HANOI CITADEL: UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITE
THE CITADEL (Dien Bien and Quan Thanh wards, Ba Dinh District, near the History of Military Museum) is built on a site that was said to have been occupied by the ancient kingdom of Au Lac in the 3rd century B.C. Only small remnants of the complex, which covered three square miles, remain. The citadel, according to legend, was built on a site where a king committed suicide after his magic bow (given to him by a divine turtle) was stolen by his daughter. Though The Citadel survived for many centuries many of the original buildings no longer exist. However, relics and artifacts excavated from the site have helped revive the former appearance of Thang Long and provided an insight into its existence and evolution.
Central Sector of the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long - Hanoi was designated a a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2010. According to UNESCO: The Central Sector of the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long — Hanoi, located in the heart of the capital of Viet Nam, is the most important and best-preserved part of the ancient Imperial Citadel of Thang Long. The Imperial Citadel of Thang Long is characterized by its longevity and continuity as a seat of power, evidenced by different archaeological levels and monuments." It "bears witness to the meeting of influences coming mainly from China in the north and the Kingdom of Champa in the south. It expresses a set of intercultural exchanges which shaped a unique culture in the lower Red River Valley. It also bears witness to the long cultural tradition of the Viêt populations established in the Delta and the lower Red River Valley. It was a continuous seat of power from the 7th century through to the present day. [Source: UNESCO]
"The Thang Long Imperial Citadel was built in the 11th century by the Ly Viet Dynasty, marking the independence of the Dai Viet. It was constructed on the remains of a Chinese fortress dating from the 7th century, on drained land reclaimed from the Red River Delta in Hanoi. It was the center of regional political power for almost 13 centuries without interruption. The Imperial Citadel buildings and the remains in the 18 Hoang Dieu Archaeological Site reflect a unique South-East Asian culture specific to the lower Red River Valley, at the crossroads between influences coming from China in the north and the ancient Kingdom of Champa in the south.
"The Imperial Citadel of Thang Long at Hanoi, with its political function and symbolic role, is directly associated with numerous and important cultural and historical events, and leading artistic expressions and moral, philosophical, and religious ideas. The succession of these events marks the formative and development process of an independent nation over more than a thousand years, including the colonial period and the two contemporary Wars of Independence and reunification of Viet Nam.
"The degree of authenticity expressed by the architecture of Thang Long corresponds to buildings of the late 19th and the 20th centuries. Older buildings, dating back to the dynastic periods, notably the Doan Mon Gate and the Hau Lau Palace, have been restored and modified. However, these changes are related to the political history of the property."
Early History of the Citadel
The Viet or Kinh, the majority ethnic group in contemporary Vietnam, see themselves as a people that go back to the creation of the world, for which they have their own cosmogony. According to legend the foundation of the Empire dates back to the 3rd millennium B.C., when some fifteen kings and queens met to elect the first Emperor of the Nam Viet (the lands of the southern Viet). [Source: International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) UNESCO]
In the 6th century B.C. an independent kingdom was established, known as Van Lang, which straddled modern Guandong and northern Vietnam. The earliest written evidence indicating permanent human settlement in the Red River Delta dates from 211 B.C. A rural society with extensive hydraulic knowledge developed here, at the crossroads of cultural influences from the Chinese area to the north and civilizations in South-East and southern Asia.
Under the pressure of the Han Dynasty, the Viet Kingdom was reduced to the lower Red River Valley, which was finally conquered in 111 B.C. It then became one of the kingdoms of the southern marches of the Chinese Empire, and remained under its political and cultural control for almost one thousand years. The last phase of this long period of Vietnamese history is referred to as the Dai La Period. It was at this time that the first Chinese citadel was erected on the site of Hanoi, as indicated by the presence of wells and remains from the 7th-10th centuries CE.
Chinese domination of the Delta and the lower Red River Valley ended in the 10th century with the return of an autonomous dynasty (Dinh-Le) and the establishment of the independent Kingdom of Dai Viet in the lower Red River Valley. The development of a new citadel, Thang Long, on the site where the former had stood, confirmed this independence in the early 11th century (Ly Dynasty). The Citadel surrounded the enlarged Forbidden City built in brick in 1029 and was itself surrounded by a defensive wall. As the seat of power and the royal residence, a Chinese layout was adopted for the Citadel. It does, however, also illustrate the geomantic principles specific to Viet history and culture.
At the same time as the Dai Viet Kingdom asserted itself at the end of the A.D. 1st millennium, the Kingdom of Champa, a people with cultural influences from the Indian Ocean, developed in the center and south of modern Vietnam. It was in contact with the powerful and rapidly expanding Khmer Empire, and it was an essential link between the spread in South-East Asia of cultures from India and southern Asia, Buddhism in particular.
The long history of this region of the lower Red River, and especially the Citadel that forms the nominated property, is characterized by the continuous interaction between Viet peoples and the various Chinese dynasties and their Confucian and Taoist traditions, and also with the Kingdom of Champa to the south, marked byBuddhist traditions. It was an essentially agrarian civilization, with considerable expertise in drainage, dykes, and agricultural hydraulics.
Buddhist culture spread during the Ly (1010-1225) and Tran (1225-1400) Dynasties and played an essential role in the development of institutions and social and religious life. The Dai Viet Kingdom extended its influence and expanded. A change to the Le Dynasty (1428-1789) led to a return to Confucian values and to more rapid development, especially in the 15th century. Hanoi was at this time one of the most important South- East Asian ports. The erection of Kinh Thien Palace, in the heart of the Forbidden City, marked the apogee of the architecture and urban planning of the Viet culture itself. The Citadel reached its maximum size in the 16th- 17th centuries, whilst a district of artisans and traders serving the rulers also developed. Thang Long Citadel, and especially the Forbidden City, played an essentially political and administrative role, along with the expression of royal etiquette. It was also the period of conquest of the Kingdom of Champa to the south, giving the dynasty a truly Imperial dimension.
Later History of the Citadel
However, a political change gradually took place, starting in the mid-17th century. The Emperor played an increasingly symbolic role, with the real power being exercised by two powerful families, the Trinh in the north and the Nguyen in the south. The latter prevailed at the beginning of the 18th century and established a new dynasty, with its new capital in the more centrally located Hué. Thang Long still remained the northern Citadel, the Emperor's residence when travelling to the region. Its fortification system was rebuilt (1805), based on the European model of Vauban. [Source: International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) UNESCO]
French colonial troops were present in modern southern Vietnam from the 1860s onwards. They undertook the conquest of the north in the 1880s. Thang Long once again became the center of power. It was in particular the headquarters of the colonial power for the vast regional ensemble of French Indochina (modern Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia). Many palaces were rebuilt in a European style, generally Neoclassical, such as Kinh Thien Palace, the former heart of the Forbidden City (1886). The Governor's Palace (in the buffer zone) was built and the fortifications were razed so as to permit a European type of urban development, including wide boulevards around and within the ancient Citadel (end of the 19th century).
After the First War of Independence (1954) and the division of Vietnam into two entities, the Viet Min power settled in Hanoi and the ancient Forbidden City became the military headquarters for North Vietnam. During the Second War, against South Vietnam and the United States,the D67 underground command bunker was installed within the area of Kinh Thien Palace (1967). The Ministry of Defence gradually abandoned its use of the property between 1994 and 2004, handing it over for cultural and historic uses. The site at 18 Hoang Dieu Street, initially chosen for the construction of the National Assembly, was found to be of exceptional archaeological value (2002). The project was maintained, but on a smaller portion of the initial site.
Lost Citadel Found in Hanoi
In 2005, Dana Sachs and Le Quang Vu wrote in National Geographic, “A few years ago the Vietnamese government began planning a new national assembly house to be located in central Hanoi, an area of the city they knew had once been the seat of power for imperial Vietnam. When ground was broken, the builders of the country's future found artifacts spanning 1,300 years of its past. The Hanoi site has proved the most productive archaeological dig ever undertaken in the country. Among the millions of artifacts uncovered are many from the legendary Thang Long Citadel, an elaborate arrangement of palaces and meeting halls that for centuries lay at the center of Vietnamese culture and society. [Source: Dana Sachs and Le Quang Vu, National Geographic, June 2005]
“Unicorn heads of carved marble, celadon platters, roof ornaments, and ceramic tiles and bricks—even the bones of elephants, the workhorses of an earlier era—speak to the past glories of Vietnam. The excavation layers extend down 14 feet (four meters), and the oldest ruins discovered, those of brick-lined wells, date back to the seventh century A.D., when this Red River Delta region was under Chinese control. That control ended in the tenth century; in the eleventh construction of the Thang Long Citadel began. "We've known from ancient texts that this part of the city was where the palaces and temples of the inner court were located," says Cornell University historian Keith Taylor, an expert on ancient Vietnam. The new findings, he says, "give concrete form to what had been simply imagination."
“While only a fraction of the site has been excavated, preliminary reports are already shedding new light on the cultural and political past of Vietnam. Particularly important are the discoveries from the 11th through 15th centuries, when Vietnamese culture was at its peak under the Ly and Tran dynasties. Other artifacts speak to a long history of cultural exchange with the outside world. The most recent finds include 19th-century French wine bottles from the colonial period, which lasted until the mid-20th century.
“To contemporary Vietnamese many of the citadel's artifacts must look familiar. A 15th-century pottery bowl bears a remarkable resemblance to bowls still produced in Bat Trang, a village on the outskirts of Hanoi that still ferries its ceramics to markets along the Red River. The village has a 500-year history as a ceramic- and brick-making center, and Bat Trang bricks have been unearthed at the imperial citadel site. "Bricks from the kilns of my family, the Tran family, are said to be the best in Bat Trang," says Tran Van Do, who operates a brick-and-ceramic factory in the village. "Our bricks used to be the first choice of the royal citadel builders." He also sees a clear connection between the ceramics of earlier generations and those of his own generation, but he admits that "Our ceramics are not as soulful and emotional as those of our ancestors. We still have a lot to learn from them."
Central Sector of the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long
The Central Sector of the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long (part of The Citadel) covers an area of 20 hectares, includes archaeological area at 18 Hoang Dieu Street and relics in Hanoi Citadel such as: Bac Mon, Doan Mon, Hau Lau, stone dragons in Kinh Thien Palace, dragon house, house D67 and Hanoi flag tower. These relics are surrounded by 4 streets: Phan Dinh Phung Street in the north, Dien Bien Phu Street in the south, Nguyen Tri Phuong Street in the east and Hoang Dieu Street in the west. [Source: Vietnamtourism. com, Vietnam National Administration of Tourism]
In 1009, Ly Cong Uan was enthroned, founded Ly Dynasty. In July, 1010, the king promulgated Chieu Doi Do (the royal decree) to change the capital city from Hoa Lu (Ninh Binh) to Dai La Citadel. After transferring the capital city, Ly Cong Uan had Citadel of Thang Long built and the citadel construction was finished in early 1011. The ancient Citadel of Thang Long was encircled by three incorporated forts. The outer fort was Kinh Thanh (Imperial City), where the general public lived. Surrounded by the Hong, To Lich and Kim Nguu rivers, Kinh Thanh acted as a dyke system for the capital city. The second fort (the middle ring) was Hoang Thanh (Imperial Citadel), where the royal court, offices and residence of mandarins were located. The smallest and most inner enclosure was Tu Cam Thanh (Forbidden City) where the king, queens and concubines lived in seclusion.
The Citadel of Thang Long was repaired and had many new works in Tran Dynasty and expanded in Le So Dynasty. From 1516 to 1788 in dynasties of Mac and Le Trung Hung, the Citadel of Thang Long was destroyed many times. In early 1789, King Quang Trung transferred the capital city to Phu Xuan, the Citadel of Thang Long only acted as Bac Thanh (the northern defensive fortification). In Nguyen Dynasty, the remainders of the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long were transferred to Phu Xuan for building new citadel.
Only Kinh Thien Palace and Hau Lau were retained to be accommodations for Kings Nguyen during their business trips to the Bac Thanh. In 1805, King Gia Long ordered the demolition of walls surrounding the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long and requested the building of a new, smaller citadel called Hanoi Citadel with architectural style of Vauban (France). In 1831, King Minh Mang changed name of the Citadel of Thang Long to Hanoi Province in a big administrative reform. When French colonists occupied all Indochina, they chose Hanoi as the capital of French Indochina Union and the Hanoi Citadel was destroyed to build military camp for French colonists. Since the Vietnamese army took the control of the capital city in 1954, the Hanoi Citadel has become the headquarters of the Ministry of Defense. The first value of the central sector of Imperial Citadel of Thang Long – Hanoi shows that it is nearly a book displaying over 10 century- history of Thang Long – Hanoi from Dai La Citadel in Pre-Thang Long period to nowadays.
History has revealed that Imperial Citadel of Thang Long changed a lot but its centre, especially Forbidden City, remained nearly unchanged. As architectural structures inside the Imperial Citadel were rebuilt and upgraded several times, this explained for the findings of layers of architectural vestiges and artefacts at archaeological site at 18 Hoang Dieu. These vestiges reflect clearly relation between urban project and architectural space as well as succession of dynasties in building the Citadel of Thang Long. This is the unique and prominent value of the central sector of Imperial Citadel of Thang Long – Hanoi. Here, archaeologists excavated a great deal of porcelain and ceramic wares used in the Imperial Citadel through various stages of development. The findings paved the way for researchers to study ceramics made in Thang Long and ceramic wares used in the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long through different dynasties. It is also concrete evidence about high development level of economy and culture. In addition, porcelains and bronze coins of China, Japan, Western Asia… found here proved that Thang Long was center of cultural exchange among countries in area and received quintessence values of humanity.
Layout and Remains of the Citadel
The ancient Thang Long citadel was encircled by three incorporated forts. The smallest and most inner enclosure was Tu Cam Thanh (Forbidden City) where the king, queens and concubines lived in seclusion. The area was called by different names by different dynasties, including Cung Thanh (under the Ly dynasty), Long Phuong Thanh (under the Tran dynasty) and Cam Thanh (under the Le dynasty). Tu Cam Thanh was entered by a single gate called Doan Mon (the main gate). The second fort (the middle ring) was Hoang Thanh (imperial citadel), where the royal court, offices and residence of mandarins were located. Under the Ly, Tran and Le dynasties, Hoang Thanh was entered by four entrances, entailing Tuong Phu to the east, Quang Phuc to the west, Dai Hung to the south and Dieu Duc to the north. Under the Nguyen dynasty, the capital city was transferred to Hue in the central region. [Source: Vietnamtourism. com, Vietnam National Administration of Tourism]
King Gia Long then ordered the demolition of walls surrounding the ancient Thang Long citadel reasoning that it only acted as Tran Bac Thanh (the northern defensive fortification) and requested the building of a new, smaller citadel called Hanoi citadel. Hoang Thanh had five entrances - the eastern, western, northern, south-western and north-eastern. At present, only the northern gate (Bac Mon) remains at Phan Dinh Phung street. The outer fort was Kinh Thanh (imperial city), where the general public lived. Surrounded by the Hong, To Lich and Kim Nguu rivers, Kinh Thanh acted as a dyke system for the capital city. Under the Le dynasty, Thang Long citadel was entered by 16 gates, which was reduced to 12 under the Nguyen dynasty. In early 20th century, there were only five entrances, including Cho Dua, Dong Mac, Cau Den, Cau Giay and Quan Chuong. At present, there remains only Quan Chuong gate (formerly called Dong Ha Mon, meaning a river gate to the east).
Doan Mon was the only gate to Tu Cam Thanh. It overlooks south - the most important direction in traditional architectural works, especially ancient structures, according to the Vietnamese people. Under the Nguyen dynasty, Doan Mon was upgraded to have two more side entrances. In 1998, the Ministry of Defence handed over the Doan Mon relic, which covers a total land area of 3,681.5 square meters, to the Hanoi People's Committee. The relic site has been open to the public since October, 2001.
Bac Mon remains the only entrance to Hanoi Citadel under the Nguyen dynasty. It lies on Phan Dinh Phung street. Embedded in the outer wall of Bac Mon is a stone board carved with the date April, 25, 1882, and marks of two cannon balls fired by the French troops during their distance attack targeted the citadel from the Hong (Red) river. Two wooden doors of Bac Mon has already been restored with each measuring 12 square meters in size. The doors weigh about 16 tones and slide on copper wheels weighed approximately 80 kilograms. Above the citadel gate sits a shrine dedicated to Governor Nguyen Tri Phuong and his successor Hoang Dieu, who led Hanoians to defeat the French colonialists' attacks twice.
Archaeological site at 18 Hoang Dieu is about 87 meters from Kinh Thien palace. It houses vestiges of palaces of the Ly, Tran and Le dynasties. The lowest layer of the site was found a part of the eastern area of Dai La citadel under Cao Bien’s reign of the Duong dynasty. The higher layers were reserved for palaces of the Ly and Tran dynasties and a part of the center of the eastern palace of the Ly dynasty. The top layer revealed a part of the center of Hanoi Citadel in the 19th century. History revealed that Thang Long imperial citadel changed a lot but its centre, especially Tu Cam Thanh, remained nearly unchanged. As architectural structures inside the imperial citadel have been rebuilt and upgraded several times, this explained for the findings of layers of architectural vestiges and artefacts at the archaeological site at 18 Hoang Dieu. Here, archaeologists dug out many important architectural vestiges and a great deal of porcelain and ceramic wares used in the imperial citadel through various stages of development. The findings paved the way for researchers to study ceramics made in Thang Long in general and ceramic wares used in Thang Long imperial citadel through different dynasties.
Buildings of the Citadel
Stone dragons in Kinh Thien palace are the only vestige of Kinh Thien palace. Four stone dragons that divided the staircase leading to Kinh Thien palace into three were carved in mid 15th century. The dragons are typical of the sculpture in the Le So dynasty. Made from green stone, the dragons all have a rising head with round bulging eyes, long branched antlers, manes flowing backward, and a half-open mouth holding in a gem. The body of the dragons is serpentine with tail getting smaller and back having cloud-shaped scales. Stone dragons in Kinh Thien palace partly reflect how giant the palace was. [Source: Vietnamtourism. com, Vietnam National Administration of Tourism]
Dragon House was built on the site of Kinh Thien palace by the French colonialists in 1886. Kinh Thien palace was in the heart of Thang Long imperial citadel. It was located on Long Do (the naval of the dragon) mountain, which was regarded as the vital point of the ancient Thang Long citadel. In 1010 after settling in Thang Long capital city, King Ly Thai To ordered the building of a central chamber for the capital city on top of Long Do mountain and called it Can Nguyen palace, where the most important royal rituals were held. In 1029, King Ly Thai Tong commanded his men to construct a central chamber called Thien An on the site of Can Nguyen palace. Thien An palace was then renamed Kinh Thien palace under the Le dynasty. When the capital city was moved to Hue in the central region under the Nguyen dynasty, Kinh Thien palace became the out-of-town palace for the kings and mandarins of the Nguyen when they visited the north. In 1886, the French colonialists demolished the out-of-town Kinh Thien palace and built the two-storey seven-room dragon house which acted as a command office of the French artillery. Since the Vietnamese army took the control of the capital city in 1954, the dragon house has become the headquarters of the Vietnam People's Army.
Hau Lau (also called Tinh Bac pavilion) was located behind the out-of-town Kinh Thien palace and it currently lies on Hoang Dieu Street. Hau Lau stood north to safeguard peace for the Kinh Thien palace in accordance with the principle of Feng Shui so it acquired the name Tinh Bac Lau or Hau Lau (a pavilion in the back). It was also called the pavilion of princess given it provided accommodations for concubines accompanying King Nguyen during his business trips to the north. Hau Lau was destroyed in 1870 and it was then rebuilt into a military camp for the French troops. At present, Hau Lau acts as a showcase room exhibiting artefacts excavated from the surrounding area in October 1998, and photos portraying Hanoi through different historical stages.
Flag Tower of Hanoi (also called Hanoi platform) is located at Dien Bien Phu street. The tower structure was built together with Hanoi Citadel under the Nguyen dynasty (began in early 1805 and completed in 1812). The flag tower is composed of three tiers and a pyramid-shaped tower with the exterior walls imbedded in brick. The tower has a spiral staircase leading to the octagonal top inside it where a flag is hoisted. After the city was liberated on October 10, 1954, the national flag of Vietnam is on top of the tower to welcome visitors.
Main Gate of the Citadel
Doan Mon (Main Gate) of The Citadel (Hoang Dieu Street, Ba Dinh District) is the main entrance to the Forbidden City belonging to the Central sector of Imperial Citadel of Thang Long - Hanoi. It is directed toward the south because it's the most important direction for ancient structures of Vietnamese. The gate was built in the Le Dynasty (15th century) with restorations carried out during the Nguyen Dynasty (19th century). Doan Mon, together with an area behind it formerly known as Long Tri (Dragon Courtyard), played a very important role in the ceremonies of the Royal Citadel such as the ceremony for national loyalty Oath (1128); Nhan Vuong Festival, Quang Chieu Colored Lantern Festival (1136); the parade of imperial guards (1351) and ceremonies for the mandarin examinations (1457, 1466, 1481, 1496). was regarded as the vital point of the ancient Thang Long citadel. In 1010 after settling in Thang Long capital city, King Ly Thai To ordered the building of a central chamber for the capital city on top of Long Do mountain and called it
When Hanoi Citadel was destroyed by French colonialists in late 19th century, Doan Mon has been one of some structures which has still existed. Doan Mon constructed of stone and brick has three floors. The first floor includes 5 doors, of which the central door reserved for the Emperor is the largest one with four meters in height and 2.7 meters in width. A stone tablet with the words Doan Mon in Chinese characters is fixed above the central door. There are two smaller doors (3.8 meters in height and 2.5 meters in width) in the each side of the central door reserved for the mandarins and members of the royal family. In addition, there are also two secondary gates in the both side of the main entrance.
The second floor is surrounded by a balustrade and reached by two flights of stairs. Its doors are opening to the east, west, south and north and decorated with hexagons, crosses, lozenges and the Chinese symbol for longevity. The third floor features a gazebo-style pavilion with two-layer roof. The first layer of roof is tiled and ornamented with dragons at the up-turned corners. The upper layer of roof, also tiled, features decorative foliage at the up-turned corners and dragon heads at each end of the ridge line. The two layers of roof are separated by short timber walls. Dragon faces adorn the gables.
After the Viet Nam military liberated the capital in 1954, Hanoi Citadel including Doan Mon has become head office of Ministry of National Defence. In 1998, Ministry of National Defence handed Doan Mon over to Hanoi Peoples Committee with total area of 3,970 meters. Doan Mon has been opened for visitors since October, 2011.
Kinh Thien Palace of The Citadel
Kinh Thien Palace of The Citadel (Ba Dinh District, in Central Sector of Imperial Citadel of Thang Long) was the center of Imperial Citadel of Thang Long in Le Dynasty and Hanoi Citadel in Nguyen Dynasty. The area includes two large stone dragons that extend up nine stairs left over from the 15th century during the Le Dynasty - all that remains of the shrine that was once part of the imperial forbidden city that was off-limits to everyone but royalty. It was rebuilt three times during different dynasties. When the French invaded Vietnam in the late 19th century, they destroyed everything but the stairs and gate, and constructed a two-story building to house their artillery headquarters. That, in turn, was taken over by the North Vietnamese after they defeated the French colonialists in 1954. was regarded as the vital point of the ancient Thang Long citadel. In 1010 after settling in Thang Long capital city, King Ly Thai To ordered the building of a central chamber for the capital city on top of Long Do mountain and called it
In 1010, King Ly Thai To promulgated Chieu Doi Do (the royal decree) to change the capital from Hoa Lu (Ninh Binh Province) to Dai La Citadel. After transferring the capital, the king had Citadel of Thang Long built, of which the main palace of Can Nguyen was in the center location, atop Long Do Mountain (Dragon’s navel). According to phong thuy (feng shui) principles and architectural practice, Long Do Mountain is a place of immense ritual power. In 1029, King Ly Thai Tong had Thien An Palace built on the foundation of Can Nguyen Palace. In 1428, King Le Thai To had Kinh Thien Palace built on the foundation of Thien An Palace and Kinh Thien Palace was considered as ?one of the masterpieces of An Nam architecture?. In Nguyen Dynasty, when the capital was transferred to Hue, Kinh Thien Palace only acted as accommodation for Nguyen Kings during their trips to the North. In 1886, the French colonists destroyed Kinh Thien Palace, except two sets of stone dragon steps and had a house built on the foundation of the palace including 2 floors with 7 rooms. The house was used as French headquarters of artillery and called Dragon House because there are sets of stone dragon steps at the front and the back of the house. When Hanoi was liberated in 1954, Dragon House became general headquarters of Vietnamese People's Army. It is now a relic of revolution and history, opened frequently for visitors.
Two sets of stone dragon steps in Kinh Thien Palace are the typical heritage of architecture and arts for Hau Le Dynasty. The set of dragon steps at the front built in 1467 includes nine stone steps, each step is 20 centimeters high, 40 centimeters wide, 13.6 meters long. The steps are divided into three flights separated by two stone dragons. The center flight was reserved for king, while two flanking ones were for mandarins. The two dragons are beautifully sculpted. Their heads - at the first step - are very large, their body are tapering as they follow the ascent of the steps until they form a sword shape at the top. Each dragon has five claws, symbolizing royal power. There are two banisters at two sides of the set of dragon steps made of monoliths with length of 5.3 meters, width of 36 - 39 centimeters. Many vignettes are carved in these banisters.
The second set of dragon steps at the back constructed at the 17th-18th centuries includes seven steps. Its scale is smaller than the set of steps at the front. There is only one flight created by two dragons at two sides of the set of dragon steps. Each dragon is 3.4 meters long with meticulous details including mouth holding a stone ‘pearl’, round nose, high forehead, branched horn, feet with five claws. Four dragons in Kinh Thien Palace are also made of green stone and reflect partly monumental scale of former Kinh Thien Palace.
Ho Chi Minh's Bunker and D67 Underground Command Center
Ho Chi Minh's Bunker and D67 Underground Command Center (within the area of Kinh Thien Palace in Hanoi’s Citadel) was used by North Vietnam’s top leaders in the Vietnam War. Margie Mason of Associated Press wrote: "Behind thick concrete walls and iron doors, Ho Chi Minh and other top North Vietnamese leaders took cover in secret underground tunnels during U.S. bombing raids and plotted key military strategies that led to America's defeat in the Vietnam War... The bunker used by Ho, his military leader, Gen. Vo Nguyen Giap, and others is in the same building where the 1968 Tet offensive and the fall of Saigon in 1975 were planned from about 30 feet below the surface. [Source: By Margie Mason, Associated Press, October 28, 2004 \\]
"The communist military, with help from the Soviets, built its headquarters there in 1967. It housed an elaborate tunnel system, including the underground bunker, which has narrow submarine-style corridors and vaulted metal doors leading into two larger rooms. During U.S. bombing raids, Politburo members and top military brass took cover there and held meetings. Vietnam's Defense Ministry occupied the property until recently, relocating to another site and turning part of the area over to the city of Hanoi. Only a small underground section of the bunker was opened to the public, with most of the tunnels remaining closed and classified. \\
"No one knows how long (the tunnels are)," said professor Le Van Lan, a historian with in-depth knowledge of the site. "It's a secret. There's many legends that they go to Ho Chi Minh's mausoleum." An army blanket and a simple wooden bed where Giap, now 93, sometimes napped is also on display in his old office along with antique phones used to communicate with his staff and other officials. "It's a very simple room, but from that room, the Vietnamese military strategists issued big decisions for the liberation and unification of the country,'' said Truong Khanh Hao, 71, a veteran who fought the French and the Americans. "It's a pride for all Vietnamese that we have these relics.'' \\
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.
Last updated August 2020