Huế is the capital city of Thua Thien – Hue province, Vietnam. Between 1802 and 1945, it was the imperial capital of the Nguyen dynasty. Its population stands at about 340,000. In Sino-Vietnamese script, used until 1945, the name of the city is written 化.
Huế originally rose to prominence as the capital of the Nguyễn Lords, a feudal dynasty which dominated much of southern Vietnam from the 17th to the 19th century. In 1775 when Trịnh Sâm captured it, it was known as Phú Xuân. In 1802, Nguyễn Phúc Ánh (later Emperor Gia Long) succeeded in establishing his control over the whole of Vietnam, thereby making Huế the national capital.
Minh Mạng (14 February 1791 – 20 January 1841; born Nguyễn Phúc Đảm 阮 福 膽, also known as Nguyễn Phúc Kiểu 阮 福晈) was the second emperor of the Nguyễn Dynasty, reigning from 14 February 1820 (his 29th birthday) until his death, on 20 January 1841. He was a younger son of Emperor Gia Long, whose eldest son, Crown Prince Cảnh, had died in 1801. Minh was well known for his opposition to French involvement in Vietnam, and for his rigid Confucian orthodoxy.
Huế was the national capital until 1945, when Emperor Bảo Đại abdicated and a communist government was established in Hà Nội (Hanoi), in the north. While Bảo Đại was briefly proclaimed “Head of State” with the help of the returning French colonialists in 1949 (although not with recognition from the communists and the full acceptance of the Vietnamese people), his new capital was Sài Gòn (Saigon), in the south.
In the Vietnam War, Huế’s central position placed it very near the border between North Vietnam and South Vietnam; however, the city was located in South Vietnam. In the Tết Offensive of 1968, during the Battle of Huế, the city suffered considerable damage not only to its physical features, but its reputation as well, most of it from American firepower and bombings on the historical buildings as well as the massacre at Huế committed by the communist forces. After the war’s conclusion, many of the historic features of Huế were neglected because they were seen by the victorious regime and some other Vietnamese as “relics from the feudal regime”; the Vietnamese Communist Party doctrine officially described the Nguyễn Dynasty as “feudal” and “reactionary.” There has since been a change of policy, however, and many historical areas of the city are currently being restored.
The city is located in central Vietnam on the banks of the Sông Hương (Perfume River), just a few miles inland from the Biển Đông. It is about 700 km (438 mi.) south of the national capital of Hanoi and about 1100 km (690 mi.) north of Hồ Chí Minh City, the country’s largest city, formerly known as Saigon.
Huế features a Tropical monsoon climate under the Köppen climate classification. The dry season is from March to August, with high temperatures of 35–40 °C. The rainy season is from August to January, with a flood season from October, onwards. The average rainy season temperature is 20 °C, sometimes as low as 9 °C. And Spring lasts from January to late February.
Huế is well known for its historic monuments, which have earned it a place in UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites. The seat of the Nguyễn emperors was the Citadel, which occupies a large, walled area on the north side of the Perfume River. Inside the citadel was a forbidden city where only the emperors, concubines, and those close enough to them were granted access; the punishment for trespassing was death. Today, little of the forbidden city remains, though reconstruction efforts are in progress to maintain it as a historic tourist attraction.
Roughly along the Perfume River from Huế lie myriad other monuments, including the tombs of several emperors, including Minh Mạng,Khải Định, and Tự Đức. Also notable is the Thiên Mụ Pagoda, the largest pagoda in Huế and the official symbol of the city.
A number of French-style buildings lie along the south bank of the Perfume River. Among them are Quốc Học High School, the oldest high school in Vietnam, and Hai Ba Trung High School.
The Hue Royal Antiquities Museum on 3 Le Truc Street also maintains a collection of various artifacts from the city.