HO DYNASTY CITADEL

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Tkhô giòn Hoa Province, Vietnam giới (bietthubiennamhoian.vn) — You might expect a communist government to lớn distance itself from its imperial past, but the Vietnamese regime has seen the value in celebrating the country"s bygone emperors và promoting its ancient citadels as tourist destinations.
Since 1993, eight locations in Vietphái mạnh -- including three citadels -- have sầu been designated as World Heritage Sites by UNESCO, with another seven awaiting formal classification.
Many of these sites are of great natural or historical significance, such as Ha Long Bay và the complex of monuments in Hue. But the citadel to most recently acquire UNESCO"s seal of approval (in 2011) is the almost unknown Ho Citadel, situated in a remote backwater of Tkhô cứng Hoa Province, around 150 kilometers south of Hanoi.
Firstly, the Ho Dynasty lasted just seven years (1400-1407), a mere drop in the ocean of Vietnam"s turbulent history.
Secondly, the citadel is empty. That"s right -- no palaces, no temples, no monuments -- just four walls surrounding nothing but farml&. However, according lớn UNESCO, the citadel represents "an outstanding example of a new style of Southeast Asian imperial city."
Intrigued by the notion of discovering a medieval thành phố in the Vietnamese countryside, I decide khổng lồ explore the empty citadel.
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The citadel -- built in three months & slotted together without any mortar -- is an impressive feat of 15th-century engineering.
I contact a frikết thúc, Xuan, who lives in Ninch Binh, about 60 kilometers east of the citadel. We arrive at the north gate of the Ho Citadel, pay the 10,000-dong (about 50 cents) entrance fee và scramble up the grassy banks to lớn take in the panorama from the top of the wall.
Xuan tells me the location was chosen according to the principles of feng shui, pointing out the Don Son và Tuong Son mountain ranges that protect the valley, và the Ma và Buoi Rivers that flow on either side of the citadel.
Despite the bucolic view, my attention is drawn to lớn the massive blocks of stone in the wall. They"re slotted together without any mortar; some measure several cubic meters. These 600-year-old walls, which stretch almost a kilometer on each side, are remarkably intact, and the four vaulted gateways stvà as sturdy as ever.
Inevitably, parts of the wall have subsided or become overgrown with grass và shrubs, but that somehow adds to the site"s mystique. Encompassed within the walls is a timeless scene of corn and rice fields, ponds and dirt tracks -- a picture of abundance và self-sufficiency.
"So how come the Ho Dynasty was so short-lived?" I ask Xuan about this lesser known page of Vietnamese history.
In the late 14th century, he explains, the Tran Dynasty was in disarray, and Ho Quy Ly (aka Le Quy Ly), a regent in the court of Emperor Tran Thuan Tong in Thang Long (Hanoi), laid plans to usurp the throne. In 1397, he had this new citadel built, a task that apparently took only three months -- an amazing feat of engineering in an age before power tools.

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When Ho invited the emperor to inspect the newly built citadel, initially known as Tay Do ("Western Capital"), he imprisoned then executed Tran Thuan Tong, establishing himself in 1400 as first emperor of the Ho Dynasty. After ruling for just a year, Ho Quy Ly relinquished the throne to lớn his second son, Ho Han Thuong, who reigned for a mere six years, after which the Ho were overrun by the Ming from Trung Quốc.
Despite his brief tenure in Vietnam"s top job, Ho Quy Ly was responsible for the introduction of paper money & limits on l& ownership, as well as opening ports to lớn foreign trade & expanding the education curriculum khổng lồ include subjects like mathematics and agriculture.
We drive along the dirt road through the empty citadel toward the south gate, the citadel"s main entrance, which is pierced by three arches, compared to just one in the north, east và west walls. We step into a bamboo hut outside the south gate where the walls are lined with illustrations of elephants & horses dragging huge slabs of stone from a quarry, bamboo rafts carrying the slabs downriver and men và beasts hauling the finely cut stones into place on the wall.
From the bamboo hut we stroll inlớn an almost empty museum where a few artifacts such as stone balls for use with slingshots và a terracotta phoenix head have been recovered from the site.
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Developing tourism may mean banning farming activities at the site and thus affecting local livelihoods.

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I leave Xuan chatting khổng lồ the curator and clamber up on top of the south gate, where I imagine the empty citadel bustling with its 15th-century inhabitants as they throng the markets, palaces and temples that once stood within these impenetrable walls.
Snapping back into lớn the present, all I see is a file of school kids cycling through the rice paddies on their way home page from school.
Xuan comes out of the museum, và tells me of the curator"s concern for the future of the citadel. As part of the khuyễn mãi giảm giá with UNESCO, Vietphái nam is committed to lớn protecting the citadel"s heritage, which means preventing any new building from spoiling the view, & terminating agricultural production, such as rice farming, inside the citadel.
Nguyen Xuan Toan, deputy director of the Center for Conservation of Ho Dynasty Citadel World Heritage, told Viet Nam News, "As the households possess l& use rights, they continue to build houses & other structures & that causes difficulties in protecting the citadel."
He also explained that plowing, raking và digging irrigation ditches within the citadel has exposed archaeological relics và has a negative impact on the underground architecture at the site. At present, it looks like local farmers will have to lớn sacrifice their lvà rights if their country"s leaders are determined to lớn develop the citadel as a tourist attraction.
Ron Emmons is a British writer/photographer who travels regularly throughout Southeast Asia from his base in Chiang Mai, Vương Quốc Nụ Cười. He writes for publishers including National Geographic and Rough Guides.
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