A gray day and drizzling rain provided the flat light needed to illuminate the rich, beautifully saturated colors in this arched doorway. The Hue Citadel was the official seat of government and the home of Vietnam’s Nguyen dynasty emperors (1802-1945). It is a huge, sprawling walled area, a wonderful place to explore in any kind of weather.
Thái Bình Lâu (太平樓) is located in the Imperial Citadel in Hue. The building was commissioned by the Nguyen dynasty emperor Khai Dinh and was completed in 1921. It was intended to be a quiet retreat where the emperor could read and rest. The Vietnamese name translates as pacific or peaceful; Thái Bình Dương in Vietnamese is the term for the Pacific Ocean. The Chinese characters 太平 over the door on the building front also mean pacific or peaceful, and 太平洋 is the term for Pacific Ocean in Chinese.
This beautifully carved wooden doorway is the entrance to the residence of the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Hue. The image shows just a section of the double doors of the house inside the residential compound. I saw the door from the street, the gate was open, and I wondered inside to take a photo, having no idea at the time what the building was. A groundskeeper appeared quickly to inform me where I was. He was very friendly, we spoke for a moment, I took several photos and left. The door is a magnificent piece of woodworking.
Curious, I looked around online. The Archdiocese of Hue includes the city of Hue and surrounding countryside. It serves around 67,000 Catholics, a little over 3% of the local population. I was surprised to learn that only some 7% of Vietnamese are Catholic, I had thought that figure was somewhere between 10% and 15%.
The current archbishop, Joseph Nguyễn Chí Linh, took his position in Hue in 2016. Born in the north of the country, as a boy he fled with his family from communist controlled northern Vietnam to southern Vietnam in the 1950s after French colonial forces were defeated by the Viet Minh and the country was divided. He received his training in Vietnam and later earned a doctorate of philosophy from the Catholic University of Paris. Before moving to Hue, he was appointed bishop of Thanh Hoa, the province of his birth, by Pope John Paul II. He is now 73 years old. Alas, he did not invite me in for coffee when I meandered into his front yard.
Called Đông Khuyết Đài in Vietnamese, this is the eastern gateway of the Imperial Citadel, the Nguyen dynasty’s imperial capital and residence in Hue.
A few tree and shrub species shed their leaves in what passes for winter in central Vietnam. This photo was shot in December of 2018, and I like how the barren trees in the foreground set off the Stele Pavilion in the center of the image. Another shot of the stele close up appears in my previous post. This structure is one of the key buildings in the Tu Duc Mausoleum area. There is a massive stone tablet inside, on which the emperor’s biography is written. Although Tu Duc had many wives, he was also childless; a case of smallpox left him impotent. In the event, the biography inscribed on the stele was written by Tu Duc himself and this was considered a bad omen for the dynasty. After Tu Duc’s death in 1883, the Nguyen throne passed to an adopted son.
The season is right, but this photo of a shrine within the mausoleum’s extensive grounds was actually taken four years ago in 2018 – wow, time flies. The compound where the Nguyen dynasty emperor Tu Duc (1848-1883) was laid to rest is one of several imperial mausoleums surrounding Hue, the only one I have visited to date. I took a series of photos that have been sitting in a file directory ever since. Taking a look now.
Hue was the capital city of the Nguyen dynasty, Vietnam’s final dynasty that came to an end in 1945 when Emperor Bao Dai abdicated. The city is a fascinating place featuring cultural, historical and religious sites, great food, an incomprehensible local dialect, and photo opportunities at every turn. More visits to Hue are in order.
I gave in to the inevitable recently and have spent the last couple of weeks uploading images to cloud storage. Around 39,000 image files of one kind or another, almost 700GB worth of photos. In the process I started fooling around with old photos. I keep telling myself I am going to add some galleries to this website. And maybe I will one of these days. In the meantime, this is an image was taken on the grounds of the Imperial City of Vietnam’s final dynasty that made Hue its capital from 1804 to the middle of the 20th century. It’s from a trip to Hue towards the end of 2016. Definitely a photoshopped image – “enhanced” sky, a lot of saturation, and two filters, one to bring out the greens in the foliage, a second adding soft focus and a bit of diffusion – going after the dreamlike feeling that comes with walking around this magnificent but rundown monument to the past.