After more than a thousand years of history, the grandiose citadel of Thang Long did not exist, but some relic sites still remain, they also reappear to some extent the ancient citadel of Thang Long. Thereby, we can understand better existence and development of "Dragon flying land" for more than 10 centuries.
Archaeological site at 18 Hoang Dieu Street
Archaeological Site at 18 Hoang Dieu Street (not including National Assembly Building) has an area of 4.53ha and is bounded to the north by Hoang Van Thu
Street, to the south by Bac Son Street, to the east by Hoang Dieu Street, and to the west by Doc Lap Street.
Located from Kinh Thien Palace about 100m to the west, the Archaeological Site at 18 Hoang Dieu Street is divided into 4 areas named A, B, C, D. Area A is beside Hoang Dieu Street, Area B is located adjacent and parallel to Area A, Area C is beside Area B and close to National Assembly Building, Area D is beside Doc Lap Street and National Assembly Building. At the areas, many architectural vestiges and artifacts from Pre-Thang Long period to Dinh - Pre-Le period (in the 10th centuries), Ly-Tran period (from the 11th to 14th centuries), Post-Le - Mac period (from the 15th to 18th centuries) were revealed. It is very rare in the world there are the places where underground con-serve a complex of relics, artifacts with long-standing cultural history heaping up and succeeding quite constantly like that. Located at the depth of 3m - 4.2m, the architectural vestiges of Pre-Thang Long (or Dai La) period are expressed through the system of wood pillars, architectural foundations, drainage, types of rectangle shape bricks, square-shape paved bricks.
The wells of Pre-Thang Long period founded in the Archaeological Site at 18 Hoang Dieu Street are 5.9m deep. The border of the wells is folded by grey brick to alternately way, each vertical brick line also has 4 horizontal ones.
Central Sector of the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long - Ha Noi
In addition, this cultural layer also has tiles of Yin-Yang and tube, tube-form tiles decorated with sacred animals and funny faces, the head of tube-form tiles deco-rated with clown faces, in roofs and ceramics as head of big sacred animals. Lying above the architectural vestiges of Pre-Thang Long period is the vestiges of Ly-Tran period at 1.9 to 3m deep. At here, the archaeologists uncovered the remains of a palace with pyramid shape consisting of 9 compartments, 3 floors, 4 roofs with an area of 1,000m2. This is the most and valuable work ever found in the Imperial Citadel area. Adjacent to the palace is drainage built of brick. The inside of the drainage is 17cm wide, 20cm deep. Located adjacent to the drainage is a veranda by brick with 0.76m wide along to the length of the drainage.
In addition, the archaeologists also found the wells from Tran period with the bricks folded to crossed fishbone way creating solid links not easily broken. This is proved clearly through the relative existence of wells in Tran period, although the Imperial Citadel has undergone many changes.
The excavation at 18 Hoang Dieu Street also revealed many precious artifacts in Ly-Tran period's cultural layer, including bricks, tiles, pottery, ceramic, utensils for daily activities and decoration in the royal palace. Besides, a small number of artifacts in this 2nd architecture layer bring traces of Dinh - Pre-Le period's culture, including square-shape paved tiles deco-rated with lotus, roof tile, especially bricks "Dai Viet quoc quan thanh chuyen" - a type of bricks used to build citadels of Dai Viet.
The uppermost Architectural layer is of Post-Le period, located at a depth of 0.9m to 1.9m, consisting of architectural works built of wooden-hammer bricks, types of tiles as thanh luu ly (green glazed tiles), hoang luu ly (yellowish glazed tiles) decorated with five-daw-dragon symbolizing royal power... Foundation pillars in Post- Le period reinforced gravel but more sparsely than Ly-Tran period. The foot of stone pillars were not carved lotus, because in Post-Le period, Confucianism replaced Buddhism to become the number one religion.
The wells in the Post-Le period are folded almost of stone. This was an advance technical step in making well, due to stone has good effect in purifying groundwater. Ceramic objects in Post-Le period, especially enamel ceramic decorated five- claw-dragon, printing "Quan" script and hoa lam (blue decorative) ceramic painted blue dragon and phoenix with exquisite lines are evaluated to reach the pinnacle of perfection.
In general, the artifacts in the Post-Le period cultural layer reflect clearly the ideology of a Confucian society, it is shown in the way of decoration and carving. In addition, a few artifacts of Mac Dynasty are also found in the uppermost architectural layer, the most popular ones as tube tiles with the head decorated dragons and thick rectangle brick types.
The artifacts unearthed in the Archaeological Site at 18 Hoang Dieu Street are unique evidences showing that the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long was the place where impacted many cultural influences, theories and thoughts with the global value of human civilization to create unique features of a political, economic, cultural centre. Results of acculturation are expressed in creation of landscape, plan of palaces, architecture and decorative of royal through the history period.
Hanoi Flag Tower
Hanoi Flag Tower was built in 1805 during the Nguyen Dynasty in Vauban style reconstruction of the Hanoi Citadel.
The 33.4m-high tower is one of the few structures that survived the French period intact. The base of the tower is square in form and consists of three levels constructed of brick in the form of pyramid frusta, each level reducing in size. The sides of the first level are 42.5m long and 3.1m high and there are two brick staircases leading to a paved terrace. The sides of the second level are 27m long and 3.7m high. Each wall of this level is perforated by an arched door. Above three of which are stone Chinese inscriptions: "Nghenh Hue" (welcome the dawn light) at the eastern door, “Hoi Quang” (reflected light) at the western door and “Huong Minh" (facing the light) at the southern door. The sides of the third floor are 12.8m long and 5.1m high. A door in the northern wall leads to stairs ascending to the flag tower.
The tower itself is almost entirely brick, octagonal in form and 18.2m high; each of the eight sides has a length of 2m at the base, tapering gradually to the top. Fifty- four internal spiral stairs lead to the top. Light and ventilation are provided to the tower by fan-shaped and octagonal ports.
The tower is crowned with a 3.3m-high observation floor constructed of stuccoes brick with a rectangular window in each side. A 40cm-diameter flag staff has fixed to the top of the tower since Hanoi liberation day (10 October 1954).
Doan Mon (Main Gate)
Doan Mon is the main gate of the Forbidden City, directed toward the south be-cause it's the most important direction for ancient architecture of Vietnamese. The gate was firstly built in the Ly Dynasty (11th century) but the existing structure dates from the early years of the Le Dynasty (15th century) with restorations carried out during the Nguyen Dynasty (19th century). Doan Mon, together with an area behind it formerly known as Long Tri (Dragon Courtyard), played a very important role in the ceremonies of the Imperial Citadel such as the ceremony for national loyalty Oath (1128); Nhan Vuong Festival, Quang Chieu Colored Lantern Festival (1136); the parade of imperial guards (1351) and ceremonies for the royal examinations (1466,1481,1496...). When Hanoi Citadel was destroyed by French colonialists in late 19th century, Doan Mon has been one of some structures which have still existed. After the Vietnam military liberated the capital in 1954, Hanoi Citadel including Doan Mon has become head office of Ministry of National Defense.
Doan Mon is U-shaped, 46.5m in width, 26.5m in depth and 6m in height. Constructed of stone and large square-section bricks, Doan Mon has three floors. The first floor includes 5 doors, of which the central door reserved for the Kings is the largest one with 4m in height and 2.7m in width. A stone tablet with the words "Doan Mon” in Chinese characters is fixed above the central door. There are two smaller doors (3.8m in height and 2.5m in width) in the each side of the central door reserved for the mandarins and members of the royal family. In addition, there are also two secondary doors in the both side of the main gate.
The second floor is surrounded by a balustrade and reached by two flights of stairs. Its doors are opening to the east, west, south and north and decorated with hexagons, crosses, lozenges and the Chinese symbol for longevity. The third floor features a gazebo-style pavilion with two-layer roof. The first layer of roof is tiled and ornamented with dragons at the up-turned corners. The upper layer of roof, also tiled, features decorative foliage at the up-turned corners and dragon heads at each end of the ridge line. The two layers of roof are separated by short timber walls. Dragon faces adorn the gables.
In 1998, Ministry of National Defense handed Doan Mon over to Hanoi People’s Committee with total area of 3,970m2. Doan Mon has been opened for visitors since October, 2001.
Kinh Thien Palace
Kinh Thien Palace was the centre of Imperial Citadel of Thang Long in Le Dynasty and Hanoi Citadel in Nguyen Dynasty.
In 1010, King Ly Thai To promulgated Chieu Doi Do (the Royal Decree) to change the capital from Hoa Lu (Ninh Binh Province) to Dai La Citadel (Hanoi). After transferring the capital, the King had Citadel of Thang Long built, of which the main palace of Can Nguyen was in the centre location, atop Long Do Mountain (Dragon's navel). According to phong thuy (feng shui) principles and architectural practice, Long Do Mountain is a place of immense ritual power. In 1029, King Ly Thai Tong had Thien An Palace built on the foundation of Can Nguyen Palace. In 1428, King Le Thai To had Kinh Thien Palace built on the foundation of Thien An Palace and Kinh
Thien Palace was considered as "one of the masterpieces of An Nam architecture". In Nguyen Dynasty, when the capital was transferred to Hue, Kinh Thien Palace only acted as accommodation for Nguyen Kings during their trips to the North.
In 1886, the French colonists destroyed Kinh Thien Palace, except two sets of stone dragon steps and had a house built on the foundation of the palace including 2 floors with 7 rooms. The house was used as French headquarters of artillery and called Dragon House because there are sets of stone dragon steps at the front and the back of the house. When Hanoi was liberated in 1954, Dragon House became general headquarters of Vietnamese People's Army. It is now a relic of revolution and history, opened frequently for visitors.
Two sets of stone dragon steps Two sets of stone dragon steps in Kinh Thien Palace are the typical heritage of architecture and arts for the Later Le Dynasty. The set of dragon steps at the front built in 1467 includes nine stone steps; each step is 20cm high, 40cm wide, 13.6m long. The steps are divided into three flights separated by two stone dragons. The centre flight was reserved for king, while two flanking ones were for mandarins.
The two dragons are beautifully sculpted. Their heads - at the first step - are very large, their body are tapering as they fol-low the ascent of the steps until they form a sword shape at the top. Each dragon has five claws, symbolizing royal owner. There are two banisters at two 'ides of the set of dragon steps made of monoliths with length of 5.3m, width of 36 - 39cm. Many vignettes are carved in these banisters.
The second set of dragon steps at the back constructed at the 17th - 18th centuries includes seven steps. Its scale is smaller than the set of steps at the front. There is only one flight created by two dragons at two sides of the set of dragon steps. Each dragon is 3.4m long with meticulous details including mouth hold-ing a stone "pearl", round nose, high forehead, branched horn, feet with five claws...
Four dragons in Kinh Thien Palace are also made of green stone and reflect partly monumental scale of former Kinh Thien Palace.
Building D67 was the General Headquarters of the North Vietnamese Armed Forces during resistance war against American imperialists.
Building D67 was erected, as its name suggests, in 1967 in the back of Dragon House with the length of 43.02m, width of 20.85m, height of 7.89m. From the outside, it appears much like an ordinary single storey house with a flat roof, but the details of its construction betray its military importance. A layer of sand on the roof protected the building from shrapnel penetration. The walls are 0.6m thick and soundproofed. There are two entrance doors, the outside one made of lcm-thick steel.
The building contained meeting rooms for the Politburo of the Vietnamese Communist Party, as well as the offices of General Vo Nguyen Giap and General Van Tien Dung. Doors of the two offices lead to stairs to the underground bunker located in area between Building D67 and Dragon House. The bunker is 9m deep and rein-forced to withstand bombing. There are three entry and exit stairs, accessible through steel doors, one leading to Dragon House and two to Building D67.
Hau Lau (Rear Pavilion)
Hau Lau has mixed architecture of the Eastern and Western styles.
Hau Lau is built in the north (the rear) of Kinh Thien Palace for peace according to phong thuy (feng shui) principles. There-fore, it's called Tinh Bac Lau or the Rear Pavilion. Hau Lau is also known as the Princesses' building because it was ac-accommodation for concubines of Nguyen Kings during their trip to Hanoi Citadel. At the end of the 19th century, Hau Lau was seriously damaged due to war and reconstructed by French as military post of French army.
The base of Hau Lau is a parallelepiped form, with an entrance framed by pilasters at each end above which are decorative friezes. The second level of Hau Lau consists of a three-compartment pavilion, the central part of which is slightly higher than the flanking elements.
The central compartment has rectangular windows on either side of an arched window, each divided from the others by pilasters. The side compartments have blank north and south walls framed by pilasters, while the western and eastern walls are perforated by arched openings. The central bay is topped by a two level gazebo with arched and rectangular windows, each level having a tube tile roof with up-turned eaves decorated with dragon heads.
The uppermost level of the gazebo has a gable roof. In fact the building's roof structure expresses important architectural concepts, with each element of the upper levels having eight roof sides. In Chinese and Vietnamese numerology eight is a distinguished number. The upper walls feature extensive use of friezes.
At present, Hau Lau is the place to exhibit some artifacts found in surrounding area as well as images about Hanoi through some historical periods.
Bac Mon (Northern Gate)
Bac Mon is the last remains of five gates of Hanoi Citadel under the Nguyen Dynasty.
Built of brick in 1805 on the foundation of Northern Gate under the Le Dynasty, Bac Mon is 8.71m high and 17.08m wide. Above the arched door of Bac Mon is a stone tablet with three Chinese words "Chinh Bac Mon" and decorative liana figures carved in it.
The base of Bac Mon is trapezoid in form and topped with a balustrade terrace with stone arris gutters. The upper pavil-ion has a double roof with up-turned eaves and gables. At present, it is the place to worship two Hanoi's chiefs of Nguyen Tri Phuong and Hoang Dieu - the heroes of two battles against French colonialists in 1873 and 1882.
In 1998, archaeologists discovered at a depth of between 1.66m and 2.2m remnants of a wall built with stone and large
bricks, and the 1.2m thick foundation of a building from the Le Dynasty.
The Forbidden City wall and eight gates from the Nguyen Dynasty
In 1805, during the reconstruction of the Hanoi Citadel in the Vauban style, a new wall was constructed around truncated Forbidden City encompassing the former Kinh Thien Palace site. The royal palace area bound by this wall was used by the Nguyen kings when they were visiting the North. It has eight gates, of which two gates are located in the both sides of Doan Mon in the south, two gates in the back of Hau Lau in the north, one gate faces Nguyen Tri Phuong Street in the east, one gate faces Hoang Dieu Street in the west and two gates in the both sides of Kinh Thien Palace foundation. At present, the Forbidden City wall and eight gates still remain. In 1925, the gates of the wall were listed as heritage structures by the French Government together with some other elements of the citadel.