Most visitors to Huế are attracted by the city’s greenery. Many has regarded Huế as a “Garden Capital”. There are royal and palace gardens, royal tomb gardens, pagoda gardens and interestingly house gardens. The last one is popularly known as “Nhà Vườn” (literally Garden House) or “Nhà Rường” (beam house)
Why is Garden House typical Hue’s architecture?
Most of the house owners had some tight connections with Nguyễn Royal Family. They could be royal descendants, princes, princesses and others were privileged mandarins. The architecture of the garden house resemble very much the royal premises and palace. They are an excellent example of landscape-architecture. Visitors can find in these places a harmonious combination of the human construction, humans, landscape, waterscape and plants. The traditional, privately owned garden houses are unique to Hue.
Fengshui and the art of living within Garden House
The diversity of the garden houses expresses their owners’ lifestyles and their social status. However, the whole complex of the garden and the house is arranged in full respect of the Oriental geomantic rules and Fengshui philosophy. Normally, the main house is located in the heart of the premises with a basin and a “Binh Phong” (windshield wall) in front and a big, green garden all around.
The garden is planted into different layers, based on the height, the effect of shading and utility. Between the outside layer used for hedge and the inner layer of flower and decorative trees, lies the whole garden of various and beautiful trees telling interesting stories connected with the evolution of Hue’s ancient capital.
Beam house, a solid architecture without nail
Ancient wooden houses, commonly known as beam house or Nhà Rường, are a valuable evidence of the smart construction techniques. People classify the beam house according to the number of chambers inside. The wooden frame is composed of pillars, beams, etc., is made from valuable wood meticulously carved and firmly joined without a single nail.
What are modern threats to the Garden House?
Modern life threats, harsh climate, population expansion and other factors have caused difficulties in preserving such treasures and led to unexpected losses or undesirable transformations. Garden houses’ owners have sold parts of their houses to build more modern dwellings or divided their premises into several parts for their descendants. Several have been transformed into restaurants or karaoke, coffee houses. The number of traditional garden houses has considerably declined from thousands to 331 in 1998, 318 in 2004 and no more than 100 in recent years.
From the cultural and heritage perspective, the disappearance of these traditional houses is a regretful loss of intangible values because the present and future generations will not know and understand how the past families lived and performed their daily activities in a traditional house. They will not figure out the delicate art of living, the respectful interaction between the residents and their gardens or between humans and nature, and many other interesting values.
Promoting and preserving Garden House via tourist experiences
Hue’s gardens offer one of the most significant windows through which visitors can understand Vietnamese traditional art and culture. For a decade, the local authority has gained back their interest in reviving the garden houses. Unfortunately, it takes such a long time to put plans into action, and the cooperation between tourism companies and garden houses’ owners are not effective while these garden houses have continually been on a decline.
It is high time that we, Slow Travel Hue, be deeply engaged in raising the awareness of local community and the owners to see the gardens as the pride over the traditional values that have been forgotten for several generations in Viet Nam. More than that, we do not just talk about potentials but we have carefully studied and integrated this heritage into our slow travel concept and devotedly connected with the community to deploy an exclusive product that can be beneficial to all.
If you are interested in this unique heritage of Hue and appreciate the local art of living, you are more than welcomed to our cultural cycling tour to Kim Long Village to enjoy the “Kim Long Hidden Treasures”.
* Kim Long (Golden Dragon) Village used to be the capital of the Nguyen’s Cochichina (1636-1687) as a political counterpart to the northern capital Thang Long (Ascending Dragon). Noble families selected their residence at Kim Long, making the area a very distinctive one for privileged officials. Today Kim Long is still a noble village with many beautiful gardens, cultural relics and beautiful landscape.