Thang Long Imperial Citadel: A world heritage site in Hanoi (P1) (15:44 31/05/2019)

HNP - Thang Long Imperial Citadel, Hanoi’s world heritage site, is a massive architectural works built through many periods of history under different reigns and became one the most important monuments in the system of relics in Vietnam. Located in 19C Hoang Dieu street, Ba Dinh district, Hanoi, the site consists of eight main visiting areas.

1. Doan Mon (Main Gate)


The monument is situated in the south of Kinh Thien Palace on the same axis with Hanoi Flag Tower. Doan Mon was built horizontally in U-shape and in the style of ancient city wall with five gates symmetrically erected through a “deity axis”, also known as the “righteousness axis” of the Imperial Citadel.

The main architectural part followed watch tower gazebo style with three rolling arches. Rolling arch architecture at the gates not only brought graceful curves, but also had excellent load-bearing structures. Till now, the most modern and spectacular tunnel projects in the world are still using this architecture.

Materials are mostly wooden-hammer bricks, a popular type of bricks under Le Dynasty and rock which were used for building the arch. The distance from the east to west was 47.5 meters; from south to north 13m; the wings were 26.5 meters wide and 6 meters high.

Doan Mon (Main gate)


The biggest middle gate dedicated to the king was 4m high and 2.7 m wide. Both sides had 4 smaller doors which were 2.5 m wide and 3.8 m high dedicated for mandarins and other royal family members when being ordered with or to attend big ceremonies at KinhThienPalace.

The stone plaque carved with two words Doan Mon, mounted above the main door, was 1.5 m long and 0.7 m wide. On the two sides, there were small brick steps leading to the second floor. This floor had an area corresponding to the middle door. Due to being renovated to serve as the basis for the army, the old architecture could not be researched. On the roof of the second floor, a small communal house was built with the style of two-storey and eight roofs. The two ends of the roof ridge were built with two dragons; the two gables were built with tigers; the four corners of the roof formed four crescent blades.

2. Secret war bunker of the General Staff of Vietnam’s People Army


Inside the command bunker

The underground bunker was built in the 1964 – 1965 period, covering an area of 64 meter squares with cement blocks measuring a total of 1,000 cubic meters. The top of the bunker is 1.4m above the land and its walls are 0.4m thick.

This was the main spot where the Vietnamese leadership made key decisions about the conduct of their troops in the war against the US, particularly the Hanoi – Dien Bien Phu air battle.


3. Foundation of Kinh Thien Palace


Kinh Thien Palace

Kinh Thien Palace was built in 1428 under the reign of King Le Thai To on the former foundation of Can Nguyen and Thien An Palaces under Ly – Tran Dynasties.

Under the Nguyen Dynasty, 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 Ha Noi Citadel with architectural style of Vauban (France), serving as the royal resting place for Nguyen kings during their trips to the North.

In 1841, the citadel was renamed as Long Thien, and in 1886, French colonialists destroyed the palace and built a headquarters of artillery. Nowadays, only ruins of two stone dragons carved steps and palace foundation remain.

The Dragon steps in front of the Kinh Thien Palace was built in 1467 under King Le Thanh Tong with length of 13 meters. These 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 5 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.

In the north of Kinh Thien Palace, there was another threshold of 7 steps, smaller than the main threshold in the south. The two sides of the threshold had two stone dragons dating King Le Trung Hung’s time (XVII century – XVIII century); the dragons were 3.4m long with 7 curves; the body had fin and scales; the feet had 5 claws, etc. The two sides of the handrails were decorated with lotus, waves, swords, fire and clouds, etc.

4. D67 Command Bunker


D67 Bunker


The underground bunker was the headquarter of the Politburo and the Central Military Commission during the Vietnam war in the 1967 – 1975 period. The bunker was put into use in 1967 amid the US intensifying its bombardment to the North.

It is a one-storey building with an area of over 600 square meters, about 30m to the back of the Dragon House. The building was made of solid and bulk concrete and steel. The outer wall was 0.60m thick and soundproof while the dividing wall was 0.28m thick. The roof featured three layers. The ceiling was 0.15m thick; a buffer middle layer of sand about 0.7 and 1.15m thick while the upper layer was 0.35m thick. At the center was the meeting room of the Politburo and the Central Military Commission (about 76 square meters). Adjacent to it was a lounge about 37 square meters in area. The small room to the east, which covered 35 square meters, was the work place of General Vo Nguyen Giap while the small room of the same size to the west was the work place of General Van Tien Dung. From Building D67 there were two stairs connecting directly to Bunker D67 (also known as the Central Military Commission Bunker).

Meeting room inside D67 Bunker


5. Hau Lau (Princess Palace)


Hau Lau (Princess Palace)


Hau Lau is about 2.392m2, once known as Tinh Bac Lau (Palace that keeps the North peace), was built after the Later Le dynasty, the whereabouts for living and daily activities of the queen and the princess. Under Nguyen Dynasty, Hau Lau was used as the residence of imperial concubines and followers who accompanied the King to Bac Ha (the North).

At the end of the 19th century, Hau Lau was severely damaged. Later, it was renovated and rebuilt by the French as it is at the present.

The palace was built of bricks; the lower part has rectangular paralleledpiped shape. The lower floor had three levels of roof; the upper floor had two levels of roofs. The roof modeled after Vietnamese traditional architecture of multi-level roof with crescent blades; the entire roof was built with brick and concrete structure but the outer surface was built like tiles.

By Ngoc Lam

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