Known countrywide to still be wearing Vietnam’s traditional clothes, speaking the traditional language and generally behaving in a traditional manner, the people of Hue are sticklers for-make a wild guess-tradition. Thus, when it comes to culture and the preservation of their heritage, it is not surprising that they place so much value in their garden houses.
The garden houses of Hue are privately owned houses set in magnificent landscaped gardens. They represent the people’s traditions, ethos, ancient beliefs, history and proud legacy. For these people, they’re more than beautiful houses: they are what makes them complete.
In fact, about a dozen of these houses are designated as “cultural heritage sites” in Vietnam. They were built over two hundred years ago during the Nguyen dynasty, to house Confucian scholars, the country’s nobility and relatives of the Emperors. They form part of the Nguyen dynasty’s past.
Today, these houses are individually maintained by the descendants of the original owners. The ownership and upkeep of the houses are passed down from generation to generation. The owners also do not receive any financial support from the government for opening their ancient houses to the public and serving as guides to tourists who want to see the structures. Mostly, they are simply people who are at one with the country in preserving its history and keeping the traditions alive.
What’s also remarkable about these garden houses are the structures and the ancient science employed to build them. They were built according to the principles of geomancy and they all generally reflect the same principles of architecture and geometry.
Even the flowers and trees that grow within the garden are all planted with meticulous planning and the rules of geomancy in mind. They generally follow the same layering structure: the outside layers are composed of bamboo, Chinese tea plants, rose-mallows, wild pineapples and bananas; the next layer usually has fruit trees like coconut, jack-fruit, plum trees, Malagasy and phrynium; the next layer has gandarias, oranges, mangosteens and persimmons; the inner and final layer has decorative plants and flowers and different species of creeper.
In the center of all this structured gardening sits a wooden house with huge columns rising from either a square or a circle stone base. These pillars are commonly made out of rare and precious materials like iron wood, Vietnamese oak, rare species of pine trees and many others. In the center of the house you’ll find the altars for the ancestors of the owners.
And although these structures are mirrored from one house to the next, each of the garden houses has a distinct personality and unique characteristics. They are all worth a visit. The most popular of these houses include the Lac Tinh Vien, An Hien, Ngoc Son Princess’ Palace, Ty Ba Trang, and Tinh Gia Vien among many others. Some garden houses that are located close to each other are also famous and named collectively according to their area like the Phu Mong area.
So, if you’re ever in Hue, witness its people’s loyalty to tradition, culture and heritage through their famous garden houses.