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01/12/2021 - 08:23

Reaching hospital for eunuchs and palace maids

It is not too strange for tourists to Hue that the cemetery, a resting place of 24 eunuchs, lies on a little hill next to Tu Hieu Pagoda.

Also thanks to the inner wishes and contributions of the eunuchs, Từ Hiếu Pagoda is also known as “Thái Giám” (Eunuch) Pagoda. However, many people are amazed to learn that Hue also had a "royal hospital" exclusively for the eunuchs and palace maids called Bình An Đường (the Peace Hospital).

Bình An Đường (The Peace Hospital)

According to Vietnam's first encyclopedia “Lịch triều hiến chương loại chí” (The Rules of the Dynasties Copied according to Taxonomy) compiled by Phan Huy Chu,  Bình An Đường, built in 1823 next to the back door of Hue Imperial Citadel, was under the supervision of Thái Y viện (the Royal Hospital).

Bình An Đường consisted of two parts: a clinic for examination, prescription, acupuncture... for medical treatment and a sanatorium for decrepit patients who could not walk. In the north stood Cung Giám Viện (Eunuch Palace), where the eunuchs lived and waited for receiving medical examination and treatment. Besides, only flowers and medicinal herbs were grown in Bình An Đường.

From An Cuu, I still often cross the Hương River to the Citadel to enjoy weekend coffee with my elderly friend. One of the rendezvous is a café located at the Dang Thai Than - Phung Hung intersection.

A fairly special coffee space with a wooden floor, Trinh music, decorations reminiscent of old times, slanted candlesticks… And I like to sit on the somewhat cramped but cozy porch floor.

It overlooks people and vehicles, both unfamiliar and close, moving. Ahead is Tứ Phương Vô Sự (Safe Four-Direction Storey, a two-storey architectural work located on the North Tower of Hue Imperial Citadel), and from afar is Bình An Đường reminiscent of memories and love. In the silvery space are the Imperial City and once-golden Royal Palace of Nguyễn Dynasty.

Recently, Hue City People's Committee, Hue Monuments Conservation Centre and a number of relevant agencies have cooperated to design the project of Imperial Citadel Pedestrian Street of Hue.

With the space outside the Imperial Citadel consisting of 4 routes: August 23, Dang Thai Than, Le Huan and Doan Thi Diem, the Imperial Citadel pedestrian street will re-enact the space of an ancient Hue for visitors to enjoy types of performances; experience folk games, traditional crafts; enjoy Hue cuisine...

From "Afternoon" Café can be beheld Đại Nội (the Royal Palace)

Hue had a pedestrian street (often called Phố Tây – street for foreign tourists) on Vo Thi Sau - Chu Van An - Pham Ngu Lao routes, with the services following modern trends. That the formation of the Imperial Citadel pedestrian street in the area around the Royal Palace is taken into consideration in order to conform to the architectural space, cultural heritage landscape, to the choice of service exploitation on the traditional basis is a supplement to offer an attraction to Hue tourism.

Hue also plans to "close Truong Tien Bridge” on weekend evenings to create a pedestrian route connecting the Phố Tây with the Imperial Citadel pedestrian street.

The existing Phố Tây or the Imperial City pedestrian street will not have the monumental width or modernity like many pedestrian streets that I have had the opportunity to visit in China, Korea or Southeast Asian countries, but tourists are attracted to the unique features of an intact Ancient Capital and a city on the banks of the Perfume River.

There will be many discoveries with poetic highlights where the Imperial Citadel walking street is about to take shape, and I think Bình An Đường deserves a stopover for pedestrians on the journey of discovery.

Walking from the quiet, tree-lined Doan Thi Diem one-way street and then turning to Dang Thai Than Street, you will catch the sight of Bình An Đường, restored in accordance with the prototype.

Seen from the outside, Bình An Đường looks like a little Hue garden house with 2 main houses built in the modern style, partly influenced by French architecture but still loyal to the traditional architectural style. Here, visitors can drink tea, sip coffee in a space fragrant with flowers.

The Imperial Citadel pedestrian street is about to take shape and I thought that Binh An Duong will be a stopover for travelers to discover, have enjoyable  experiences and better understanding of an ancient Hue - the once-golden Imperial Capital.

Story: DAN DUY - Photos: DUC QUANG

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