(Palace of Supreme Harmony): Within the complex of the Nguyen Dynasty’s imperial palace, Thai Hoa Palace is the most important architectural work in all its aspects: function, location, historical significance and cultural and artistic values.
This is also seen as the most prominent quarter of the Nguyen Court. Here the emperor’s official receptions and other important court ceremonies such as anniversaries, coronations and national celebrations were organized on the first and the fifth day of the lunar calendar. Such ceremonies were arranged with the participation of the Kings, the members of the Imperial Family and high-ranking mandarins.
Historically, the construction of this palace was divided into three main periods; each introducing their own modifications and improvements in terms of ornamental architecture.
Under Gia Long’s reign, the construction of Thai Hoa Palace was begun on February 21, 1805 and completed in October of the same year. When the imperial architectural system of the Citadel was renovated by Minh Mang, the palace was then moved onto a large and grandiose foundation which was a little slanted to the North. This occurred in the first month of the lunar year Quy Ty, i.e. March, 1833. Later, in 1923, in the reign of Khai Dinh, Thai Hoa Palace was restored by the emperor himself to prepare for his fortieth birthday anniversary. In this large-scale renovation process, some architectural parts of the palace were restored and rebuilt.
Nine dragons are ornamented on the palace’s roof by exceedingly skillful artisans. The throne, which is elaborately carved and gilded, lies at the end of the palace’s central compartment with a splendidly decorated canopy above. Eighty ironwood columns, which line in the palace are lacquered and beautifully adorned with red and gold dragons and clouds.
Through the architecture and decoration of Thai Hoa Palace, one finds that the ancients have inspired many deep thoughts interwoven with the traditional philosophy of the Orient in its construction. Beside the philosophical architectural language, the palace is also noted for its many literal languages with some 297 bas-reliefs, which have been engraved with poems in Chinese characters. The beauty of these words within the structure itself displays one of the specialties of Phu Xuan culture in the early 19th century.
In front of Thai Hoa Palace stands the Great Rite Courtyard (or Esplanade of Great Salutation), the Thai Dich Pond and the Trung Dao Bridge. The Great Rite Courtyard, which is divided into three terraces, was reserved for mandarins from the first to ninth grade. The order of mandarins was marked in two rows of small stone steles set up on either sides of the court.
Thai Hoa Palace (1805) is one of the best examples of these early monuments that reflect the unique motifs of the locality of Hue. It is also the largest and most majestic of the imperial architecture system that remains in Hue to this day.