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Hue in the ancient time

The Dawn of Hue dated back many thousand yeas, according to archaeological accounts. In those early days the sea came inland covering much of the present-day Hue plain and driving settlers back along the foots of the mountains. Hunting and plant-food picking were perhaps their means of existence. Difficult living conditions kept the population low, and different tribal groups often dwelled closely to one another.

About 5000 B.C., the sea retreated allowing the settlers to relocate from mountains to plains. Living environments were getting better, food not hard to find, and fish was caught to supplement wild animal meat and plant food. Stone-tool making skills were improved, although they still have to batter, chip and peck stones into shape. Earthenware could be hand-shaped or wheel-shaped before being fired in kilns. However, no trace of rice farming has been discovered.

Who were Hue ancestors is still a mystery, as no conclusion could be drawn upon relics found in excavations. History only tells us that before being annexed to Vietnam territory, Hue belonged to the Champa Kingdom of the Champ nation. Since most of the archaeological discoveries lied between the 4th and 14th centuries, the discovered evidence could belong to either the northern Vietnamese moving south or the local tribes wiped out later by the Champ people.

When the Au Lac Kingdom fell to the northern Chinese feudalism in the 2nd century B.C. the land south of the Hoanh Son range (middle of today Vietnam) was still outside China's hand. By the beginning of the era, Hue had been an ownerless land. Over the years Hue became the refugee of miserable Au Lac dwellers fleeing their birthplace to settle in a new land along side local Hue tribespeople.

It did not take long, however, for the Chinese emperors to discover Hue and annex the land to China. So a new district of the Chinese empire came into existence, the Nhat Nam district, containing 5 communes: Tay Quyen, Ti Anh, Chu Ngo, Lo Dung and Tuong Lam.

 

The beginning of the Champa Kingdom

After the Trung sisters of Dai Viet were defeated under the hand of the Han emperor, the occupying Han lords imposed stricter policies for the purpose of exploiting the dominated land. Not willing to comply with the occupiers' rules the Nhat Nam people frequently stood up for their rights, particularly in Tuong Lam district where the Cham settled.

Continuous resistances over the year led to a military uprising headed by Khu Lien in 192. He announced the birth of a new country, Lam Ap, declaring himself the King. Hue was the territory of Lam Ap, which was also known as Champa.

In the middle of the 4th century, Lam Ap & Panran, a smaller country nearby, jointly formed a greater kingdom that represented a glorious culture, the signs of which can be seen in many monoliths today.

In 349, king Pham Van used forces to take the Nhat Nam district, establishing the Hoanh Son range as the northern border of the country. The newly-conquered land was divided into 5 sub-districts: Bo Chinh, Dia Li, Ma Linh, O, Li (or Ri) where the Viet and Champa people could co-settle.

Early in the 9th century, Dai Viet gained independence and the situation changed. Champa was no longer in conflict with the occupying Chinese Han forces: the country stayed in an equal term with Dai Viet, its northern neighbouring country.

 

The rise and fall of the Champa Kingdom

After becoming King of Dai Viet in 980, Le Hoan sent his envoy to Champa to establish a relationship with the country, possibly a big-over-small one. King of Champa refused to comply, detaining the ambassador. Le Hoan got angry and led the army himself to sack Champa's capital, executed King of Champa, captured slavers, took off valuables and left the country. Le Hoan's attack had the subsequent Kings of Champa offer treasures to Dai Viet annually.

The Champa kingdom, however, did not always obey Dai Viet. They either stopped offering treasures or sailed north to sack two provinces Nghe An and Thanh Hoa of Dai Viet. During the Ly dynasty, Ly Thuong Kiet, the commander-in-chief of the Dai Viet army, sailed south, came ashore Thi Nai (Quy Nhon today), and attacked the capital Vijaya of Champa. King Che Cu of Champa had to give up three provinces Bo Chinh, Dia Ly and Ma Linh (belonging to the present-day Quang Nam) to secure his safety.

During the war against the Mongolian army, Dai Viet and Champa co-defended to defeat the enemy. After the war, King Che Mong of Champa married the princess Huyen Tran of Dai Viet. In return, Champa gave away two provinces O and Ly (belonging to the present-day Hue) to Dai Viet. As a result of this marriage Hue became a territory of Dai Viet.


Traditional Kate festival originated in Champa

In 1558, during the North-South conflict between Lords Trinh and Nguyen, Lord Nguyen Hoang presided over Thuan Hoa. He attacked Champa in 1611, took over land and formed the Phu Yen province. From 1636 to 1687, headquarters of the Nguyen lords were based in Phu Xuan, an inner area of today Hue. Indeed, Hue's old name Phu Xuan was still used until the French conquered Hue in 1885.

In 1653, King Ba Tham of Champa moved to unsettle Phu Yen, a Nguyen lord counter-attacked Champa and took the Khanh Hoa province. In 1693, King of Champa retreated, lord Nguyen Phuc Chu seized the opportunity and led his army to conquer Champa. Since then the Champa kingdom has been eliminated and become a territory of Vietnam.

 

Hue during the Tay Son and Nguyen dynasties

Early in the 15th century, Thuan Hoa had merely 5 662 working male farmers and 7 000 MAU of rice field (1 MAU=3600 sq metres). By 1776 the population of working men had increased to 126.857, rice field increasing to 265.507 MAU. By the 18th century Hue had become the political and economic of the Southern part of Vietnam, during the North-South confict of Trinh and Nguyen.

In 1783 the Tay Son dynasty defeated lord Nguyen in the Southern part of Vietnam. Five years later, in 1788, after defeating Trinh lord in the north and before victory over the Chinese Thanh emperor, Nguyen Hue crowned himself as King of Vietnam on the mountain Ngu Binh and chose Hue as the capital. The country became unified and extended the first time after two hundred years of North-South (Trinh-Nguyen) conflict. In 1801, Nguyen Anh replaced the Tay Son dynasty, declared himself king Gia Long, and named Hue as the capital of Vietnam.


Imperial Citadel

After coming to the thrown king Gia Long planned to build the Royal citadel Hue, to reflect the image and position of the country. In the beginning of 1805, king Gia Long himself explored the land along the Huong river, from Kim Long commune to Thanh Ha port. Gia Long ordered that the design of the Hue citadel should follow the Vauban pattern. Skilled architects taking part in the one-in-a-life-time project had to re-group and rearrange the ground, adjust or utilize the flow of the two rivers Kim Long and Bach Yen, on the upper right of the Huong river in order to make room for a collection of various inner citadels and lakes.

King Gia Long started to build the Hue citadel in the middle of 1805, with more than 100.000 solders and labours taking part. Initially the citadel had the earthen wall, boarded up by wood planks from outside. In 1818, the West and South sides were replaced by bricks. The brick walls for the East and North were completed in 1822. The citadel was finally completed in 1838, with many upgrades the subsequent years.


Tom of King Khai Dinh

The Hue Citadel was square in shape, about 10 km long, 6 m high, 21 m thick and had 10 entrances. On the top of the surrounding walls, there were 24 bastions built for defensive purposes. The Imperial City is located in the centre of the Royal Citadel where the highest offices of Viet Nam's feudalism and sanctums were located. Access to the Imperial City can be gained through four entrance gates. Noon Gate is only used for the King. Royal Palace consists of more 100 beautiful constructional works dividing the whole palace into many sectors. The Forbidden Citadel was reserved for the emperor and his family, and was located inside the Imperial City, behind the Throne Palace.

 

Hue in resistance against the French and American

In 1833, the French attacked Hue so ferociously that the Emperor Hiep Hoa allowed the city to become a French protectorate. Later, in 1885, the French reasserted their sovereignty in the city, burning the Royal Library and carrying off many objects of value and gold and silver decorations.

With the death of Emperor Tu Duc in 1883, a succession of Emperors were quickly elevated and just as quickly deposed. The teenage Emperor Ham Nghi left the imperial palace of Hue in 1885 and started the Can Vuong or "Save the King" movement. Ham Nghi asked the people to rally to him and resist the French. He was captured in 1888 and exiled to French Algeria. A former mandarin Phan Dinh Phung continued the Can Vuong movement until his death in 1895.

In 1934 traders in the well-known Dong Ba market brought the trading area to a standstill, in protest against the French occupying force. Towards the end of 1935, workers of the printing factory Tieng Dan staged a demonstration demanding for pay rise and reduced working hours. On the 16th of September 1938 all members of parliament for the Central of Vietnam voted against the draft of the Tax Bill on citizens and lands.

On the 15th August 1945, Japan surrendered the Allies and Tran Trong Kim's government organized a big meeting to welcome Japan returning the power over the South of Vietnam to the Hue regime. The Viet Minh turned the meeting into a mass protest again the occupying Japanese forces.

In the afternoon of 21st August, the revolution defence unit of Phu Binh district took control of Mang Ca outpost. The night of 22nd August 1945, under the pressure from the revolution force led by Viet Minh, Bao Dai had no option but abdicated. Afternoon of 30th August 1945 saw the historic moment in Vietnam history, in which Bao Dai formally abdicated and transferred the power to the representatives of the Vietnam provisional government headed by Tran Huy Lieu, Nguyen Luong Bang and Cu Huy Can.

During the first Indochina war, Hue people under the leadership of Viet Minh have caused the occupying French force numerous troubles. In December of 1948, the French naval, infantry and air force attacked the resisting area of Hoa My in the hope of destabilizing the base of Viet Minh and destroying their military capacity. The French were defeated in the battle. In 1949 the Viet Minh army ambushed a French train near the foot of the Hai Van hill, killing more than 300 French soldiers. On 18 of March 1949, Viet Minh destroyed the Van Trinh outpost, killing two French platoons. A few days later, the Pho Lai outpost, considered by the French as immovable, was also taken by Viet Minh. The biggest shock for the French was their defeat in Thanh Huong - My Xuyen, in which more than 1500 French troops were killed, 100 made prisoners of war in the spate of only 3 days.

When America replaced France to begin the Vietnam war (1954-1975), Hue continued to resist American force and their Southern Vietnam ally. During the night of 18th October 1960, 15 000 people of the Paco, Katu, Van Kieu and Balu ethnic minorities staged a military uprising, cornering and arresting many heads of American-backed local governments. As Ngo Dinh Diem was becoming unpopular, on 30th May 1963 many thousand pupils, students, lectures and Buddish monks took to the street to begin a 45-hour hunger strike. 16th of August 1963 saw patriarch Thich Tieu Dieu burnt himself at To Dam temple to protest against Ngo Dinh Diem.

One of Hue's historic moments during the Vietnam war was the Tet Offensive in 1968. On 31st January 1968, the NVA (North Vietnamese Army) artilleries started to bombard the main military targets in Hue. The Mang Ca area was attacked from the North. Shortly afterward the NVA took control of the Tay Loc airport and the Dong Ba market. In the South, the NVA destroyed the headquarter of the Special Police Force, the CIA office and the Thuan Hoa - Huong Giang hotel both came under attack. Later the NVA also took control of Hue radio.

However, the ferocious counter-attack of the US and ARVN (Army of Republic of Vietnam) had the NVA retreat, as the US and ARVN outnumbered them. From a military point of view, Tet was a defeat for the NVA, but it turned out to be a political and psychological victory. The US military's assessment of the war was questioned and the "end of tunnel" seemed very far off.

On the 11th of March 1972, the NVA again attacked the US and ARVN in Hue and the province of Thua Thien, the area considered by the NVA to be strategically important in the whole development of the war. The NVA finally took control of Hue on the 26th of March 1975, nearly 200 years after king Quang Trung unified Vietnam for the first time in 1788.

Today Hue is the provincial capital of Thua Thien. As the embodiment of the ancient Champa kingdom and Vietnam's capital under the emperors of Nguyen dynasty from 1802 to 1945, Hue has been one of Vietnam's cultural, religious and educational centers. Holding many elegant architectural relics of the past, Hue is considered to be the most beautiful city in Viet Nam. In 1993, the city has been listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.