Vietnam’s Cultural World Heritage Sites

Currently, Vietnam has seven properties inscribed as UNESCO World Heritage sites, consisting of two natural heritage and five cultural heritage sites. Stewardship of many archaeological sites, especially those with a high international profile, involves a mixture of national and local involvement.  The Thang Long – Hanoi Heritage Conservation Center (, which oversees the conservation of the Co Loa and Thang Long sites, is planning to apply for UNESCO World Heritage site status for Co Loa. Currently, Vietnam’s five cultural heritage sites are:

The Complex of Hue Monuments

The Hue Citadel. Photo taken by sixty4coupe and used under a Creative Commons license.

The complex is located in the Thua Thien Province of central Vietnam and was inscribed in as a cultural heritage site by UNESCO in 1993. Hue represents a past Vietnamese feudal empire at its apogee during the early 19th century. Hue served as the administrative center of southern Vietnam in the 17th and 18th centuries. The Nguyen dynasty made it the national capital of a united Vietnam in 1802, a position held by the site until 1945. A total of four citadels or defended enclosures made up the city and  at the heart of the complex was the Forbidden Purple City, enclosed by brick walls. Originally there were over 40 buildings within the enclosed area, but most are now in disrepair.

Hoi An ancient town

A view of Hoi An. Photo used under a GNU Free Documentation License from Wikipedia Commons.

Hoi An is an ancient town located in the lower section of Thu Bon River, the coastal plain of Quang Nam in Central Vietnam and was inscribed as a cultural heritage site by UNESCO in 1999. It is an exceptionally well-preserved example of a traditional Asian trading port and maritime commercial center. Most of the buildings are in the traditional architectural styles of the 17th to 19th centuries, and they include religious buildings such as pagodas and temples. The town is considered to be something of a living museum of architecture and urban lifestyle. Many festivals occur at Hoi An annually, preserving traditional lifestyles, religious ceremonies, customs, and culinary practices. Due to its geographic position, Hoi An was an active international trading port for traffic of merchant ships from Japan, China and the Western world during the 17th and 18th centuries. Archaeological finds and excavations have shown this area to have been an active port and trading center since the Iron Age Sa Huynh people lived in the area, along the Thu Bon River as early as the 2nd century BC. The ancient town is situated on the north bank of Thu Bon River, and continued to operate as an important port of Champa civilization.

My Son sanctuary

View of a brick tower at My Son. Photo used under GNU Free Documentation License from Wikipedia Commons.

Located in the Duy Xuyen district of the Quang Nam Province of central Vietnam, the My Son sanctuary is 45km west of Hoi An and 70km south of Da Nang. This sanctuary area is known as the most significant Champa architectural and sculptural monuments in the country and was inscribed as a cultural heritage site in 1999.  In a valley surrounded by mountains, My Son was the site of a religious center for the capital of the Champa Kingdom. The site is an importa My son consists of eight groups of tower temples cover a period from the 10th to the 13th centuries, and this chronology is reflected in different architectural styles. The temples are constructed in fired brick with stone pillars and decorated with sandstone bas-reliefs depicting scenes from Hindu mythology. The major style of architecture and sculptural motifs derives directly from Indian civilization. It is an excellent example of ancient and historical cultural exchange, with the introduction of the Hindu architecture of the Indian subcontinent into Southeast Asia.

Central Sector of the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long

A view of the Thanh Long citadel. Photo by Chinasaur and used with a Creative Commons license.

Thang Long – Hanoi Imperial Citadel (Vietnamese: Hoang thanh Thang Long) refers to a cultural complex located in the heart of modern-day Hanoi, and its traces were recently uncovered during construction of new buildings in 2002. The site at 18 Hoang Dieu Street, was chosen for the construction of the National Assembly, but development stopped when traces of the Imperial Citadel were uncovered. It was inscribed as a cultural heritage site by UNESCO in 2010. Originally, the Imperial Citadel was first built in the 11th century by the Ly Dynasty, marking the independence of the Dai Viet kingdom after a millennium of Chinese colonial rule. It was constructed on the remains of a Chinese fortress on drained land reclaimed from the Red River Delta in Hanoi. The site would remain the center of uninterrupted regional political power for the next several centuries. The Citadel enclosed the Forbidden City, constructed in brick in the 11th century, and was itself enclosed by a defensive wall. The Citadel reached its apogee in size in the 16th- 17th centuries. French colonial control of Vietnam began in the 1880s, and Thang Long functioned as the colonial headquarters for French administration of Indochina (modern Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia). Due to its historical significance and location within the modern capital of Vietnam, the management of the site is quite complex and has increasingly involved multinational participation.

Citadel of the Ho Dynasty

Image of the Ho Citadel. Photo used under a Creative Commons license from Wikipedia Commons.

The Ho Citadel (Vietnamese: Thanh nha Ho) is located in the Thanh Hoa Province in Vietnam’s north central coast region, approximately 150 km south of Hanoi. It was the capital of Vietnam from 1397 to 1407 during the short-lived Ho Dynasty. The site was inscribed as a cultural heritage site by UNESCO in 2011. Measuring 877 x 889m, the citadel is marked by an enclosing wall of stone, which still remains standing. The enclosure has a diameter of over 3,500 m, with a wall height of 5-6 m. Unlike other citadels in the country that were constructed with brick, construction of the Ho Citadel employed massive stone slabs sourced from nearby mountains. The stone materials used for construction were carefully hewn into slabs with uniform dimensions, and the citadel was marked by four arched gates (South, North, East, and West). Researchers are currently exploring how the stone walls were constructed.