Monday, November 11, 2013

Tomb of Dong Khanh

Dong Khanh's Tomb is located on the land of Cu Si hamlet, now Thuong Hai village, Thuy Xuan commune, Hue City. After being crowned, Dong Khanh had a temple built beside his father's tomb named Truy Tu to worship him. In February 1888, during the construction, Dong Khanh got sick and died.

Emperor Thanh Thai came to the crown. He had to use Truy Tu temple and renamed it Ngung Hy for the cult of Emperor Dong Khanh. His corpse was buried simply on a hill named "Ho Thuan Son", 30m to the west of Ngung Hy Temple. The whole tomb area was called Tu Lang. 

In 1916, when Khai Dinh, son of Dong Khanh, was crowned, he had the temple renovated and the tomb built for his father. In July 1917, the tomb was accomplished. Ngung Hy temple and its dependent houses, in particular, continued to be repaired and were finished in May 1923. Dong Khanh's tomb construction lasted through the lives of four Nguyen Emperors (1888-1923) that's why it bears the stamp of two architectural inclinations of two different historical periods.

The worship temple

The constructions still offer the traditional features according to the "double architecture": a house with multi-succeeding roofs. In the main temple and its dependent houses, we find the familiar splendid red and gilt pillars with decoration of four seasons and four holly animals. Most noteworthy is Ngung Hy temple, the best conserved place for red and gilt art and famous lacquer art in Vietnam. In the main temple, there were 24 drawings consisting of illustrations from "Nhi Thap Tu Hieu", historical references about pious examples in China.

On the edges of the roof, pillars and beams, appear terra-cotta sculptures with other popular decorations such as "fisherman gains double benefits", cock-fighting, musical instruments, chess-poem-wine, flowers and fruits, animals... (In the tombs of earlier emperors these were not included).

The tomb area

The design of the tomb is almost completely Europeanized from its architectural peculiarities or decorative models to the building materials. For instance, Bi Dinh is a variation of Roman architecture blended with Asian architecture with its tall, thin mandarin statues from cement and bricks (instead of stone) and tile bricks.

In general, Dong Khanh's tomb was the beginning of the mixture of European and Asian styles, of old and new architectures.

Minh Mang's Tomb

The Tomb is 12km form Hue, on Cam Ke mount, near Bang Lang fork, on the west bank of the Perfume River. In September 1840, the construction of the tomb began. In January 1841, while the work was implemented Minh Mang was sick and passed away. 

Emperor Thieu Tri, his successor to the throne, continue this task according to his father’s plans. Emperor Minh Mang's corpse was buried in Buu Thanh on August 20th of 1841. The construction was fully completed in 1843.

Minh Mang's tomb is a standard architectural complex consisting of 40 constructions (palaces, temples, pavilions, etc.) designed on an symmetric axis running from Dai Hong gate to the foot of La Thanh (Surrounding Wall) behind the Emperor's tomb.

The constructions are distributed into three main parallel axis of which Than Dao path is the centre.
Dai Hong Mon: It is the main gate to enter the tomb. The gate presents three paths with 24 heaving roofs covered with beautiful decorations. The gate was opened only once to bring the Emperor's coffin to the tomb, and had been tightly closed since then. Visitors have to use the two side-gates Ta Hong Mon (Left Gate) and Huu Hong Mon (Right Gate).

Bi Dinh: Behind Dai Hong Mon (big gate) is the Honour Courtyard with its two rows of mandarins, elephants and horses’ statues. Bi Dinh (Stele Pavilion) is on Mount Phung Than. Inside is the stele "Thanh Duc Than Cong", inscribed with the Emperor's biography and merits written by his son Thieu Tri.

The temple area: 

The Salutation Court is divided into four steps - The Hien Duc Mon (gate) leads to the worship place. In the centre is Sung An Temple surrounded by Ta, Huu Phoi Dien (Left, Right Temples) in the front and Ta, Huu Tung Phong (Left, Right Rooms) in the back. The Emperor and Queen Ta Thien Nhan are worshipped in Sung An Temple. Then, Hoang Trach Mon (gate) leads to the Bright Pavilion (Minh Lau), built on Tam Tai Mount. It is a square pavilion with two storeys and eight roofs. On both sides of Minh Lau, two obelisks stand on the hills. In the back of Minh Lau are two flower gardens designed as the character "Longevity".

The tomb (Buu Thanh):

Tan Nguyet (New Moon) crescent Lake embraces the circular Buu Thanh (The wall surrounding the grave). There are three bridges on Tan Nguyet Lake. Visitors have to climb 33 Thanh stone steps to reach the sepulchre of the Emperor. 

Besides nearly 60 word boxes of carved poems in the Stele Pavilion, Hien Duc gate, Sung An Temple, and Minh Pavilion are also remarkable and constitute an anthology of chosen poems of Vietnam’s early 19th century.

Visiting Minh Mang’s tomb, one is impressed by the majesty and symmetry of the architectural constructions.

Thieu Tri's Tomb

Thieu Tri's tomb lies in Chu Chanh village, Thuy Bang commune, about 8 km from the Hue city. Ater being on the throne for seven years, Emperor Thieu Tri was sick and died on 4 November 1847 (at the age of 41). In his lifetime, the Emperor neither thought of his death nor wanted the people and soldiers to waste so much labour and property for him, so he did not have his tomb built.

As soon as he came to the crown, Emperor Tu Duc had the royal geomancers to seek land for his father's tomb. On February 11th 1848, the construction started, and 10 months later, it was completed.

The tomb can be divided into two parts: the tomb area and temple are:

The tomb area:

On the right with Nhuan Trach Lake is the bronze gate leading to big Binh Dai (Honour Courtyard). The two rows of stone statues on the left and right of the court are typical of the sculpture art in the first half of 19th century in Hue. Then, one can see Bi Dinh (Stele Pavilion) and Duc Hinh tower on a tortoise-shell-shaped hill. Ngung Thuy Lake looks like a crescent moon barring in front , the walls of the tomb itself (Buu Thanh). Across the lake are three bridges: Chanh Trung (in the middle), Dong Hoa (on the right), Tay Dinh (on the left) leading to the stairs going to Buu Thanh.

The temple area:

It was built separately, 100m from Duc Hinh Tower, on the left. After passing the marble gate and another three steps leading to Bieu Duc temple, visitors will go through Hong Trach gate. In the middle is Bieu Duc temple, where the funerary tablets of the Emperor and the Queen Tu Du are worshipped. In the main temple, on the edges of the roof and Hong Trach gate, are engraved over 450 word boxes including poems with educational and literary values. All the dependent works gathered around Buu Duc Temple such as Left and Right Temple (in the front), Left and Right Houses (in the back), increase the nobility of the main temple.

Thieu Tri's tomb, with its simple and intimate beauty, leans against the foot of Thuan Dao Mount. In front of the tomb stretches a flat land with green trees and rice-fields ranging from the Perfume river's bank up to Lim bridge.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Khai Dinh Tomb

Khai Dinh tomb (also know as Ung tomb) the tomb of emperor Khai Dinh (1885 - 1925), the 12th king of the Nguyen Dynasty, is located Thuy Bang, Huong Thuy, Thua Thien-Hue and it is far about 10 kilometers from Hue city. Khai Dinh tomb has an area smaller than others one but it is more sparkling and sophisticated between western and oriental architecture.

 Khai Dinh King chose Chau Ngu Mountain to built tomb which is far about 10 kilometers from Hue. The tomb was established on September 4th 1920 and lasted to 11 years after. The tomb has a combination between modern and traditional architecture. In comparison with those of the preceding emperors, Khai Dinh’ s tomb is much smaller in surface (117m x 48.5m) but it is very elaborate.

Overall tomb is rectangle block with 127 steps stair and divided into: Coming to tomb must past the system of 37 steps stair, adding more 29 steps stair, tourists will come to a yard, in the middle has stone stele house. All statues were made from stone in Khai Dinh tomb, two pillars are very hight. Go up three more levels so as to reach the altar monument.

The walls are decorated and inlaid with elaborate glass and porcelain designs. Beyond these modern building materials and designs, the tombs had elements of eastern art mixed with western designs. The most noticeable characteristic of the tomb is the glassy; it is really a masterpiece of Vietnamese early in the 20th century. Khai Dinh tomb is really a valuable structure and architecture. It makes diversity for complex of tombs in Hue.

Thay Pagoda

Thay Pagoda, also called Cả Pagoda and Thiên Phúc Tự , is situated at the foot of Sài Sơn Mountain  in Phuong Cach Commune, Quoc Oai Distric, Hanoi.

Built in the 11th century during the reign of King Ly Nhan Tong. At first, it was a small pagoda managed by Priest Tu Dao Hanh. The pagoda was initially built according to Sino-Vietnamese character Tam - this character is formed by 3 hyphens parallel to each other.

The pagoda therefore consists of 3 sections: Ha Pagoda, Trung Pagoda, and Thuong Pagoda. The outer part, Ha Pagoda, is a place for offerings and ceremonies; the middle part, Trung Pagoda, is a place for worship of Buddha; and finally, the inner part is a place for worship of Priest Tu Dao Hanh. An automated sandalwood statue of Tu Dao Hanh that stands and sits is located in a red lacquered shrine trimmed with gold and covered with a curtain.

In front of the pagoda is Long Tri pond, in the middle of which is a stage called Thuy Dinh, where water puppet performances are held. Nhat Tien and Nguyet Tien Bridges, built by Doctor Phung Khac Khoan in 1602, are located on each side of the stage.

Interesting sites can be visited in the surroundings of the pagoda. For example, Phat Tich and Cac Co Caves are located not too far behind the pagoda. A hole in the dome of Cac Co Cave lets one see outside the cave.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Quan Lan Island's primitive beauty

Quan Lan Island located in Quang Ninh Province ’s Van Don Island District is endowed with many favourable conditions, such as forests, sea, historical architectural works, cultural characteristics, etc. The island still retains its primitive beauty that attracts both domestic and foreign tourists who like discovering the deserted areas.
Imprints of a trade port in the past
After three hours cruising on the Bai Tu Long Bay from Van Don Port, we saw Quan Lan Island with its white sand banks appearing on the sea in the curtain of mist. When the ship landed, we were very excited and eager for the island adventure and we were guided by enthusiastic locals on the island.
Quan Lan was the first trading port of Vietnam built by the Ly Dynasty (11th century). Many vestiges of the ancient port together with relics of foundations of ancient architectures, such as water wells and a layer of broken ceramic and porcelain pieces, some metres thick, found at Cai Nang Wharf  confirm  the fact that the port was once very animated and prosperous.
It is the place where the locals annually hold the offerings ceremony to King Ly Anh Tong (1138-1175) and the boat-rowing festival in May and June according to the lunar calendar.
We visited Quan Lan Communal House to see with our eyes the delicate art of carving with various designs. The images of dragons are carved lively with different shapes, such as the dragon flanking a moon, a dragon keeping the “Tho” (longevity) script in its mouth, a dragon rolling water, a daisy turning into dragon, etc. Also, images of silk moths and shrimp in the dynasties of Ly, Tran, Le and Nguyen are also skilfully depicted because the trade of growing mulberry and raising silkworm and seafood catching once strongly developed in the area for Vietnam tourism.
Another special feature of the communal house is that it was built with Man lai wood. The plant only grows on rocky Ba Mun Island near the Cai Lang trading port. Over the past hundreds of years, the communal house’s pillars remain intact and free of worm and termite infestation.
Primitive beauty of beaches
Once visiting Quan Lan Island , tourists can not help participating in sea tours and sporting activities on the sea and discovering the traditional cultural features of the locals. To get there, tourists will pass over endless white sand beaches in Van Hai area that have been famous since the 1950s and now are the material source for the national glass and crystal industry.
It is not wrong when many people said that Quan Lan is like a princess who is waiting for a kiss from a prince to wake up. The area boasts two beautiful natural beaches, including 3km-long Son Hao and 2km-long Van Hai, which are most attractive to tourists. The beaches here slope gently to the sea with soft white sand and vast poplar forests.
At sunset, Quan Lan became deserted and there were only some tourists on three-wheel taxis returning to their hotels on the only small road on the island and a few motorbikes passing by.  When night falls, the scene is very romantic with the whistles of the poplar forests, calls of seabirds, soft and low whisperings of waves flapping on the seashore. From a far, the light from ships on the sea to catch cuttlefish reflects on the sea, creating a dreamlike landscape.

Co To - paradise island

50km north-east of Van Do beach in Quang Ninh province, Co To appears with its wild beauty and one of the longest white sandy beach in the Gulf of Tonkin.
From Hanoi you can take a bus to Van Don at Luong Yen or My Dinh station every one hour from the morning to 5.30 pm. Or you can also catch a later bus at Ha Long or Cam Pha station, and then get on a Mong Cai bus near the Bai Chay bridge to reach the Cua Ong market. In the morning, tourists can take a boat to Thanh Lam Island, a small island close to Co To by trekking.
Fisherman in Co To island's sea 
Co To Island District comprises three main islands - Co To, Thanh Lan, and Tran - and smaller ones and covers 4, 000 square meters.Local residents, mostly migrants from northern provinces, live in only two communes and a small town.
From large Co To Island, you can discover many beautiful things. Beaches in the large Co To Island are deserted and not polluted by modern industrial society. 

The lighthouse in Co To island
Starting from the Cai Rong Port in the morning with tender breezes, visitors can spend an hour and a half to sail on the Bai Tu Long Bay where has mountainous sceneries like hundreds of baby dragons were sleeping on a giant green carpet. 

Then, travelers pass through the Doi entrance to begin an unforgettable journey circled by the sea.Next they leave the boat on the Co To wharf, some 5, 00 meters from the center of Co To District, to come to a local guest-house on busy streets with Uncle Ho's statue, markets and restaurants.

Beaches in Co To Island are very clean and beautiful with white sands and blue water. Co To Island has two beautiful beaches: Van Chai and Hong Van. Van Chai and Hong Van are the two must-see beaches in Co To. Van Chai Beach is still unspoiled and tourists can relax and play in the big waves and stay overnight in small bungalows while Hong Van beach is always quiet with small waves. Therefore, it is said that Co To Island’s beaches are the perfect spot for beachgoers looking for somewhere relatively untouched.

The attraction is not only known for a long, clear beach near the residential area but also for a green pine forest and a tiled road along the shore where locals love to take a walk at sunset.

Sea Water in Co To is so clean and blue
For local residents, the best way to explore every corner of the islands is to hire a motorbike and a destination which should not be missed is the solar-powered Cô Tô lighthouse on the peak of a mountain not far from the town. The pathway from the foot to the light house is deserted and difficult to negotiate, with rough stones. From the lighthouse balcony, visitors can get a panoramic view of the mountains and the horizon.
Another place of interest is the Bac Van military port, around 20 minutes from the lighthouse. Bac Van Beach is known for the different kinds of coral that the authorities are trying to conserve.