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Vietnam Architecture

Vietnam Architecture
Ruong house

Hue has long been Vietnams centre of wooden architecture and many of the buildings here, royal palaces included, are Ruong style. A typical Ruong house is noble vet cosy, hinting of the imperial finesse that oncedominated this city. Each one is made up of compartments (which are separated by rows of columns) and side-wings (which are separated from the compartments using wooden dividers).


When Hue was home to Vietnams emperors, all aspects of life here were dictated by royal decree and while those decrees might sometimes have been taken lightly elsewhere, the royal city never strayed. Thus house building, one of the most important endeavours in life, was undertaken with strict rules in mind.

A decree issued in 1822 prohibited all homes outside the royal compound from having more than three compartments and two side-wings. To guard against the storms that regularly engulf Hue, people built their houses low to the ground. These two factors combined to make Ruong houses in Hue rather small. So to make up for their homes humble size ancient Hue residents had beams, rafters and other woodwork carved and inlaid generously.
Ruong houses were made from indigenous timbers such as sedonic wood, peck wood and wild jack-fruit wood. It usually took a team of four car- penters and four carvers two years to complete a single house and although such houses are now built only rarely, there remain many Ruong experts who can carve and inlay exquisite patterns in houses today.
When all the separate parts of the house were ready for construction, the owner referred to an astrological calendar to find a good date for the Thuong Luong, or Ridgepole Initiation, ceremony. During this ceremony a pole, on which hung a tantric flag, was placed on an altar. The date of the ceremony and the owners personal zodiac were written on the flag, which was designed to bless the new house. Two cycas branches were tied to the top of the flag to attract longevity and two, four or six ancient coins were sewn into the hem of the flag to ensure prosperity.
Then, on a plate with flowers, fruits, tea and incense, the owner placed rice, salt, flour and mock money on the altar. On separate plates, each carpenter placed similar offerings on the altar. A red turban was placed on the master builders plate, which he would later wear as he helped lift the ridgepole into position. At the end of the ceremony, the owner was the first person to touch the ridgepole. The Thuong Luong flag remained on the pole until the house was complete and a house warming celebration held.
According to ancient beliefs, the owner must treat his carpenters well during construction, for if he didn they might hex the house with a tantric spell. The spell was written on a piece of paper, which was then hidden in a crack of wood. The carpenter need only draw the tantric hex in the air with his left hand, then tap that hand on a beam of the house, for the hex to take effect.
The most important part of Ruong house building was the calculation of the front doors width. For this, ancient Hue builders used the Luban carpentry ruler, which was originally designed by an 8th Century Chinese engineer. There are many versions of this ruler in use today: Chinese, Japanese, Laotian and Vietnamese. Builders in Hue speculate that Emperor Minh Mang (1820 to 1840) added around two centimetres to the original Chinese Luban ruler to ensure that   palaces   built   by his Nguyen dynasty would differ from those of previous dynasties and of other countries.
Two kinds of rulers were used in Ruong construction. The first, a 42.7cm Bat Moc Xich, measured the wooden materials used in the house. The second and more important ruler was the 28.4cm Bat Mon Xich which calculated the width of doors and gates. Each had eight segments: Four good (Like Blessing or Good Fortune) and four bad. Each segment in turn had four parts. The Blessing segment, for example, included Inherited Blessing, Perpetual Life, Great Contentment, and Received Graces.
The front of a Ruong house was made up entirely of doors and ancient people believed that a slight change in the front doors width could make a great change in the owners fortunes. Getting the front doors right was therefore of utmost importance. The measurements started from the left frame and ended at the chosen part of the Bat Mon Xich. If the owner wanted long life, the door ended at the Perpetual Life part of the Blessing segment of the ruler. If he wanted to see his off- spring succeed in man-darinhood, his door ended at the Scholarly Gains part of the Gain segment.
Outside the house, strict rules applied too. In the garden, each tree hid a secret meaning and had to be positioned carefully. Pines and spruces represented long life and belonged in the family cemetery. Elm was a tree of gentility and should be planted in the front garden. Cherry averted evil, while phyllocactus invited ghosts.
A concrete paravent was built to ward off evil spirits atop a miniature mountain in front of the house. The mountain comprised Taoist shapes and motifs, such as the three immortal mounts, three paradise islands and five celestial peaks, so that if an evil spirit bypassed the paravent it would get lost and wander for eternity through these fairy realms.
The customs and beliefs tied up in the art of creating a Ruong house are an integral part of Vietnamese culture. Sadly, many people no longer see their beauty and rather than investing in their upkeep, choose to destroy them and build dull, modern homes in their place.

Vietnamese Architecture

Vietnamese architecture arises from the Kings Hung dynasty.

Before the 10th century, villages and hamlets appeared in this period according to several tales of Linh Nam. The ancient Vietnamese used wood to build houses to protect themselves from tigers and wolves. Two kinds of houses were depicted on the bronze drums; one in the shape of a boat and the other in a shape similar to a turtle shell.
Due to dense lakes, swamps, rivers, and highly humid tropical climate, the most appropriate building material is bamboo and wood to set up houses on low stilts. At the end of the 19th century, houses on stilts remained in mountainous areas, midlands, and plains throughout the country.
In order to be suitable with the rugged terrain, Co Loa Citadel was made out of clay during Thuc Phan Dynasty in the 3rd century BC. The architecture during the Chinese sovereignty, from the 2nd century BC to the 9th century, consisted of various structures like ramparts, royal tombs, citadels, folk-houses, and pagodas.

Nguyen Dynasty
The development of Bac Ha region at the beginning of the 19th century was slowed down, after the capital was moved to Hue by the Nguyen Dynasty. At the same time, development in Thang Long increased and citadels, cultural structures, temples, and new residential areas were built.
The center of the significant development was in Hue where imposing citadels, palaces, and tombs were built. The Vietnamese culture in Hue was influenced by the gardened-type houses which is quite different from the tubular type of houses in Hanoi.
Hue’s architecture was considered as a collection of traditional influences which relied on flat surfaces, citadel and urban centers, interior decoration, and scenery structures.

Ly Dynasty
During the 11th century while a united-feudal state was developing, the Ly Dynasty initiated a new phase in architectural development.
Generally, the architecture of Ly Dynasty, 11th and 12th centuries, had five orthodox styles: citadels, palaces, castles, pagodas, and houses.
Thang Long Citadel had a complex of palaces, many of which were 3-4 floor temples. At that time, the Thang Long culture deeply reflected the cultural characteristic of the tower-pagoda. The architectural characteristics of the Ly Dynasty were residential complexes, more ornamental roofs, doors, door-steps, banisters, and rounded statues, all in a suitable design for the climate and traditional customs of Vietnam. Streets, markets, ground and stilt houses in popular architectural design developed simultaneously as royal palaces.

Le Dynasty
In the turn of the 15th century, under Le Dynasty, orthodox architecture had two dominant styles: the imperial palace and the royal tomb. From the 16th to 17th century, religious architecture gained a lot of popularity in architectural development.
But Thap Pagoda in Bac Ninh Province is famous for its structure and for the techniques used to build the tower and carve and paint the statues. When feudalism lost popularity, folk-art continued to be reflected in carvings and paintings describing active scenes of rowing, hunting, sloughing, wrestling, and cutting.
The pagoda and temple construction techniques achieved progress during the 18th century.

Tran Dynasty
Under the Tran Dynasty, the dominant architecture models were the royal palace, pagoda, house, temple, and citadel. These styles were deeply and significantly illustrated in the Binh Son Tower in Vinh Phu Province, the Pho Minh Pagoda in Nam Dinh Province, and the Thai Lac Pagoda in Hung Yen Province.
The complexity and structure of Pho Minh Pagoda is an outstanding example of the architectural style of the Tran Dynasty period and of the following centuries. The structure was designed in 3 main sections: the lobby, main hall, and sanctuary.
The inside yard, or interior garden, played an important role in the traditional architectural style and reflected the concept of oriental space. The contemporary architecture of royal palaces was designed with upper floors and systems of consecutive corridors in an open-air space, which was very convenient for living in a warm climate. In spite of the crowded development, the majority of construction materials were still bamboo and wood.
Even though the Ho Dynasty lasted for only 7 years, it left an outstanding architectural heritage such as the Tay Do Citadel in Thanh Hoa Province. The splendid doors of the citadel still remain.

Modern and Contemporary Architecture
At the end of the 19th century, architectural characteristics were influenced by new construction style brought by European urban planning and the interaction between French and Oriental cultures. Since the reunification in 1975, Vietnam’s architecture has been impressively developing.
Many new urban and residential areas, industrial zones, and new villages with major architectural works have brought high artistic value to regional development. Nowadays, architectural development consists of 5 main domains: interior design, architectural design, environmental design, urban planning, and regional planning. Also, issues on spontaneous development of urban area, protection of architectural relics, and house-building strategies are problems that need urgent solutions.

Open house

Home, guesthouse, mens club, training centre, committee room and religious space - there are many uses for the soaring Bahnar communal house being built at the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology in Hanoi Dr. Claire Sutherland reports.

Opened in June of this year, the Bahnar communal house tells a story of international co-operation to rescue a traditional feature of Vietnams Central Highlands from oblivion. Only painstaking ethnographic research based on old photographs and folk memory, coupled with joint funding from the museum and the German government, made reconstruction in the traditional style possible.
The sharply angled building stands a breathtaking 17 meters high, making it an attention-grabbing centrepiece for the museums outdoor collection of ethnic minority houses. Built by a team of 29 artisans under the expert guidance of museum ethnologists, it is a unique testimony to traditional Bahnar building styles, all but wiped out by the tribulations of history and a modernising drive. Todays Bahnar communities are likely to have a communal house of cement and corrugated iron in the village centre, if at all.
The reason for the houses extraordinaiy shape remains unclear, adding an aura of mystery to the surprising structure. Perhaps the ritual poles in the foreground, planted to form a bridge between the earthly and the spiritual worlds, hold a clue to the houses symbolic meaning. It is certainly awe-inspiring, as befits the traditional power centre of Bahnar communities.
At the same time, the house represents a haven for the Bahnar boys who live in it before their marriage to acquire the knowledge and skills required for their adult life. Village elders teach the arts of hunting, basket-weaving and music. They pass down the moral code, the history and folklore of their forefathers. The communal house truly constitutes a centre of village activity, where guests enjoy Bahnar hospitality, important decisions are taken and religious rituals conducted. Although usually a male preserve during and after construction, women traditionally had the job of gathering thalch for the roof. All share in the ritual feasts held inside the house.


When To Travel To Vietnam

Good time to Travel in Vietnam is from September to June. However, Vietnam has three different regions – the North, the Central and the South – each with different weather patterns and different rainy seasons. This means that there is neither a best time nor a worst time to visit Vietnam. Hot summer or Cold winter is not that a big deal. Nice beaches such as Halong bay, Hoi An, Nha Trang, Mui Ne - Phan Thiet or Phu Quoc Island are always available; Sapa and Dalat highlands offer great places for cool temperature. You can find your favourite kind of weather all year round for your next Vietnam Tours!



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