Sunday, April 13, 2008

HCM City gets minature taste of Hue

To give Hue natives in the City a little reminder of home, one man has built a minature model of the Imperial town.
Tourists eager to catch a glimpse of Hue’s imperial city in the central region no longer need to set foot there, but can see the World Cultural Heritage site complete with life-like models just 20km away from downtown HCM City.
A half-hour’s motorbike ride from the city centre will bring you to Ngu Lam Vien, a miniature version of Hue created by Nguyen Thanh Tung in his garden in Long Binh Ward, District 9.
In homage to the city of his childhood, the 37-year-old Tung spent five years beginning in 2002 working on the miniature world.
He scaled the 500-ha Hue ancient complex down to a 1,000sq.m, reproducing each of the architectural structures and natural settings as vividly as they appear in real life.
With the Huong (Perfume) River as the main axis, the miniature structures line the river banks. The highlight is the Citadel, which is surrounded by three fortress walls that gradually become smaller as one moves from the Capital City into the Imperial City and into the Forbidden Purple City.
Similar to the real layout, this miniature Hue faces southward with Ngu Binh Mountain located in front, Hen islet to the left, and Da Vien islet to the right, all acting as defences.
Other architectural works within the Citadel are Ngo Mon Gate; Thai Hoa Palace (Palace of Supreme Harmony), where major imperial ceromonies were observed; temples dedicated to Nguyen kings and lords; living quarters for the royal family; an arsenal, and other structures.
Visitors to Ngu Lam Vien can see Thien Mu Pagoda, Truong Tien Bridge, Hon Chen (Jade Cup) Temple, Thuong Bac Bower and Phu Van Lau Pavillion.
"Hue architecture is unique. It is not steeply curved as it is in the North nor is it as flat and straight as the Western style," Tung said."Hue architectural style is somewhat gentle and refined. It features relative curves and perfect tilting angles, creating an overall balance for accompanying structures.
"Those features are indicative of the soul of Hue people, who are inherently sensible, reserved, unobstrusive but highly attractive."
Tung said that the most elaborate of the miniature models is the nha ruong (Vietnamese traditional wooden house) whose patterns are based on actual houses and descriptions found in L’art a Hue, a research text on Hue carving art conducted during the Khai Dinh Dynasty and French colonial periods.
Purple wood and peck wood, native to the forest in Nam Dong District in the central province of Thua Thien Hue, are two kinds of wood Tung used to produce fine veins and ensure the durability of the model.
Next to the miniature Hue Citadel is a three-compartment, two-lean-to house that features local scuptural art and cultural traits. The houses offer a respite for tourists to enjoy tea and survey the Hue landscape in miniature.
Tung, who was not born in Hue but grew up there, said the project was created by artisans and workers from Hue with his own funds and support from his uncle.
"The model is a tribute to my parents and Hue locals who are now living in the South," Tung said, adding that he once tried to discard his Hue accent.
"How did I come to be who I am today?" is the question Tung often asks himself and that has driven him to look back to the place that shaped him.
Now a project manager with the US-based GDS group, Tung said he plans to include Hue delicacies and other features into the miniature world, hoping that Hue people in the South will always remember their origins and feel proud of their native land.
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