Hue Forbidden City in Vietnam: mysteries of life

Hue Forbidden City in Vietnam was built in the 3rd year of the reign of King Gia Long (1804), which was initially called the Cung Thanh or the Fortified Palace. The successor’s kings continued to add other buildings there. During the third year of King Minh Mang (1822), it was renamed the Hue Forbidden City.

Hue Forbidden City in Vietnam

Hue Forbidden City – General presentation:

The entire Hue Forbidden City is a rectangle of 324m * 290m with the perimeter of 1.229m. Its wall of over 3 meters high, almost 1 meter thick built entirely in brick to separate completely from the outside world. Inside the Hue Forbidden City, there were 50 buildings with different functions.

The presentation of the architecture of the Hue Forbidden City is strictly symmetrical. The works follow strictly the central axis beginning from Noon Gate or South Gate which is the direction also of the citadel. The figures 9 and 5 were often used in architecture because these are the figures of the life of 'Celestial Sons' or kings according to eastern cosmology.

The architecture of the Hue Forbidden City symbolizes the mono power of the monarchy. The Forbidden City is a microcosm of the royal family with places including: housing, work, study, rest, recreational facilities, food ... The Can Thanh Palace, the place of residence of the kings was the center of this universe.

Hue Forbidden City has seven gates: Dai Cung in the south and Khanh Hung and Dong An in the east, Tay An and Gia Tuong in the west, Tuong An and Phung Nghi in the north. Dai Cung door is the main entrance which was built in the 14th year of King Ming Mang’ reign with 5 compartments and 3 consecutive gates.

Hue Forbidden City in Vietnam

Hue Forbidden City was the residence of kings and their families so this was strictly protected. Not only civilians, even the high officials had no right to enter without special orders. This is a main reason that the life inside the Hue Forbidden City is still an unknown mystery until today.

''Bring the child to the Interior'' is the saying of the parents to say that their daughters were recruited to Hue Forbidden City:

While talking about the life in the Hue Forbidden City, we must mention all the waitresses, concubines ... Of course, in the City, there were many others such as cookers, guards, eunuchs ... but they had the chance to get out of the wall of 3 m high. Above all, women and concubines have been the most affected. Since they were recruited, they had to spend their lives in the Forbidden City.

The Hue Forbidden City’s wall of 3m high was already complete isolation with the world outside. However, the eunuchs, guards, cookers ... had the chance to work out when required. Only concubines, from their recruitment, should complete their life in the Forbidden City.

In addition, the royal court has also set many strict rules for those girls who were recruited to Hue Forbidden City. These rules were the Iron Curtain which buried their youth.

In the book "Life in the Hue Forbidden City," Ton That Binh wrote: "Since the process of recruitment or offers, the concubines were not allowed to meet their relatives, even their parents. There were also exceptions where the king allowed them to meet their mothers but they spoke through a veil without seeing each other while their fathers were standing in the courtyard. So in Hue, there was a saying "bring the child to Interior" means: the loss of children.

Hue Forbidden City in Vietnam

Apart from the suffering of the interior life "Fish in the pot, bird in cage," concubines in the Hue Forbidden City had to refrain from: They did not have the right to say the words evoking bad, sinister or vulgar things like that: blind, lame, lepers, bloods ...which were to be replaced by other words. All the words concerning the king's life had to be different from others ... and there were still countless taboos.

It was completely forbidden to say the words that were the names of the kings, queens and the royal family. The violators were punished heavily. People living in the Hue Forbidden City had to learn the rules by heart.

The concubines were not serving the king only in sexual life but also assumed other services. According to the "Empire of Annam" of Ch Gosselin: When King Tu Duc is still alive, every day, there were 43 women taking the services in his palace within the Hue Forbidden City, 30 women were bodyguards and 13 other women who were assuming things such as:  combing hair, dress and prepare clothing, tobacco, ink for the king to sign the documents submitted by the mandarins ... In the evening, when King was in bed, they had to lie around the '' Long San or Royal Bed to protect him as a bodyguard.

According to “The Annamites" of F.Baille, the concubines of King Dong Khanh had to assume the services as follows: "Every day, a group of women were selected from all the concubines in the Hue Forbidden City to serve the King. 30 concubines were involved in the protection of his palace in the Forbidden City. While 5 others were next to him for different services: The makeup, change clothes, file the nails longer than his fingers, perfume, make him wear scarves ... They had to observe if all was perfect for the king. These five concubines were also responsible for serving the meals ... ''

All women always want family happiness. However, among the dozens, the hundreds of concubines, only a few people were recognized by the king. The majority of concubines were wasting their youth. Ton That Binh, a former mandarin in the Hue Forbidden City wrote: "The ultimate tragedy of life of these concubines in the Hue Forbidden City was that they served only a single man who was the King. They had no more chance to meet another man. Although when they were seriously ill, the doctor was not allowed to touch either hand, even the skin of concubines. In this case, an eunuch and supervisor woman watched the doctor taking the pulse with two fingers surrounded by silk to avoid touching the skin of patients. The doctor did not have the right to look or even to ask question about their disease…

All these rules made treatment difficult. Therefore, it was difficult to know exactly the state of the sick. So, compared to the people in general, the life of these concubines was very short in the Hue Forbidden City.