had a complex of palaces, many of which were 3-4 floor temples. At that time, the Thang Long culture deeply reflected the cultural characteristic of the tower-pagoda. The architectural characteristics of the Ly Dynasty were residential complexes, more ornamental roofs, doors, door-steps, banisters, and rounded statues, all in a suitable design for the climate and traditional customs of Vietnam. Streets, markets, ground and stilt houses in popular architectural design developed simultaneously as royal palaces. [Source: Vietnamtourism. com, Vietnam National Administration of Tourism ~]

In the turn of the 15th century, under Le Dynasty, orthodox architecture had two dominant styles: the imperial palace and the royal tomb. From the 16th to 17th century, religious architecture gained a lot of popularity in architectural development. But Thap Pagoda in Bac Ninh Province is famous for its structure and for the techniques used to build the tower and carve and paint the statues. When feudalism lost popularity, folk-art continued to be reflected in carvings and paintings describing active scenes of rowing, hunting, sloughing, wrestling, and cutting. The pagoda and temple construction techniques achieved progress during the 18th century. ~

Vietnamese Architecture in the Later Imperial Era

Under the Tran Dynasty, the dominant architecture models were the royal palace, pagoda, house, temple, and citadel. These styles were deeply and significantly illustrated in the Binh Son Tower in Vinh Phu Province, the Pho Minh Pagoda in Nam Dinh Province, and the Thai Lac Pagoda in Hung Yen Province. The complexity and structure of Pho Minh Pagoda is an outstanding example of the architectural style of the Tran Dynasty period and of the following centuries. The structure was designed in 3 main sections: the lobby, main hall, and sanctuary. [Source: Vietnamtourism. com, Vietnam National Administration of Tourism ~]

The inside yard, or interior garden, played an important role in the traditional architectural style and reflected the concept of oriental space. The contemporary architecture of royal palaces was designed with upper floors and systems of consecutive corridors in an open-air space, which was very convenient for living in a warm climate. In spite of the crowded development, the majority of construction materials were still bamboo and wood. Even though the Ho Dynasty lasted for only 7 years, it left an outstanding architectural heritage such as the Tay Do Citadel in Thanh Hoa Province. The splendid doors of the citadel still remain. ~

Modern and Contemporary Architecture in Vietnam

At the end of the 19th century, architectural characteristics were influenced by new construction style brought by European urban planning and the interaction between French and Oriental cultures. Since the reunification in 1975, Vietnam’s architecture has been impressively developing. Many new urban and residential areas, industrial zones, and new villages with major architectural works have brought high artistic value to regional development. Nowadays, architectural development consists of 5 main domains: interior design, architectural design, environmental design, urban planning, and regional planning. Also, issues on spontaneous development of urban area, protection of architectural relics, and house-building strategies are problems that need urgent solutions.[Source: Vietnamtourism. com, Vietnam National Administration of Tourism ~]

Traditional Vietnamese Village Architecture

Traditional Vietnamese village architecture includes houses, farms, stalls, bridges, markets and the village gate.

According to vietnamarchitecture.org:"For the people of North Delta, no village lacks a village gate. The gate is the home of a guardian spirit that protect the hamlet and village. Each strange visitor could have to understand the fixed principle: "the will of the king yields to the people’s customs", and they have to pass the village gate to do the "procedure". The population is roaring and there are some exchanges to the outside worlds, the old principle is somehow influenced. People crossing the gate are overcrowded. There is no guardian anymore, but the gate is still available. People said that the gate is the door of a house. The village is a big house, and the big house needs a door. So the gate is the door of the village. Apart from the village gate, there is hamlet village, commune village, family village. However, the village gate has a special position which is hard to replace. [Source: vietnamarchitecture.org For more detailed information check out this site **]

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Vietnamese House Architecture

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House Architecture in Binh Dinh

Traditionally village houses in Binh Dinh are made with earthen walls, a bamboo frame and a thatched roof. According to vietnamarchitecture.org: "The wealthier family would make the house foundation from laterite. The pillars are the trunk of areca tree or china trees taken from the garden in the house. People often see those cottages with three rooms and two wings in a middle of a fruit tree garden and a rural hamlet. The house has many sub-rooms which are used for sleeping room, kitchen, store, etc which is called upper house (to distinguish from lower house). The upper house is mainly used for worshipping. The middle room is placed with altar of the ancestor, the two sides are placed with beds (for men only: house owners and the boys, women are not allowed in the upper house). People often choose the orient of the house is East-South or West – South, and also for avoiding bad wind (west wind, north-easterly wind). [Source: vietnamarchitecture.org For more detailed information check out this site **]

"In the rural villages of Binh Dinh province, among the thatched cottage, there are some leave roof house and western tile house. Leave roof house is a solid architecture monument and typical in Binh Dinh. The entire house is placed on a base of laterite and a wood frame with the pillars and the systems of truss and beams to carry the force. There are some owners who were deeply in love with the thatched leave house that they come to the forest to find precious wood and carry back home. **

"The house is in the middle of an area with big yard, high hedge, three-stair cases house with fruit trees garden. Outstanding in the area, the thatched leave house with the sophisticated carving furniture and a store of ancient objects. The pillars, truss, and beams are carved with the Chinese character of blessing and long-lived in the heads of the beams. Some other furniture is also carved with specious and beautiful features of apricot flower or dragon. The guests who came to the house are welcome from the gate and see off at this gate. **

Communal House Architecture in Central Highland

The communal house of the Bana and Sedang are considered the symbol of Central Highland. The normal feature of the house is the axe-shaped roof or the round roof of tens of meters high, and all are made from bamboo and bamboo strings. The higher the structure is, the more skillful the worker is. The thatch used for covering the roof is not nailed into place but gripped with each other. There is no need of the bamboo strings to connect each grip, but just fold one head of the grip to the rafter. The wattle, partition, and head are made from bamboo and decorated very uniquely. [Source: vietnamarchitecture.org For more detailed information check out this site **]

The differences between the communal house of Jrai, Bana and Sedang ethnic groups is the curling degree of the roof. The long house is used by the Ede uses vertical beams and long timbers to make structures than can be tens of meters long. They are placed to overlap each other without any nail, but they are still stable after tens of years among the plateau. Even the single timbers are not long enough to complete the house’s length, it is hard to find the connection point between two woods. The long house of Ede people contains kpan (long chair) for the artisans playing gong. The kpan is made from the long timbers, 10 meters long, 0.6-0.8 meters wide. A part of the kpan is curled like a head of the boat. The kpan and gong are symbols of richness of Ede people.

The Jrai people in the Pun Ya are often build houses on a system of big pillars which is suitable for the the region’s long rainy season and frequent flooding. Laos’s people in Don Village (Dak Lak province) cover their houses with hundreds of timbers which overlap each other. Each slab of wood is as big as a brick. These wood "tile" exist for hundreds of years in the severe weather of Central Highland. In the area of Bana and Cham people in Van Canh district, Binh Dinh province, there is a special type of bamboo wattle used making the house floor. Wood or bamboo which as small as the toe and connected to each other each by each other and placed above the wood girdle of the floor. There are mats in the sitting places for guest, and the resting place of the house owner.

In some parts of the Central Highland, people striving for a better life have abandoned their traditional houses. Ede people in Dinh village, Dlie Mong commune, Cu MGrar district, Dak Lak province are keeping the old traditional style. Some Russian ethnologists said that: "Coming to the mountainous area of Central Highland, I admire the clever living arrangement of people which is suitable for the nature and environment of them."

Unique Architecture of House in Central Highlands

Houses of the Central Highlands can be divided into three main types: stilt houses, temporary houses and long houses. Most of groups use natural materials such as bamboo. The Ta Oi and Ca Tu people make houses of wattle by the trunk cover of achoong tree – a tree in mountainous area of A Luoi district (Thua Thien – Hue province).

People of ethnic groups like Se Dang, Bahnar, Ede lives in stilt houses with big wood pillars and a high floor. Stilt houses of the Ca Tu, Je, Trieng groups—as well as some from Brau, Mnam, Hre, Ka Dong, K’Ho and Ma—have pillars are made from middle-size timbers and a roof covered with oval thatch. There are two wood sticks that symbolize buffalo horns. The floor is made with strips of bamboo. [Source: vietnamarchitecture.org For more detailed information check out this site **]

Temporary houses are used by people from south Central Highland like the Mnong, Je Trieng, and Stieng. These are long house but because of the custom of shifting the location of houses they are all single-storey house with unstable materials (wood is of a a thin or small type). The house is covered with thatch which is hanging down near the ground. Two oval doors are under the thatch.

Long houses are used by the Ede and Jrai people. The thatch roof is normally thick with the ability to withstand of tens of years of continuous rain. If there is any leaking place, people will redo that part of roof, so there are places of new and old roof which sometimes look funny. The doors are at the two ends. Normal stilt houses of the Ede and Jrai people are often 25 to 50 meters long. In these houses, a system of six big wood pillars (ana) is placed parallel along the house. In the same system are two beams (eyong sang) which are also across the length of the house. Jrai people often choose a house to be near a river (AYn Pa, Ba, Sa Thay Rivers, etc) so their pillars are often higher than on Ede houses.

Se Dang people live in houses made from the traditional materials which are available in forests such as wood, thatch and bamboo. Their stilt houses are about one meter above the ground. Each house has two doors: The main door is placed in the middle of the house for everybody and the guests. There is a wood or bamboo floor in front of the door without covering. This is for the resting place or for pounding rice. The sub-ladder is placed in the south end for the couples "getting to know each other."

Vietnamese Communal House Architecture

According to vietnamarchitecture.org: "Communal houses are places to honor tutelary gods of a village according to the religious customs of ancient Vietnam’s society. They are also sued for other purposes. They are often an administration centre which is taken to organize every activity of the village, the office for officials of the village, meeting place of the local citizen. This is also the place for traditional festivals, cultural activity. In general, the three above functions (religion, administration, cultural-arts), Communal house is the place where many activities are organized under the feudal period of Vietnam. [Source: vietnamarchitecture.org For more detailed information check out this site **]

In front of the Communal house, there is often a big yard and pond to create the landscape. The structure of Communal house could be five to seven apartments or seven apartments with two sub-apartments like Dinh Bang Communal house in Bac Ninh province. This area has a large number of examples of traditional Vietnamese architecture. A popular type of Communal house has four-roofs or eight-roofs with the influence of Chinese architecture. **

The space of Communal house is often developed in the back also with the sections of back palace, three steps staircase, ponds, etc. Among those structures, the main space is mutual yard with the activities of citizens like meetings, parties, public punishment. The back palace is to place the name tablet of founder of village. Surrounding the back palace is often covered by wood planks to create the solemn atmosphere. **

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Vietnamese Military Architecture

Military architecture such as bastions, citadel and city gates. This architecture contains the shapes and arrangement of squares, rectangulars, regular polygon, circles, stars and special. In the mountainous area, people used timber. In the midlands, laterite was used, and in plains, mortar was used. [Source: vietnamarchitecture.org For more detailed information check out this site **]

Co Loa citadel (Dong Anh district – Hanoi) is clearly structured to be three rounds: the outer round, the middle round and the inner round. All are made from earth. Earth is often taken from the very place where they build the citadel. The spaces where earth is taken become the moat to protect the citadel. Co Loa citadel is spiral shape. The entire round will be protected by the artificial 20-50m wide moat except the West South or East South, because these places have the natural river or marsh.

Hoa Lu citadel (Ninh Binh province) is the former imperial in Dinh and Pre-Le dynasty. This is the architectural monument which achieved the peak of solidarity and full of obstacles in the contemporary defensive architecture. Hoa Lu citadel is located in the plain area in the land of tough lime stone mountains around, which makes the solid citadel walls. Ten parts of artificial citadel wall connect the lime stone mountains to be the two full circles next to each other. They are called the inner citadel with the whole area of more than 300 hectares.

Thang Long citadel in Ly dynasty contains of many circles. The outer circle is La citadel which is the defensive and flood preventing with the length of 30km. In this area, the old imperial city contained of many streets, markets which were the place for handicraft manufacturing of people and officials. The citadel was built by bricks, where many headquarters were settled. The inner part is the place for houses of King and his family. The shape of this citadel is nearly square with the area of 77 hectares. The citadel is located in Thanh Hoa province and built from green marbles and earth. The most stable parts are the four big gates which face four orients. The Southern gate has three entrances which was built in roll-arch in 10m high. This is the largest scale monument in marble of Tran dynasty and considered to be the biggest ancient South East Asia. It is acknowledged to be the Cultural Heritage of the World by UNESCO since 2009.

Hue citadel The outer circle is imperial city which was built in Vauban style. It is nearly in square shape with each edge of 2235 meters and nearly 9000m circumference. The wall of citadel was built by box-brick with the thickness of more than 2 meters and height of 6.50 meters. The middle citadel round is called Royal palace with the rectangular shape. The inner round is Purple Forbidden City with the wall of 3.1 meter high, 0.72 meter thick and it has seven gates.

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Vietnamese Palace Architecture

Palace architecture is typical of the imperial dynasties of Vietnam. This type requires mobilizing and gathering material and labor forces of the whole country or a region, which expresses the wealth and power of each period of each King. [Source: vietnamarchitecture.org For more detailed information check out this site **]

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Vietnamese Religious Architecture

Religious architecture includes pagodas, towers, temples and tombs. Pagodas are "the base of operation and propagation of Buddhism. Types of pagodas include the: 1) the Dinh type with the outer space of five apartments or 7 apartments; 2) the Cong character; also called inner Cong, outer Nation includes a general monument with many separate monuments with the walls surrounding or lobby. [Source: vietnamarchitecture.org For more detailed information check out this site **]

Temples are the honoring places of Taoism. The places are often chosen to be related to the legend of supernatural God or people. The outer architecture is basically similar to the pagoda but the inner honoring content and decoration is different.

Van Mieu, Tu Mieu, Van chi are the monuments of Confucianism of Confucius Period. The complex of Van Mieu – Quoc Tu Giam is built on the axis of North South. In front of VanMieu, there is a lake called Van Chuong Lake. In the main gate, there are four pillars with stele in two sides. Van Mieu gate was built in three steps style with three big Chinese words Van Mieu Mon (Gate of Van Mieu)

Tomb architecture embraces old mausoleum and tombs. Some ethnic groups have charnel house. There are two types of tombs: Tombs of normal people and Tombs of people who follow Buddhism. The materials used for these are burnt bricks with the dimensions of 40x30 centimeters. The other two types are pumelo section brick and s-shaped bricks for decoration.

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Hue Architecture

The development of Bac Ha region at the beginning of the 19th century was slowed down, after the capital was moved to Hue by the Nguyen Dynasty. At the same time, development in Thang Long increased and citadels, cultural structures, temples, and new residential areas were built. The center of the significant development was in Hue where imposing citadels, palaces, and tombs were built. The Vietnamese culture in Hue was influenced by the gardened-type houses which is quite different from the tubular type of houses in Hanoi. Hue’s architecture was considered as a collection of traditional influences which relied on flat surfaces, citadel and urban centers, interior decoration, and scenery structures. [Source: Vietnamtourism. com, Vietnam National Administration of Tourism ]

Hué represents an outstanding demonstration of the power of the vanished Vietnamese feudal empire at its apogee in the early 19th century. The complex of monuments is an outstanding example of an eastern feudal capital and of the planning and construction of a complete defended capital city in a relatively short period. The integrity of town layout and building design make it an exceptional specimen of late feudal urban planning. [Source: UNESCO]

Located in the center of Hue, along the Perfume (Huong) River’s northern bank, the complex of royal architecture represents and demonstrates the power of the Nguyen Dynasty's centralism. Contained in this complex are Kinh Thanh Hue (the Hue Capital Citadel), Hoang Thanh (the Royal Citadel or Imperial City) and Tu Cam Thanh (the Forbidden Citadel) clustered together, symmetrically placed along the longitudinal axis and facing to the south. The system of walls combines sophisticatedly both eastern and western architectural styles placed in natural harmony with Ngu Binh Mount, Perfume River, Gia Vien and Boc Thanh islets. Even people implicitly consider these natural landscapes as a part of the complex.

Surrounded by a square wall, almost 600 meters in length on each side, the Imperial City has four gates, of which the south gate (Ngo Mon) is most typical in construction and is widely seen and recognized as the symbol of Hue Citadel. It served not only as the main entrance but was also the place where important events of the dynasty took place. Within the area of the Imperial City, the Forbidden Citadel was the area reserved for daily activities of the royal family.

The main north-south axis, called Than dao (miraculous road), runs through the three walls of the Hue Capital Citadel, Imperial City and Forbidden Citadel and was marked with the important buildings of Hue Citadel. Hundred of small and large buildings were built symmetrically along this axis in harmony with their natural surroundings gives one a feeling of gentle and serenity. These buildings include Nghinh Luong Pavilion (Pavilion for Fresh Air), Phu Van Lau (or the Pavilion of Edicts was the building where Emperor's edicts and lists of successful candidates of Thi Hoi (National Examination) and Thi Dinh (Court Examinations) were publicised), Ky Dai (Flag Tower), Ngo Mon Gate (the main entrance), Thai Hoa Palace (The Throne Palace, or Palace of the Supreme Harmony, was the building for great court's meetings), Can Chanh Palace (the place for every day working of Emperors), Can Thanh Palace (Emperor's Private Palace), Khon Thai Residence (Queen's Private Apartment), Kien Trung Pavilion (the place for daily activities of Emperors)...

In the distance, to the west of the Capital Citadel, along the Perfume River, are the famous royal tombs and temples, masterpieces in landscape architecture built by the Nguyen Dynasty. Each royal tomb aimed at creating a living place for royal pleasure before becoming an eternal resting place after the king’s death. This resulted in the architecture of royal tombs in Hue being distinguished by unique characteristics.

Hanoi Architecture and Lay Out

According to vietnam-culture.com: "Apart from Hoi An, Hanoi is Vietnam's only city where ancient streets can be found. These streets still keep the same appearance that they had at the end of 19th century. According to historical sources,they have been the true core of Thang Long since its foundation nearly a thousand years ago. The area occupied by these ancient streets forms a triangle with its top at Hang Than street and its base at the axis of Hang Bong - Hang Gai - Cau Go street, the eastern side being a section of the Red River Dyke and the eastern side being Hang Cot, Hang Dieu, and Hang Da streets.Prior to the French colonial period these streets all had the same appearance and were laid out in an order similar to a chessboard; most of them were named after the goods manufactured or sold there. For instance, Hang Duong means "Sugar Street", Hang Bac - "Silver Street", Hang Bo - "Bamboo Basket Street". [Source: vietnam-culture.com |*|]

"The houses in these streets are called tunnel houses, this is because the house has the shape of a tunnels, being very long and narrow, it sometimes opens at the back into another street, which is different from that of the front entrance door. All the houses are similarly arranged with their front rooms serving as places where goods are manufactured or sold, with small open courtyards to let light in, usually decorated with ornamental rocks, little water-pools with gold fish, ornamental plants and flowers. The backrooms serve as the living quarters with a dining room and bedroom. Most of these houses are covered with small tiles which have the characteristic feature of: two walls of the gable being built so that they are higher than the roof, resembling a staircase with two funny pinnacles. |*|

"They are mostly one-storied houses, few have second storey. They are generally low and have small or no windows, which arose because according to ancient rules under the past dynasties, inhabitants were forbidden to look at the king when he happened to pass their houses, and they were especially forbidden to look at him from a higher place. Therefore, tunnel houses are simple and narrow serving both as a place of manufacturing or selling products and as a dwelling house for the family. In these streets, the shops are open all day long, and even in the evening, the quarter is always interesting to walk around. This community of people shares the same fate and they are all united by feelings of solidarity. |*|

"Scattered among these ancient houses are many pagodas and temples. These were the place of worship for the ancient villages and guilds. For instance, the temple situated at 38 Hang Duong street, served the inhabitants of Duc Mon village which used to occupy a part of Hang Duong street, and the Huyen Thien pagoda at 54 Hang Khoai street, belonged to Huyen Thien village, which used to occupy the territory of Hang Khoai street. These architectural sites also reflect the origin of Hanoi's inhabitants, most of them coming from other parts of the country, for example: Hoa Loc Temple at 90 Hang Dao street, was founded by a guild of dyers natives of Dan Loan in Hai Hung province, Tu Thi Temple at 2A Yen Thai Alley, was dedicated to the worship of the patron saint of embroiderers, and built by a villager of Quat Dong in Ha Tay province who lived by the trade of embroidery. However, on the other hand, the existence of these pagodas and temples testifies to the intense spiritual life of the inhabitants of old Hanoi, who lived in harmony with nature, society and the spiritual world. Thus, today the city’s material world coexists with a sacred legendary world, the present and the past intermingle, creating a long lasting strength. |*|

"The ancient streets have undergone some alterations owing to historical upheavals, social adaptation and the appearance of some new construction, but they still remain virtually unchanged. So this is why this area with small tunnel houses, crowded streets, pagodas and temples, with curved roofs and green trees, all gives Hanoi it’s own particular original beauty. |*|

"Since the end of the 80s with the implementation of the renovation policy, economic life has improved, commerce developed and many houses in the ancient streets have been demolished, repaired or rebuilt and often concrete 3 or 4 storied houses have replaced the old ones. The area of ancient streets has gradually been losing the beauty of its traditional architecture. Yet, in spite of the alterations and construction, this area still represents a precious legacy left to Hanoians, to be handed down to future generations. This is why now Hanoi's municipal administration is studying the feasibility of a project to renovate this ancient area." |*|

VIETNAMESE LANDSCAPE GARDEN

Landscape gardens are manifestations of the art of making models of nature in a small space to elevate the value of main buildings or whole monument. Landscape garden of Vietnam are influenced by Oriental styles with some similarities to Chinese and Japanese gardens. They have three main parts: water, tree and small mountain. [Source: vietnamarchitecture.org For more detailed information check out this site **]

Vietnam’s garden are often intended to be natural reflection of nature. In Vietnam, gardens are often localized to make the appropriate use of local climate, soil culture of Vietnam and plants close to daily life of Vietnam’s country life such as the banian tree and hibiscus hedge. There are beautiful gardens in Hue, often set around the mausoleums and tombs of Kings. The Purple Forbidden Palace has a lovely garden.

The traditional house of Vietnam often contains small garden elements. These often fullfill feng shuit needs and aim to create a harmonious atmosphere of living environment. The trees which are planted in the garden which have religious meanings include banyan, associated with Buddhist and regarded as a place of resting for visitors. Lotus is also a familiar and popular in Buddhism architecture.

Vietnamese Rock Gardens

According to vietnamarchitecture.org: "Rock gardening is a nice hobby which has artistic features and created by carving the lifeless stone blocks and curling the small grass trees into the ancient tree shapes and places the spirit in the cement, soil, and glue to create a small nature scene. The art to create the rock garden would be described in three words: "intelligence", "spreading", and "flexible". The rocks are often placed alone (spreading), among them are the small clots connected to each other (the thorough of intelligence), and these rocks only allow water to flow not to fast in drops from the top. The top of these rocks are often bigger to create the smooth feeling like they are rising up. People always try to create the balance of Yin and Yang, and the constant with desultory combination when they create the rock-garden. [Source: vietnamarchitecture.org For more detailed information check out this site **]

The location of rock-garden is also no less important. In a small garden, the rock-gardens are often placed in the opposite side to the white walls. This wall would play the role of a paper to "draw the image" of those rock-garden. In a small part of yard, the rock-garden would be placed spreadingly. With a larger space, there would be the rock blocks with bigger dimension to create the feel of standing in front of a real mountain. In the front garden, rock-garden is placed right after the lobby to let the viewer have the best view and the space could be more mysterious and illusory. Nowadays, it is very difficult to have a large space for this type of hobby, therefore, rock-garden has been simplified and conditional to fit the space.

Different kinds of mountains images: 1) Cao phong position (high mountain position): The mount is high, the top of the mount is a bit round to avoid the simple look and create a shape of an old ancient mount. The mount side is a bit swell out and round to create less holes. The grass is sparse and there is a small tree in the middle or near the top. The mount foot is a bit smaller and there is house, people, trees and other objects in the foot of the mount. The mountain is often placed in the height that is equal to the eyes of people to help it have higher appearance and still stable. 2) Huyen Nham position: This position also contain a high mount with stable base but the mount looks like high and dangerous or about to fall. In the top of the mountain, there is often a pavilion or some trees that have lean or across position to make it look like pressing the mount down. 3) Bich Lap position: the mount has one flat side, which looks like the parting wall and there should need only one mounts. The mount foot is stable and could be smaller in one side. Trees, dry tank and the position of the tank are nearly similar to Cao Phong position. 4) Vien Son position (far mountain position): Many mounts are placed uneven and gliding from the centre to the far. There are water curling from the mountain foots. The lower mount helps creating the wide sky area. Elderly often made the Vien Son position as they viewed the Cao Phong position is arrogant. The Huyen Nham position is often avoided because Vietnamese are afraid that its owners could suffer from being revealed.

Water in a Vietnamese House Garden

According to vietnamarchitecture.org: "There must be nothing purer and cooler than the water, therefore, water ornament objects are becoming the popular trend in the garden architecture. The ideal solution for architecture of water ornament is a big house for a yard or a floating pavilion, or at least a corner of the yard. People could create a small spring or a part of lake. The under part of the water could be the water-plants and mosses groups. The above parts could be the lotus or water lily for the beautiful flowers and leaves. [Source: vietnamarchitecture.org For more detailed information check out this site **]

People often a maintain part of a pond for plants, and the rest is water only. Therefore, they often plan the water ornament plants in the pots to limit their development. Those plants are easy to plant and take care of. Every half of a month or every month, people often put a small pocket of artificial fertilizer under its root, and the plants will be fresh and green. **

The water lily is considered the "king" of ornament plants in water because they are various in types. Lotus is not favored like water lily because they develop too much and often overwhelm the pond. There are also many types of round leave plants s like centella, the big water-fern which is considered valueless. Water hyacinth, mice ear hyacinth, are quite helpful as water ornament plants. Indian taro and rush trees are also valued. **

Apart from the plants and trees, people place fountain, statues, decoration towers in ponds or pools. In a more perfect way, if there are some gold fishes to create the colorful scene and avoid mosquito at the same time. In the high buildings, people could see the lakes with simple decorated objects and water only. Of course, water ornament must be integrated with the architecture of house and yard around. **

Popular Flowers in Vietnam

Tuberose (Hoa Hue) belong to the daffodil species. They are short and grow thin flowers. Tuberose plants absorb a lot of sunlight, but can still grow in the winter when most other species become scarce. Their blossoms are pure white and emanate a sweet fragrance at night. They are often used in religious ceremonies. [Source: Vietnamtourism. com, Vietnam National Administration of Tourism ~]

Chrysanthemum (Hoa Cuc) is a type of beautiful flower with a mild and secretive scent. Its petals do not fall like those of roses or other flowers, which is why chrysanthemums are often placed on altars. They can be displayed in various ways, such as in a vase, a pot, a bowl, or planted in jars to decorate the house, or be placed on the balcony or on the veranda. Chrysanthemums are classified into two classes, single or double flowers. All the varieties have very refined and soft colors; there are often yellow and white flowers. Chrysanthemums are planted all year round. The chrysanthemum is often looked upon as an intimate friend, classified as one of the gentlemanly flowers. The chrysanthemum has many uses in life, culture and medicine. ~

Peach Flower (Hoa Dao) plant grows only in North Vietnam. It is the special flower of the Vietnamese New Year because of its red color, which is believed to bring many favorable opportunities throughout the year. There are four varieties of peach flowers. The dao bich has a deep rosy color and the plant bears many flowers; it is usually planted in jars or pots for entertaining during the New Year. The dao phai (pale peach flower) flower is a pale rosy color and the plant bears many flowers, but is generally planted for its fruits. The dao bach (white peach flower) is relatively difficult to grow. These three varieties of peach flowers all bear double flowers. The that thon plant is small and low; the flowers are small and of many colors. Among those colors, those that are deep red are generally grown in pots and their trunks and branches generally bend so that it becomes an ornamental plant. The sprigs of the peach flowers from the of Nhat Tan are a precious gift sent to relatives living in the South on the occasion of the New Year. The peach flower plant and its flowers are now present in many European countries. ~

Yellow Apricot Flower (Hoa Mai): If the peach flower is the symbol of Tet in the north, then the yellow apricot flower is its counterpart in the South. The yellow apricot flower belongs to the family of hoang mai (meaning "yellow apricot" in Chinese), which is a forest plant. The trunk and sprigs of the yellow apricot flower are suppler than those of the peach plant. The flowers grow in bunches and have stalks that hang loosely near the branches at the side of the leaves. The flowers are yellow and their scent is modestly secretive. The leaves of the yellow apricot flower fall in the winter. There are varieties of yellow apricot, including mai tu qui (apricot of all seasons) and nhi do mai, which begin to produce red colored fruit after blossoming. Mai chieu thuy, the aquatic variety of apricot flower, have small leaves and small flowers that blossom in white, scented bunches. Mai chieu thuy, which blossoms in the spring, is generally planted in small rock gardens. Its trunk and branches are trimmed and bent so that it becomes a sculptured plant. The apricot plant, which is planted to give flowers on the occasion of the New Year is planted from seeds or by the grafting of branches. The plant can be planted in gardens, in flowerbeds, or in pots. ~

Lotus (Hoa Sen) is a soft plant living mainly in water. This pink or white flower belongs to a species of plant called hollyhock. Another species of lotus with a very small trunk, leaves, and flowers is named little lotus. It can be planted in a vase of water or in an ornamental pond. Lotus flowers have been growing for millions of years. In Vietnam, the lotus is classified as one the four gentlemanly flowers along with pine, bamboo, and chrysanthemum. The lotus is also classified as one in the four qui (four seasons), which also includes orchid, chrysanthemum, and apricot. Lotus is the symbol of summer because it blossoms in summer when there is a lot of sunlight and its scent lightly perfumes the air all around the pond. Lotus flowers are used in different ways: the flowers are offered to deities, the seeds are used for tea, and the leaves are used to wrap green rice. Lotus seeds can also be made into a tonic medicine and anesthetic and into an ingredient for sweet soup and other recipes. Lotus flowers generally bloom during the summer since they require plenty of light. ~

Water Lilies (Hoa Sung), which often grow wild in ponds and lakes, are classified into two species: lotus water lilies, planted in lakes around pagodas and imperial palaces; and wild water lilies, found in ponds, with a white or violet flower. In the south, the stem of lotus water lily is used in meals. ~

Orchid (Hoa Lan) is sovereign flowers that are enchantingly beautiful. Orchids usually grow on the trunks of very high, big trees, located on cliffs where it is humid and where sunlight is abundant. There are two groups of orchids, including aerial orchids (phong lan) and terrestrial orchids (dia lan). Aerial orchids usually have their roots anchored in high, big trees and their branches hang down from the tree trunks. They have very thin petals, but their colors are time enduring. Their scent is very mild, soft, and pure. Terrestrial orchids, on the contrary, have their roots anchored in the earth or a hollow in a rock where there is humus or litter. The terrestrial orchids, with varieties that include bach cap, to tam, hoang vu, anh kim, hac dinh, loan diem, etc., have bright colors and mild and flowing scents. Orchids come from the mountainous regions of the country, but because of their amiable beauty, they are present in all the famous flower villages on the plains. The Dalat Flower Garden is an almost complete collection of all of the precious and rare orchids of Vietnam. ~

In Hue you can trees known as bang trees that produce large nut that make a loud noise when they fall to the ground, hence the name. Amanda Hesser wrote in the New York Times: “Breakfast at the Morin Hotel in Hue was a game of Russian roulette. As my husband, Tad, and I sat sipping Vietnamese coffee in the courtyard, nuts from the bang trees above us dropped like bombs onto the stone patio. I asked our waiter, Dinh, if they ever hit people. "Yes," he said, pointing to his forearm and shoulder with a shrug. "One broke a table." [Source: By Amanda Hesser, The New York Times, September 1, 2005]

Orchids in Vietnam

Mai Hien wrote in the Viet Nam News, “With a length of 1,650km, Viet Nam encompasses a variety of climate zones, making the country suited to growing a shocking diversity of orchid species. "Many people think that China and Thailand are the centers of orchid growing, but based on the diversity of orchid species in Viet Nam, it could be said that Viet Nam is the world’s cradle of orchid growing," says Tran Tuan Anh, an orchid hunter with 20 years’ experience. According to the 2003 statistics of Russian researcher Leonid V Averyanov and his daughter Anna L Averyanova, there are 897 orchid species in Viet Nam. Tuan Anh puts the number over 900, saying that a number of species in the forest and his garden havenyet been identified. [Source: Mai Hien, Viet Nam News, February 4, 2008 *|*]

Tuan Anh’s orchid-searching adventures in Viet Nam’s most remote areas have produced a garden with over 300 types of orchids – more varieties than any other garden in Hanoi, he boasts. He even helped to identify four orchid species in Viet Nam (and then named three of them after himself): Hoang thao Tran Tuan (Dendrobium trantuanii), Vanda Tuan Anh (Vanda tuananhii), Lan hai Tuan Anh (Paphiopedilum trantuanhii) and Hoang thao Viet Nam (Dendrobium Vietnamica). *|*

Tuan Anh still remembers his first glimpse of lan hai (Paphiopedilum) on a trip to Son La, a mountainous province in northern Viet Nam, in October 2003. At an elevation of 1,000m above sea level, he happened to spot a bundle of flowers that were distinct from any he had ever seen. The large blossoms were brownish red in color, with white calyxes in the front and green in the back. Struck by the beauty of the flowers, he shot photographs until he ran out of film and then hurried back to Hanoi. *|*

“Considered a local expert, Tuan Anh has set up a website on Viet Nam’s orchids and assists both researchers and amateurs with information. With only a handful of experts like Tuan Anh, however, Viet Nam’s orchid-growing industry remains in its developing stages. Breeding technology and training in Viet Nam remain limited, so some orchid growers have headed to Thailand for education. Le Xuan Truong spent two years learning from the expertise of a Thai grower, and the 38-year-old now owns a 1,000sq.m garden and 2ha farm producing dendrobium. Every day, between 5,000 and 7,000 branches of flowers are sold wholesale, and sales hit 100,000 on special occasions like Women’s Day. With branches selling for VND30,000 ($2) a piece, Truong’s business has proven lucrative. *|*

Orchid Growing Takes Off in Hanoi City Gardens

Mai Hien wrote in the Viet Nam News, “An old saying goes, "Vua choi lan, quan choi tra" (A king collects orchids, a mandarin collects camellias). Now, anyone with VND40,000-50,000 (US$2.50-3) can buy a pot of orchids – and many Hanoi residents are doing so. But that doesn’t mean anyone can grow them. To successfully make an orchid bloom, enthusiasts say, the gardener must have a pure heart and the patience of a saint. Orchids won’t bring their owners material wealth or social status, they explain. So those with enough dedication to tend to these delicate flowers and wait for their fleeting blooms must do so simply to enjoy the personal challenge and test of their patience. [Source: Mai Hien, Viet Nam News, February 4, 2008 *|*]

“Duong Xuan Trinh, chairman of the Hanoi Orchid Association, says this challenge gives orchids their appeal. Sensitive to changes in temperature and humidity, orchids demand daily care, which some varieties reward with their colorful blossoms only two weeks a year. Others make their owners wait years for a rare blossom.As orchid owners slowly coax their babies to bloom, they can have temporary respite from the stresses of daily life. For a few minutes a day, orchid owners can forget blaring motorbike horns and grumpy clients and concentrate their attention on a single quiet, deliberate task. "Nurturing orchids relieves my anxiety after the working day," says Vu Quoc Viet, a 37-year-old orchid lover. *|*

For the retired, tending orchids provides a perfect form of personal entertainment. "Growing orchid plants is suitable for the elderly as it doesn’t require too much time or physical exertion," Trinh says. Orchids have become so popular that they are joining the list of plants used as Tet (Lunar New Year) decorations, which has long been limited to peach-blossom branches and kumquat trees. *|*

“From a handful of original members, the Hanoi Orchid Association has expanded to over 200 enthusiasts. The group, mostly retired people and amateur orchid growers, meets every two months to exchange ideas and techniques for growing the many varieties of orchid. Such a community is vital for orchid owners because of the flowers’ fickle nature, which member Tuan Anh learned the hard way four years ago. He bought all the orchid plants that a group of Taiwanese businessmen had brought to an exhibition on ornamental trees and flowers. Half of them died soon after due to the long journey home and his ignorance about tending to the flowers. "Growing orchids requires a great deal of scientific knowledge," Trinh says. *|*

“Orchids need light but can’t stand direct sunlight, he explains. Their environment must be airy but not too windy, humid but not waterlogged. People often use a special net to protect orchid plants from intense sunlight and put charcoal and coconut fibres under their pots to prevent waterlogging. Neglect an orchid for a day or two, and one may return to find a fungus has destroyed the plant. *|*

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Vietnamtourism. com, Vietnam National Administration of Tourism, CIA World Factbook, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Global Viewpoint (Christian Science Monitor), Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, Fox News and various websites, books and other publications identified in the text.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated May 2014

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