The Ho Dynasty Citadel

The Citadel of the Ho Dynasty with total area of 5,234ha is situated in communes of Vinh Tien, Vinh Long, Vinh Quang, Vinh Yen, Vinh Phuc, Vinh Ninh, Vinh Khang, Vinh Thanh and Vinh Loc Town (Vinh Loc District), Thanh Hoa Province. This was the capital citadel of Vietnam from 1398 to 1407.
The Citadel of the Ho Dynasty was built in 1397 by Ho Quy Ly to become new capital citadel. In just three months, the magnificent stone citadel with a combination between the Vietnamese traditional building techniques and Southeast Asia and Eastern Asia had been completed.

The Ho Dynasty Citadel
Photo by Loi Nguyen Duc
Thanks to the original construction techniques and use of firm materials, the presence of the Citadel with massive stone walls has remained almost intact. The Citadel of the Ho Dynasty is considered as the only stone citadel remaining in Southeast Asia and is one of the few remains in the world. Until now, research on reasons why the Citadel of the Ho Dynasty built manually in a short time but can exist more than 600 years of its history is still a question without satisfactory answer.

The citadel has recognized as a World Cultural Heritage by the UNESCO at the 35th session of the organization's World Heritage Committee on 27 June 2011 in Paris (France). The Citadel of the Ho Dy-nasty has met the two criteria specified in the World Heritage Convention.

The property exhibits Chinese Confucian-ism influence on a symbol of regal centralized power in the late 14th - early 15th centuries. It represents new developments in architectural style with respect to technology and, in adapting pre-existing geomantic city planning principles in an East Asian and South-east Asian context, makes full use of the natural surroundings and incorporated distinctly Vietnamese and East and Southeast Asian elements in its monuments and landscape.

The Citadel of the Ho Dynasty is an out-standing example of an architectural ensemble in a landscape setting which illustrates a flowering of pragmatic Neo- Confucianism in the late 14th century Vietnam, at a time when it was spreading throughout East Asia to become a major philosophical influence on government in the region. The use of large blocks of stone testifies to the organizational power of the Neo-Confucian state, and the shift in the main axis distinguishes the Citadel layout from the Chinese norm.

The recognized heritage area with a total area of 155.5ha includes Inner Citadel (Thanh Noi) (142.2ha), Nam Giao Altar (4.3ha), and La Thanh Outer Wall (9ha).

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In late period of the Tran Dynasty, state affairs were confused and the court was manipulated by Ho Quy Ly - a highest- ranking general. In the first lunar month of 1397, Ho Quy Ly decided to build a new capital citadel in An Ton, Thanh Hoa District (now in Vinh Loc District, Thanh Hoa Province) in order to set up a lasting realm.

According to the principles of feng shui and geomancy, An Ton had a flat area surrounded by many mountains and embraced by two rivers - Ma and Buoi creating a favorable position for the development of the capital citadel.

In the third lunar month of the same year, a new magnificent stone citadel called An Ton was completed, consisting of the Inner Citadel and La Thanh Outer Wall. Then Ho Quy Ly forced King Tran Thuan Tong to move the capital from the capital citadel of Thang Long (Hanoi) to Thanh Hoa. An Ton Citadel became new capital citadel of Tran Dynasty and re-named as "Tay Do" (or Western Capital) to differentiate it from "Dong Do" (or Eastern Capital - name of Thang Long Citadel at that time).

In the second lunar month of the year of the Dragon (1400), after coming to the crown replacing the King Tran, Ho Quy Ly renamed the country as Dai Ngu. During Ho Dynasty (1400-1407), Tay Do Citadel was renovated and many new works were built.

In 1407, the Chinese Ming aggressors conquered Dai Ngu and renamed it to Giao Chi District, considering as an administrative unit of China. Therefore, Tay Do was named as "Phu Thanh Hoa".

In 1428, after defeating the Ming invasion, Le Loi was enthroned, he decided to rename the country as Dai Viet and set up the capital in Dong Quan Citadel (name of Thang Long Citadel at that time). In 1430, Le Loi renamed Dong Quan Citadel as Dong Kinh Citadel (or Eastern Imperial Citadel), and Phu Thanh Hoa as Tay Kinh Citadel (or Western Im¬perial Citadel).

During the 16th century, Tay Kinh Citadel was firm guerilla base of dynasties of Le So (1428-1527), Mac (1527-1592) and Le Trung Hung (1533-1789) in the civil wars of struggling for royalty.

In 1802, Nguyen Anh defeated the Tay Son army, founded the Nguyen Dynasty (1802-1945). In this period, many locals renamed to fit the administrative reform of the Nguyen Dynasty. Tay Kinh Citadel so named as Tay Nhai following the name of a village located in the western gate of the Citadel.

During the reign of King Thanh Thai (1889 -1907), word of Nhai in the names of the villages located nearby the capital citadel was changed to Giai. Therefore, the Citadel was also renamed as Tay Giai.
Since after August Revolution in 1945, the Citadel has been official named as the Citadel of the Ho Dynasty (Thanh Nha Ho) according to the name of the dynasty that built the Citadel and set capital there.

The Ho Dynasty has left many historical marks such as setting up Nam Giao Altar in 1402, Xa Tac Altar in 1397; organizing two exams In 1400 and 1405. In addition, this period also associated with remarkable innovations such as reforming examination, building more schools, heightening the Nom scripts and issuing paper-money, reforming tax, opening "Quang te thu" - a public hospital, forming a bam to sell at low price for the poor.

In the world heritage record, the Citadel of the Ho Dynasty is briefly described as follows:

The Citadel of the Ho Dynasty, built ac-cording to the feng shui principles, testi-fies to the flowering of neo-Confucianism in late 14th century in Vietnam and its spread to other parts of East Asia. Ac-cording to these principles, it was sited in a landscape of great scenic beauty on an axis joining the Tuong Son and Don Son mountains in a plain between the Ma and Buoi rivers.

In terms of architectural history, the Citadel of the Ho Dynasty plays an important place in the planning and building of urban areas in Vietnam. It shows the uniqueness in the construction of a citadel in general and a stone citadel in particular, and a breakthrough in Vietnam's tradition of building citadel.

Thanks to the unique construction techniques all the major stone sections are in-tact and have not been affected by time and weather or by recent urban encroachment.

The Citadel of the Ho Dynasty is an architectural masterpiece of the 14th century with impressive architecture of the walls and other parts. The Citadel buildings represent an outstanding example of a new style of Southeast Asian imperial city with a combination between the Vietnamese architecture and the unique building techniques of Vietnam and Southeast Asia and Eastern Asia.

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