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Nam Giao Esplanade – Hue

Nam Giao Esplanade is located about 4km south of Hue City. Nam Giao Esplanade is an open-air monument. It was built based on the dogma of heaven fate of Confucianism and has architecture of both the religious and political significance of Oriental feudalism. The Esplanade construction was commenced on 25th March, 1806. At the beginning of 1807, Gia Long terraces had its first God worship ceremonies there.

The open-air monument obviously reflects the old misconception of people about the universe (circular heavens and square earth), follows the principles of Yin and Yang and also represents 5 elements of the nature: Metal, Wood, Water, Fire and Earth (in order: Kim, Moc, Thuy, Hoa, Tho).

As well, the esplanade is designed to symbolize oriental theory of 3 agents: Heaven, Earth, Man (Thien, Dia, Nhan respectively). Each is represented by one terrace with distinctive color and shape: circular blue heaven, square yellow earth. The bottom terrace is square and red-painted which stands for Man, as there is a phrase “red child” (xich tu – con do) to call the normal people. The top terrace (Heaven) is the place to hold offering ceremonies to God, Earth and Nguyen Dynasty’s ancestors and also called Vien dan. The middle one (Tung dan) is for worshipping the Sun, Moon, Stars, Cloud, Rain, Wind, Lightning, Year and Month, Mountain, Ocean, River, Lagoon, Lake, etc. and all other kinds of holy spirits throughout Vietnam. The last terrace is where to offer sacrifice.


The rite began officially at 2am and lasted nearly three hours with different ceremonies held on different terraces accompanied by royal court music and dances.

Nam Giao Esplanade plays a very important role in religious and political life of Nguyen Dynasty. It took the Protocol and Administration Ministries many months to prepare for the ceremony. Before the sacrifice offering day, all villages and communal in Thua Thien-Hue had to complete making triumphal arches, to put alters on both sides of the route where the Emperor would pass by from Ngo Mon Noon gate to Trai Cung. During the ceremony, big flags with different colors were hung on all four doors of the esplanade: black flags on the north door, blue on the east, red on the south and white on the west. The kings often had to operate the ceremony on his owns. In case he wasn’t capable, his son or one of his mandarins would be ordered to take this task.

Today, visitors can come here to understand about the religious and political belief of Oriental feudal society in general and Nguyen Dynasty in particular, which is completely different from that of Western people

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