Table Of Contents
Nam Giao Esplanade Introduction
Nam Giao Esplanade is one of the important monuments of the Nguyen dynasty, located about 5km away in the south of Hue Citadel. This is the place where Nguyen Emperors used to come to worship Heaven and Ground.
In the old days, the emperors considered themselves Heavenly beings. But heaven was the one highest majesty and gave happiness to all people so often they held solemn heavenly sacrifices. Because Emperor is the son of Heaven so he must personally stand as the master to do the ceremony of the filial piety of a son.
During the Nguyen Dynasty, the ceremony was held in Nam Giao esplanade in the middle of February every year. Before the reign of Thanh Thai emperor, the ceremony was held every year or two. By the 2nd year of Thanh Thai (1890) is every three years.
Nam Giao Esplanade Hue Location
Nam Giao esplanade was completed in the 5th year of Gia Long (1806) in Duong Xuan village, south of Hue Citadel, in a land area of 390m long, 265m wide, on a high, airy position. Around the campus surrounded by a stone wall, 4 doors wide in 4 directions East-West – South-North. In front of each door, there is a screen 12.5m wide, 3.2m high, 0.8m thick.
Nam Giao Esplanade Structure
Nam Giao esplanade has 3 terraces. The top floor is called Thuong Dan with a circular shape, so it is also called Vien Dan, with a diameter of 39 meters, the base of 3 meters high. There are steps up and down all four sides, the south side 15 levels, the three sides north, west and east are 9 levels. Surround the esplanade is a blue railing symbolizing Heaven, 2 meters high.
The second floor called Trung Dan has a square shape, so it is called Phương Đàn, the yellow railing ring represents the land (Dia). The bottom floor is called Ha Dan, also square, the red railing circle represents Human beings (Nhan).
To the left of the esplanade is Trai Cung, where the emperors retreat before the ceremony. To the right are the Than Kho (the warehouse for sacrifices) and the Than Tru (the kitchen prepares sacrifices).
The Worshiping Ceremony
After the Lunar New Year, Kham Thien Giam – the agency that looks after the calendar under the Nguyen Dynasty will choose a good day to offer the emperor’s approval. After that, the Court will carry out preparations for the Nam Giao esplanade sacrifice.
The ceremony of the Year of the Pig in 1839 (the 20th year of Minh Mang) with the participation of over 4000 people (up to 7.8 thousand in some years).
During the Nam Giao sacrifice, the king can stand as the celebrant himself; or entrust the high-ranking mandarin on behalf of the emperor to be the celebrant. On the sacrifice day, the King wore a court crown, a yellow robe, a jade belt, and a gold sash. The officials were all dressed in royal uniform. The ceremony had bells, drums, and royal court music according to the orders.
A Typical Nam Giao Esplanade Sacrifice
On both sides of the way from Hue Imperial Citadel to the Esplanade, the people had to make triumphal arches, set up tables with incense burners to welcome the emperor and his procession. The emperor and his procession got out of the Noon Gate (Ngo Mon gate), cross the Perfume river with a floating bridge made of boats (at that time, Truong Tien bridge had not built) and got Nam Giao by the streets called “Nam Giao former way (presently Phan Boi Chau street) and Nam Giao new way (presently Dien Bien Phu street).
The major ceremony was officially commenced at 2 a.m and lasted about three hours. Many rites were carried out in turn at the terraces with the attention of high- ranking mandarins and the orchestra including musical instruments such as drums, bells, gongs, musical stones, … .128 royal dancers danced “Bat Dat”; Singers sang 9 ritual song texts in 9 different stages of the ceremony.
The last offering ceremony at Nam Giao Esplanade of the Vietnam monarchy was held under the Bao Dai emperor’s reign. It was at midnight and dawn of March 23, 1945 – 5 months before the monarchy’s ended.
Nam Giao Esplanade entrance fee and opening hour
Nowadays, Nam Giao is one of the important historic monuments of the Nguyen dynasty. It is also under the management of Hue Monuments Conservation Center so you have to buy an entrance ticket to explore. It costs VND 50,000/ person and children under 12 years old are free.
The opening hour is from 7 am to 5 pm every day even on Lunar New Year. If you would like to visit the Nam Giao Esplanade and other famous historic places such as Hue Imperial Citadel; Thien Mu pagoda, Hue Royal Tombs, Dong Ba Market, etc. You should book Hue Group City Tour; Hue Tour By Private Car or Hue Private City Tour via Culture Pham Travel.