Nguyễn Phúc Ánh took control over Vietnam and proclaimed himself Emperor, making Hue the national capital of united Vietnam in 1802. The Chinese recognized his rule only in 1804. Hue was the political, cultural and religious centre under the Nguyen dynasty until 1945. It was selected because it was situated in the centre of the country and had easy access to the sea. The new capital was planned in accordance with ancient oriental philosophy and Vietnamese tradition. It respected the Perfume River and Ngu Binh Mountain (known as the Royal Screen). The relationship between the five cardinal points (centre, west, east, north, south), five natural elements (earth, metal, wood, water, fire), and five basic colors (yellow, white, blue, black, red) underlies the conception of the city. The citadel was oriented to face the Huong River to the east. This was different from the Forbidden City in Beijing, which faced south. The Imperial City was built in traditional Vietnamese Nguyen style, on grounds of almost 2.5 kilometers. Four citadels made up the city: Kinh Thanh (Capital City), for official administrative buildings; Hoang Thanh (Imperial City) for royal palaces and shrines; Tu Cam Thanh (Forbidden Purple City) for the royal residences; Dai Noi (or Inner City); and Tran Binh Dai, an additional defensive work in the north-east corner of the Capital City, designed to control movement on the river. A fifth fortress, Tran Hai Thanh, was constructed a little later to protect the capital against assault from the sea. The city was made a UNESCO site in 1993. The buildings that still remain are being restored and preserved. A beautiful maze to visit, rich in history and lush vegetation, the Imperial city is an elegant testimony of vietnamese culture and tradition.
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