Hue is famous for not only picturesque landscape, but also well-known for spiritual culture through its architecture. Along with solemn royal tombs and majestic Imperial City, Hue is the city of peaceful garden houses.
Constructed in accordance with “Feng Shui” principle, Hue garden house is a group of architectures arranged in North – South axis. Depsite its area, each garden house must consist of gate, entrance, screen, miniature mountain, shallow tank, yard and house. Usually, its gate and screen are made from brick. Flowers or trees are planted on the two sides of the entrance. Visitors will reach a shallow tank placed in a large yard before entering ruong house. Many kinds of tree and flower are planted around the ruong house
There are many kinds of ruong houses such as one-compartment-two-wing house, three-compartment-two-wing house, five-compartment-two-wing house, pavilion house, etc. As its name suggests, the house is a system of wooden items. No matter how big or small the house is, no nail (fasterner) but wooden dowel is used. It is furnished with wooden tables, chairs and horizontal lacquered boards, etc.
Visitors may easily recognize owner’s lifestyle by observing their house. Hue garden house not only shows the harmony of human life and nature, but also the balance between spiritual and material life.
Today, there are a number of garden houses remain intact, for example, An Hien, Ngoc Son Residence, Lac Tinh, Y Thao, etc. About 2,5km from Hue city center, Phu Mong – Kim Long is dense with garden houses.
Lac Tinh garden house
Lac Tinh garden house was established by poet Hong Khang in 1889 on 2.070m2 at Duong Xuan village (today, 65 Phan Dinh Phung, Hue city). Lac Tinh garden house has a beautiful and spacious space Various type of flower such as hibiscus, roses, laurel and apricot, etc are grown on the two sides of the entrance leading to Lac Tinh garden house. Small sets of chair and table are placed under trees. Visitors may sit down to drink tea and enjoy the landscape. At the end of the entrance stands a stylized book-shaped screen. Thanks to its hexagon structure, the house complex become more connected.
In Lac Tinh garden, there are 4 adjacent houses. Each house has its own name which has a special meaning imbued with its owner.Nhan Hau house (the house of kindness): Nhan Hau house has a spacious space. Flowers and bonsai are grown surrounding the house. It is in Nhan Hau house where its owner receives guests, enjoys the landscapes and helps the poor.Hy Tran Trai house: located at the center of the house The house is decorated with many parallel sentences. The main house has 59 wooden pillars and tiled roof. Rafters are carved with images such as dragon, the four seasons, the four trees, etc.Van Trai house is used for work and rest. Di Tam Thich The Duong house is the place where children study.The 4 houses are designed in ancient style. All furniture and ornaments are arranged in distinctive way. Visitors are impressed by its elegance which reminds them of gentle steps, poetic words and soft voice, etc.
Ngoc Son Princess Residency
Located at 31 Nguyen Chi Thanh Street, Gia Hoi ward, Hue city, Ngoc Son Princess Residency was constructed in 1921 under Khai Dinh’s reign.
Ngoc Son Princess Residency is known as one of the traditional garden houses in Hue. In 2.370m2 campus stands a “Ruong” house (panel house) which includes 3 compartments, 2 wings, 1 outbuilding and 1 kitchen. In 1920, prince consort bought the land and had construction works planned in Feng Shui law. To avoid noise and dust as well as create a quite space for worship purpose and daily life, the main house was designed to turn its back to the road.
The front gate leading to the garden house was simply constructed and decorated with “Lan mau xuat lan nhi” (a unicorn gives birth to its child) image featuring family happiness on top. After entering the main house through a curved path between two neatly cut lines of teas, a pretty large front yard appears. At the end of the yard stands a shallow pond where colorful water lilies blossom all year round. Next to the shallow pond is a miniature which features a harmony of nature and architecture as well as re-enact Vietnam image. Its nature element features “tu huu” (apricot, orchid, daisy, bamboo) and “tu thoi” (apricot, lotus, daisy, fir). The miniature looks even livelier as artisan carefully selected blocks of stones featuring animals such as elephant, bear, lion, crocodile, bird, turtle and monkey, etc. Especially, the largest block of stone placed at the middle of the miniature serves as the front screen. Its architectures feature ancient symbols of one-pillar pagoda, Linh Mu pagoda, temple, tower, bridge, etc. On both sides of the front garden stand two stone blocks representing “ta long huu ho” (“dragon on the left, tiger on the right”) Feng Shui law. Behind the miniature is a lake where red and white lotus blossom every summer. The garden is surrounded by bamboo and neatly cut lines of tea. Perennial fruit trees and ornamental plants are grown inside the garden.
The main house was arranged in “tien phat hau linh” (Buddha front and ancestors behind) principle. It is decorated with horizontal lacquered boards and distiches. Interior’s furniture such as tea cabinet, bookcase, etc. store a number of heirloom from previous generations. Generations living and preserving traditional spiritual cultural values of the ancestors are precious heritages of Ngoc Son Princess Residency. It is the soul of the heritage.
Y Thao garden house
Being constructed about 5 decades ago, the 1.300m2 garden house called Y Thao is located at 03 Thach Han, Hue city. At the middle of the entrance places a rock work serving as screen. On two sides, two rock works are arranged as Green Dragon and White Tiger.
Green Dragon rock work was imbued with lake while White Tiger rock work representing thousands pines and apricots was imbued with small bushes. Other 5 rock works placed across the garden symbolize the five famous mounts of the East. Entire trees in the garden are carefully taken care of by the owner. Of all, 2 Hue fine arts collections are the most valuable antiques in Y Thao garden house. The collection consists of 200 Hue blue enamel porcelains aged over 300 years from Le – Trinh dynasty and Nguyen Lord’s reign. Visitors are attracted by their shapes and date of production which is written in Nom script (Vietnamese ancient script) and Hue mirror paintings including Xa Cu mirror, the portrait of lord lady, eight fairies, etc. Today, the value of these antiques is much higher than their original one.
Once visiting Y Thao garden house, not only researchers but also visitors would love to come back over and over again.
An Hien garden house
If traditional garden house is one of Hue cultural heritages, An Hien must be one of the most typical examples still remain today.An Hien garden house is located at 58 Nguyen Phuc Nguyen, Kim Long ward, Hue city. It is not very far from Thien Mu Pagoda and Hue Imperial City. Similar to other constructions and ancient architectures built in the northern bank of the Huong river, the famous garden house faces this romantic river.In the middle of the 17th century,
Lord Nguyen Phuc Lan selected Kim Long as the center of Dang Trong (the South Vietnam). Ever since, a golden period began. At the time, late director Alexandre de Rhodes visited Kim Long, which he called “the cette grande ville”. As recorded by the film-maker, it was home to majestic garden houses with beautiful designs. This is the very first decription of Kim Long garden house in the first half of the 1640s.Under Nguyen dynasty (1802-1945), Phu Xuan became the center of Dang Trong (the South Vietnam) and later, the capital of Vietnam. More and more royals and noble families had their houses built in Kim Long.It is believed that people can not avoid ups and downs no matter how powerful and wealthy they are. So did Kim Long houses’ owners who had their houses sold. An Hien was not an exception as it was in the hand of many different owners. According to a written document recording the history of An Hien, its very first owner was the daughter of Emperor Duc Duc (1883). In 1895, it is under the management of Mr. Pham Dang Khanh (so-called Pham Dang Thap), the cousin of Madam Tu Du (Pham Thi Hang). Mr. Khanh started to renovate An Hien. In 1920, Mr. Khanh sold the garden house and moved to Duc Quoc Cong Residence where mandarin Pham Dang Than – the father of Madam Tu Du was worshiped. In 1936, the son of Madam Kham Diep – Mr. Tham Te who was the governor of Ha Tinh province had the house sold to Mr. Nguyen Dinh Chi. After Mr. Nguyen Dinh Chi’s death in 1940, Mrs. Dao Thi Xuan Yen, his wife, looked after and continued to renovate the house until she passed away in 1997. Mrs. Dao Thi Xuan Yen was the Rector of Dong Khanh Hue High School in the 1950s and the delegate of National Assembly in 1980. She is the daughter of Mr. Dao Thai Hanh (1870-1916) who was from Sa Dec. Her father was one of the first members of AAVH (Association des Amis du vieux Hué) who had his study published on BAVH Journal and worked as the governor of Quang Tri province since 1915. Like Mr. Nguyen Dinh Chi, other owners also held important positions in the society. Therefore, many writers, poets and people from noble class visited An Hien. From 1975 to 1997, An Hien was widely known as Madam Tuan Chi garden house. In other words, it means the house of Governor Nguyen Dinh Chi’s wife. It was the place where Mrs. Xuan Yen received hundreds of delegation including foreign VIP delegates on their visits to Hue.
Nowadays, An Hien is located in the area of 4.608 m2. It was constructed and planned in accordance with the traditional architecture principles of the East, Vietnam and Hue. Thanks to its proper layout, parts of the garden house are well arranged. At the center of the garden locates a three-compartment two-wing house which is carefully designed and beautifully decorated. It serves as a living room as well as a worshiping space. The entrance leading to the house is 34m long and surrounded by rows of apricot. On their very first steps to An Hien, visitors can feel the peaceful and solemn atmosphere. The house is furnished with wooden tables, chairs and horizontal lacquered boards, etc. The large shallow tank and brick screen in front of the house not only represent Feng Shui elements, but also increase aesthetic value. Thanks to country-wide precious perennials and hundreds kinds of flower planted by owners, the charming garden house is filled of blossoms all year round.