Hoa Lu ancient capital

Hoa Lu was chosen as the first capital of the centralized feudal state when Dinh Bo Linh ascended the throne in 968. The heroic career of building and defending the country spanned 12 years during the Dinh Dynasty (968-980), 29 years of the Early Le Dynasty (980-1009), and the early Ly Dynasty (1009-1010).

Today, the vestiges of Hoa Lu Ancient Capital are located in Truong Yen commune, Hoa Lu district, Ninh Binh province, nearly 100 km south of Hanoi capital. Although it was only the capital of Dai Co Viet for a short time (42 years), many events related to the destiny of the entire nation took place here. These events were associated with the careers of three consecutive dynasties: the Dinh Dynasty, the Early Le Dynasty, and the Ly Dynasty. They left historical marks such as unifying the country, defeating the Song Dynasty, suppressing Champa, and contributing to the development of the process of settling Hanoi.

Ấn tượng toàn cảnh Cố đô Hoa Lư nhìn từ trên cao
Impressive panoramic view of Hoa Lu ancient capital seen from above

According to history books and the couplets of King Dinh Temple, we learn that Ancient Hoa Lu was a magnificent palace, no less splendid than Truong An Citadel: ‘Co Viet Quoc Duong Tong Khai Bao – Hoa Lu Do Thi Han Truong An.’ If we examine the geography, we understand why, upon ascending the throne, King Dinh Tien Hoang chose Hoa Lu as the capital. The rolling mountains and hills surround the capital perimeter like a screen; the meandering Hoang Long River and the vast Nho Quan and Gia Vien fields are natural deep trenches that are highly advantageous militarily.

The ancient capital of Hoa Lu is about 300 hectares wide, including the Ngoai Citadel, the Noi Citadel, and the Southern Citadel, surrounded by a series of arced rocky mountains and majestic landscapes. The gaps between the slopes are built with bricks and soil, and the base is covered with bricks, built 8 – 10 meters high. Thanh Ngoai is about 140 hectares wide, located in Yen Thanh village, Truong Yen commune. This is the main palace where the Dinh and Le temple areas are the center, and it is also where King Dinh Tien Hoang raised the flag to build the country. In front of the palace, there is Ma Yen mountain. Legend has it that King Dinh took this place as a project.

Hoa Lu Citadel consists of two citadels located next to each other and an adjacent mountain area. Three circles form a shape like the number 80 facing east. According to the layout of the Dinh Le Dynasty, researchers divided it into 3 citadels: East Citadel, West Citadel, and Southern Citadel. However, because the South Citadel is only a rugged military base area, the rear defense is often called Trang An Citadel by the people. The other two citadels are where the palace is located, so it is also called Hoa Lu Citadel. By 1010, King Ly Thai To moved the capital to Thang Long, and Hoa Lu became the Ancient Capital, considered a very important military base of Dai Viet’s army and people under the dynasties: Ly – Tran – Le – Mac – Tay Son…

Đền Trần linh thiêng nơi Cố đô
Sacred Tran Temple in the ancient capital

Today, the image of Hoa Lu Ancient Capital is no longer intact; instead, the temples of King Dinh and King Le are built right on the foundation of the ancient Hoa Lu Ancient Capital. The two temples are about 500m apart. Due to their close distance, tourists often refer to “Hoa Lu Ancient Capital” as “King Dinh – King Le Temple.”

King Dinh’s temple was built in the style of “Foreign Noi Cong” on the foundation of the ancient main palace. It is majestic with the Ngo gate, lotus pond, Gia mountain, flower garden, outer gate, inner gate, and three worship halls for burning incense and harem. At the altar, there is a “Long Sang” made of monolithic stone with a pair of very lively stone lions. Next is the incense-burning house to worship the founding fathers and heroes. In the innermost part is the harem, where statues of King Dinh Tien Hoang and his sons are placed. The carvings on stone and wood with themes of dragons, clouds, fairies, flowers, etc., decorating the temple are all quite sophisticated.

King Le’s temple is located about 500 meters from King Dinh’s temple and worships King Le Dai Hanh. Although smaller in scale, King Le’s temple has three buildings: the worshiping hall, the incense burner to worship Pham Cu Luong (who helped Le Hoan ascend to the throne), and the main palace where King Le Dai Hanh (Le Hoan), Le Ngoa Trieu (son of King Le), and Queen Duong Van Nga are worshipped. King Le’s temple still retains many vestiges of ancient architecture with elaborate and skillful carvings. Here, relics of the old palace foundation and some ancient ceramics were found. These precious artifacts are kept in the museum room on the left side of the temple area. The Hoa Lu relic area also has a number of beautiful pagodas such as Ngan Xuyen Pagoda (near the foot of Ma Yen mountain) and Nhat Tru Pagoda (about 200 meters from King Le temple), attracting many tourists to offer incense and admire the scenery.

Chính điện nơi đền thờ vua Đinh Tiên Hoàng
The main hall where King Dinh Tien Hoang is worshiped

With a distance of 100 km from Hanoi and the convenience of the transportation system, it only takes you about two hours by car… Come here and hear stories about kings told simply and successfully. The respect and pride of the presenters will certainly make you feel proud of your country’s history. Besides, you can combine visiting Hoa Lu with some other famous landscapes in Ninh Binh such as Bai Dinh – Trang An tourist area, Tam Coc – Bich Dong, Phat Diem Stone Church, or Thung Nham, Van Long…

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