Nam Giao Esplanade
Update: 12/12/2013 11:40:30
Nam Giao Esplanade is a monument of Nguyen dynasty, located in the south of Hue Citadel and 5km away. This is the place where Nguyen Kings used to come to give offerings the God. It is the largest one in Vietnamese history left.

It was built at An Ninh village in 1803 under Gia Long times. In 1806, it was moved to the present position within Truong An ward the south of the Citadel. This Esplanade surrounded with a forest of pine trees is the unique one left in Viet Nam.  In the old days, the Kings themselves and mandarins grew and cared for these pine trees. Because, for them, this was the most sacred place that needed to be kept well. Nowadays, the old trees no longer exist but a number of others were grown to replace the old. The Esplanade was designed with three terraces interbuilt on one another, symbolizing three agents: heaven, earth and man.

- The topmost is circular, called "Vien Dan", symbolizing heaven. Its surrounding parapet was painted blue. Its surface was paved with "Thanh" stones that were  pierced with circular holes. On the offering days, A blue conical tent called "Thanh Oc" was set up on these holes.

- The right below is a square terrace, called Phuong Dan, symbolizing Earth. Its surrounding parapet was painted yellow. A yellow conical tent called "Hoang Oc" was set up on the offering day.
- The lowest is also square. Its surrounding parapet was painted red, symbolizing man.

All three terraces had doors and steps at four sides: East, West, South and North.
Around these three terraces, there were structures such as "Trai Cung" (Fasting Palace)- Where the Kings came for vegetarian diet and rest some days prior to starting the offering ceremony, "Than Tru" (Divine Kitchen) - Where to prepare animals for offering, "Than Kho" (Divine Store) - where to store things for offering, and many other substructures.

According to the concept that "King was the son of God", only the king himself had rights to worship his parents (heaven and earth), pray for timely rains and favourable weather as well as peace to the country. The first offering ceremony under Nguyen dynasty was held in 1807 and from then on it was held annually in the spring until Thanh Thai times in 1907, for realizing that the ceremony was too costly, he ordered to hold it every three years.

The Ministries of Protocol and Administration were in charge of preparing for the ceremony. Usually, It took some months preparing prior to the commencement of the ceremony. The King himself and mandarins had to come 3 days in advance for an abstinence. Under Bao Dai times, the duration for abstinence reduced to 1 day.

The sacrifice animals were called "con sinh" or "con sanh". They were buffaloes, pigs, goats. These animals were fatten with fine and clean foods prior to being brought to the sacrifice. Kham Thien Giam was assigned to choose the good day for the ceremony. The king himself promulgated the edicts to inform the public, to bestow a favour to mandarins and a permission to reduce imprisonment for crimes.

On both sides of the way from Imperial city to the Esplanade, the public had to make triumphal arches, lay incense tables to welcome the King and his procession. The King and his procession would get out of Ngo Mon, cross Huong river with a floating bridge made of boats (at that time, Truong Tien bridge was not built) and get Nam Giao by the streets called "Nam Giao former way (that is presently Phan Boi Chau str) and Nam Giao new way (that is presently Dien Bien Phu str).

The main ceremony was officially commenced at 2 a.m and lasted around three hours. Many rites were carried out in turn at the terraces with attention of mandarins and the orchestra including musical instruments such as bells, drums, gongs, musical stones, … .128 students and dancers would dance "Bat Dat"; Singers would sing 9 ritual song texts in 9 different phases of the ceremony.

The last offering ceremony at Nam Giao Esplanade of Vietnam monarchy was held under Bao Dai times. It was at midnight and dawn of the March 23, 1945 - 5 months prior to the monarchy's collapse.

Nowadays, Nam Giao is one of important historic monuments of Nguyen dynasty.

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