2. The Official Quarter: Royal Citadel and Trinh Lord’s Palace
+ Royal citadel. The Royal citadel contained the residence and administrative offices of the king and his mandarins. It consisted of the Purple Forbidden City, designated for the king only, and many other areas and palaces. During the Ly-Tran dynasties [1010-1400], the Royal citadel (called then the Phoenix citadel) was rebuilt and repaired many times. In 1490, King Le Thanh Tong, “according to regulations of the Ly-Tran dynasties,” had the Phoenix citadel banked up all the way “to the outside of the Martial Arts Institute to 8 dam in length.” (That Martial Arts Institute may be the Giang Vo area now.) (8-III:307) In 1514, King Le Tuong Due, had “a fortification built up along the To Lich River” thousands of truong long, encompassing Tuong Quang Temple, the Tran Vu Temple and the Thien Hoa Pagoda in the Kim Co guild area. The newly expanded citadel was built over a sewage outflow system. Broken tiles, earth and crushed rocks were used to cover the ground, and then large, flat pieces of stone and square brick tiles were laid on that base and iron bars were placed across the sewer outlet pipe as a grating. (8-IV:81) This citadel probably had the largest area of all the citadels in Thang Long’s history.
There are different ideas about the scale and position of the Le dynasty citadel. First, based on nine maps of Thang Long in the Le dynasty, we can make out today some of walls that surrounded Thang Long on the ancient Royal citadel’s foundation. Sometimes the outlines of the circumferential walls coincided and exactly overlapped with the royal area and sometimes they ran in far-separated directions.
This stimulates us to ask some questions. Which ones belonged to the Le dynasty? There is also another question: “Where is the exact position of the Royal citadel during the Le dynasty? Was it situated in the same place as the one in the former Ly-Tran dynasties or was it moved eastward towards the guild area?” And another question, “Were the scale and position of the Royal citadel in the first reign of the Le dynasty different from or the same as those of the Le dynasty during the combined rule of the Le king and the Trinh Lords?”
In 1959, historian, Tran Huy Ba alone (43) and then in collaboration with other authors of the book The Capital’s History (written 1960) noted that the citadel in the Ly-Tran dynasties seemed shifted more to the west into the Ngoc Ha - Vinh Phuc area. After 1490 the Le dynasty citadel expanded toward the guild area in the east. (79:58)
Historian Hoang Dao Thuy in Hanoi’s People and Scenes (1982) asserted that “The Ly, Tran and Le dynasties occupied the same Thang Long capital but the Ly and Tran Kings did not have the Eastern Palace.” (115:34) In other words, in the Le dynasty the citadel was situated more to the west and expanded quite a bit east into what is now the guild area. Two authors, Tran Quoc Vuong and Vu Tuan San, said in 1966, “The Royal citadel of the Ly dynasty and that of the Le dynasty were likely to be in the same position. No shifting occurred from west to east. The position of the citadel in the Ly dynasty remained unchanged until the Nguyen dynasty.” (121) In the 1975 book, Hanoi: A Thousand Years, those authors maintained their opinion. But recently, after comparing the layout of newly-discovered maps of Thang Long, author Bui Thiet, put forth a different hypothesis. He speculated that the Royal citadel in the Le dynasty was neither more to the east nor to the west. He believed that it was bounded in the west at Ho Khau, but he didn’t make it clear whether he considered that to be the boundary of the Royal citadel or of the Forbidden City.
Meanwhile we will consider and critique previous authors’ points of view. We will analyze notes written by the Imperial Court based on archeological findings and the names of palaces, former sites of citadels, and the course of the To Lich-Kim Nguu River system. In addition we will study and compare Thang Long maps made in the Le dynasty with those drawn in the Nguyen dynasty. Then we can consider a new hypothesis.
Can it be that the citadel in the first reign of the Le dynasty is the outer wall drawn on Le dynasty maps? This wall was erected based on the currents of the To Lich and the Kim Nguu Rivers while the inner rectangular citadel was only the Purple Forbidden City. If these suggestions are valid, then the scale of this Royal citadel was quite large. Some sections in the west, such as those in today’s Buoi-Cau Giay section and the La Thanh Dike-Cau Giay-Giang Vo junction, overlapped sections built in 1588 by the usurper, King Mac Mau Hop.
- In 1592, when the Lord Trinh Tung led his men to Thang Long to destroy the Mac usurpers, he “set the palaces and houses inside the citadel on fire; fire and smoke covered the entire sky. There were no more palaces and houses in the capital.” (8-IV: 188) After that devastation, did the combined Le King-Trinh Lord government repair all the palaces and citadel? Or did they concentrate on repairing only the Forbidden City? And was the citadel in the Le-Trinh dynasty, in fact, much reduced in size compared to the model in the first reigns of the Le dynasty? Were some large areas eliminated? That is, did the western part become agricultural, which later belonged to the Tong Noi canton of the Nguyen dynasty, and the eastern part form the commercial area of handicraft guilds?
A map drawn in 1831 during Minh Mang’s reign by Le Due Loc, A Book on Unified Dai Nam attributed the erection of the western part of the citadel wall to Lord Trinh Doanh in 1749. (6-III:183) This part began at Giang Vo junction, passed by what is now the Kim Ma bus station, ran along Ngoc Ha Street, passed the Botanical Gardens to Quan Thanh Temple and ran from Co Ngu Road to Yen Phu Gate. If this suggestion has merit, since the Royal citadel and the Forbidden City undoubtedly were situated inside Dai La citadel, then in 1749 all farms in the west were outside of the Royal citadel.
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