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Nestled in the serene surroundings of Gia Hoi, to the east of the Hue citadel – Hue City of Vietnam, Princess Ngoc Son Palace stands as a captivating gem among the beautiful garden houses.
With its perennially green trees and a tranquil, gentle atmosphere, this palace beckons numerous tourists to pause and absorb its unique charm. Hue’s garden houses hold an extraordinary allure, evoking feelings of both tranquility and passion. Alongside the renowned An Vien and Xuan Dai garden houses, Princess Ngoc Son Palace exemplifies the quintessential beauty of Hue’s garden architecture. Visitors who explore this ancient residence find themselves pleasantly surprised; the clamor of the outside world seems to dissipate upon entering.
Amidst a quiet and secluded environment, the garden house exudes an indescribable nostalgia and peace, leaving visitors reluctantly contemplating their departure.
History of the Princess Ngoc Son Worship Palace in Hue
Renowned as one of Hue’s illustrious garden houses, the worship palace dedicated to Princess Ngoc Son stands proudly in the eastern part of the Citadel at 31 Nguyen Chi Thanh, Phu Hiep Ward. This sacred place pays homage to Princess Ngoc Son, the daughter of King Dong Khanh, who, in matrimony, became the wife of Lieutenant Governor Nguyen Huu Tien, the son of the distinguished mandarin Nguyen Huu Thang from the Nguyen Dong Dynasty.
Tragically, Princess Ngoc Son’s life was cut short when she succumbed to illness at the tender age of 20, shortly after giving birth to a baby girl from her union with Lieutenant Governor Nguyen Huu Tien. Abiding by the princess’s wishes, her widowed husband wed Princess Cong Ton Nu Thi Tran, the niece of King Dong Khanh. In 1921, Nguyen Huu Tien, in his capacity as the son-in-law, erected a mansion in the Hue garden-style architecture on a sprawling garden expanse of 2,400 square meters. This grand structure served a dual purpose: as a revered sanctuary for the spirit of Princess Ngoc Son and as a residence for Nguyen Huu Tien and his second wife, along with their seven children.
Over the course of more than 90 years, the Palace worshiping Princess Ngoc Son has been meticulously preserved and revered by the descendants of Nguyen Huu Tien’s second wife. Despite the passage of time and the myriad changes it has brought, this sacred place still retains its ancient beauty, reminiscent of its inaugural day. The current custodian of the Princess Ngoc Son’s palace is the grandson of Nguyen Huu Tien’s second wife, Mrs. Nguyen Thi Suong, and her husband, Mr. Phan Thuan An, a historian endowed with profound knowledge of Hue’s rich history.
Architecture of the Princess Ngoc Son Worship Palace in Hue
The Princess Ngoc Son Palace, a testament to spatial and architectural beauty, presents its main facade to the west while its rear faces the street. The grounds of the house showcase the characteristic charm of ancient Hue garden houses, adorned with meandering rows of Chinese tea trees leading to the entrance and straight rows of areca nut palms. Upon venturing deeper, one encounters meticulously arranged criminal records, clear lines, left-facing dragons, and right-facing tigers, all ensconced within a verdant embrace of green bamboo and cooling coconut trees. The garden itself boasts an array of vibrant fruit trees and ornamental flowers.
A distinctive feature of Princess Ngoc Son Palace is its unconventional lack of a three-entrance gate typically found in other palaces. Instead, the entrance discreetly opens behind the house, leading to a spacious courtyard adorned with a shallow pond hosting water lilies and a rockery serving as a captivating focal point. The altar’s designer displayed a sophisticated touch, expertly balancing aesthetics and artistic sense to craft a space where the rockery provides just enough coverage without obstructing the scenic view.
The focal point of the royal palace is a double building with a three-compartment frontage, adorned with golden-painted porch columns in the European style—a prevalent architectural trend in early twentieth-century Hue. The main house, following traditional Hue architecture, features a three-compartment main area with two wings, tiled roofing, and intricately carved lime mortar details depicting clouds transforming into dragons. Delicately arranged ribs, columns, and carved rafters, along with large horizontal panels inscribed with Chinese characters, contribute to the overall ancient and nostalgic ambiance, immersing visitors in a unique atmosphere.
Inside, the palace preserves valuable memorabilia of its son-in-law, including Chinese porcelain, medals bestowed by King Khai Dinh, a wooden lake head, a bone tattoo set, and a silver betel-eating set. The interior furnishings, such as wooden panels, mahogany furniture, bookcases, and thousands of precious books, exude a timeless aesthetic, resembling a small museum. Connecting to the main building is a hallway leading to the annex, once a space for living and dining but now repurposed for contemporary family use.
Princess Ngoc Son’s palace masterfully combines traditional Hue architecture with European-style materials and decorative motifs. The infusion of feng shui elements and Asian philosophy creates a harmonious, peaceful, and uniquely captivating living and worshiping space within these historical walls.
Tips for Visiting Princess Ngoc Son Worship Palace
A visit to Ngoc Son Princess Palace requires more than a casual stroll, as it operates on a tour basis rather than being an open-access tourist destination. Interested visitors must sign up for a guided tour to delve into the captivating offerings of this historical site. Beyond marveling at the altar’s enchanting space, guests are treated to the opportunity to savor the irresistible flavors of Hue’s signature dishes.
While immersed in the ambiance of Princess Ngoc Son’s worship palace, visitors can extend their exploration to include other remarkable attractions. Stops at the Palace honoring Ton That Thuyet or other renowned Hue garden houses unveil additional layers of fascinating architecture and serene landscapes, encapsulating the timeless tranquility of the ancient capital.
Beyond its status as an ancient garden house, the palace dedicated to Princess Ngoc Son stands as a quintessential symbol of traditional Hue garden house architecture. Those who venture here not only encounter a peaceful, nostalgic ambiance but also delve into captivating historical narratives, uncovering the distinctive “house style” inherent to the people of Hue. This immersive experience offers a profound understanding of the hidden facets within the soul and the enduring beauty that defines Hue, Vietnam.