It is believed that in prehistoric times, Vietnamese people lived in stilt-houses, as depicted on the bronze Dong Son drums. Similar kinds of houses can still be found in Vietnam today.
When Chinese influence permeated Vietnam, Chinese architecture had a large influence on the basic structure of many types of Vietnamese buildings, mostly pagodas and temples, communal houses, houses of scholar-bureaucrats, aristocracy, and imperial palaces and quarters. Nevertheless, these structures combined both Chinese influences and native style; Vietnamese architecture is generally much more ornamental and florid than Chinese architecture, using different colors and materials suited to the environment.
With French colonization of Vietnam in the 19th century, many French-styled buildings were constructed, including villas, government buildings, opera houses, etc. Many of these buildings still stand in Vietnam and are one of the clearest remnants of the French colonial legacy.
Some of Vietnam's most notable architectural structures include: * The Temple of Literature or (Văn Miếu):
Located in Hanoi, North Vietnam. It was constructed during the Lý Dynasty and dedicated to Confucius and his disciples. It is a fine example of the elegance of Lý Dynasty architecture, although much if it is in need of repair. The Temple of Literature is a series of courtyards, buildings and pavilions, the center of which houses the famed stone steeles. These steeles are placed on top of stone turtles, and are inscribed with the names of doctorate candidates successful at the Imperial examination. Also within the temple lies the "Quốc Tử Giám" or National University, which functioned for approximately 700 years, from 1076 to 1779. * Imperial City and surrounds, Huế: During the reign of the Nguyễn Dynasty, a new imperial citadel in Huế was built, largely based on the Chinese Forbidden city in Beijing, and also called the Purple forbidden city. However, it still employed many obviously Vietnamese characteristics in its design. Other imperial structures built much later, such as the outlying tomb of Khải Định, used French architectural elements as well. The tomb of Minh Mạng is often considered one of the most beautiful structures in the Huế area, situated near a vast lotus pond, its construction was not completed until after Minh Mạng's death.
The citadel formerly sprawled a vast estate, but during subsequent wars and conflicts, much of it has been destroyed and later turned into rice paddies. The remaining areas are currently being restored by UNESCO. * One Pillar Pagoda: The one pillar pagoda is one of the most ancient structures of Hanoi, its design credited to Emperor Lý Thái Tổ. The story goes that the emperor had longed for a son, and one day dreamed that the Goddess of Mercy was sitting on a lotus flower offering him a son. In grattitude and reverence of his dream he ordered construction of a small pagoda in the form of a lotus, overlooking a pond. The pagoda has been rebuilt countlessly due to it being destroyed and burnt in wars by opponents. * Perfume Pagoda and the surrounding area: The Perfume pagoda is an ancient structure in Ha Tay province, located specifically in Perfume mountain, and is the site for a yearly festival attended by hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese. Most people reach the pagoda by taking an hour boat ride across the scenic river (passing the countryside scattered with smaller pagodas) before reaching the Perfume Pagoda itself. Inside are a series of temples and structures, and a grotto with stairs leading to two paths: "Heaven's gate" and "Hell's gate". Descending deep into the grotto one finds the Inner temple. The beauty of the Perfume Pagoda and surrounding area have served as the subject in many Vietnamese poems.
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