Nam Giao Esplanade is an open-air monument
- The model of architecture bears both the religious and political significance of
Oriental feudalism. Nam Giao Esplanade was built based on the dogma of heaven fate of
Confucianism. The structure of the terraces also shows the misunderstanding deriving from
old thoughts on the Universe of the prior times: circular heavens and square earth.
Nam Giao Esplanade faces south. Its
surrounding stone wall has four big open doors looking at four directions. In front of
each door, one very big screen (12.5m wide, 3.2m high, 0.8m thick) was erected. During the
ceremony, big flags with different colours were on all these doors: black flags on the
north door, blue on the east, red on the south and white on the west.
The sacrifice offering Esplanade was
designed with three terraces, one on top of another symbolizing oriental theory of three
agents: Heaven, Earth and Man. Each terrace had its own shape and colour: circular heaven,
square earth, blue heaven, yellow earth. The topmost is circular, and is called Vien
Doanh, symbolizing Heaven. The surrounding parapet was painted blue. On the ceremony day,
people built on this layer a conical tent with blue cloth called Thanh Oc. Right below is
a square terrace called Phuong Dan, representing the Earth.
The surrounding parapet is painted yellow.
On the sacrifice offering day, a square house with yellow cloth roof smaller than the
yellow tent was erected. During the ceremony, there were 128 students and dancers. The
three layers are 4.65m high in total. Shapes, colour and directions of the architecture of
Nam Giao Esplanade were based on the principles of Yin and Yang and five basic elements
(Metal, Wood, Water, Fire and Earth).
From Gia Long's time (1802-1819) the
ceremony was organized in the first weeks or the first month in lunar calendar every year.
Since 1890, for realizing that such a ceremony was too costly, Thanh Thai dynasty
organized it once every three years: in the years of Rat, Cat, Horse and Rooster. It took
the Protocol and Administration Ministries many months to prepare for the ceremony. For
some days prior to the sacrifice offering day, all villages and communal in Thua Thien-Hue
were ordered to complete making triumphal arches, to put alters on both sides of the route
where the Emperor would pass by from Ngo Mon Noon gate to Trai Cung (Fasting Palace).
For each ceremony, the Emperor came to the
Fasting Palace to stay there for three days prior to ceremory. In Bao Dai's time, the
duration was reduced to one day. The Emperor came from the citadel to Trai Cung
accompanying by a procession called Ngu Dao including from 1,000 to 5,000 people. The King
sat on the sedan carried by royal soldiers in the middle path. When the Truong Tien bridge
had not been built yet - the procession crossed the Perfume river by buoy bridge made
temporarily by boats.
The main Ceremony began officially at 2
a.m. and lasted nearly 3 hours.
All the sacrifice offering terraces of the
Ly, Tran, Le, Tay Son dynasties do not exist any more. Nam Giao esplanade of the Nguyen
dynasty is the unique one left relatively undamaged. To visit it, tourists can have a
chance to understand more about many aspects of the cultural and spiritual life of the