the tomb itself
Royal Tomb reflects the personality of the ruler.
of the tombs attract large numbers of visitors:
The most majestic is that of Emperor
Minh Mang, a staunch follower of Confucianism with many
wives, concubines and a small army of children. Planned
by the Emperor and built shortly after his death, it is
opulent and exotic, and laid out in formal Chinese style.
the possible exception of Khai Dinh’s monument, no other
tomb approaches the level of unity of the elements of Minh
Mang's tomb. Its layout and symmetry draws the eye naturally
towards the main features, and the architectural balance
blends the elements into a pleasing whole.
The tomb of Tu Duc, the ‘poet Emperor’, is set in an elegant
garden with a magnificent lake and pavilion complex. The
centrepiece of the tomb is simplicity itself despite the
lavish opulence of his reign (it’s really just a monument
– he was buried elsewhere to thwart grave robbers).
his cultural pursuits and desire to achieve a humble lifestyle,
it was under Tu Duc that the Nguyen court reached its zenith
of lavish opulence. Tu Duc withdrew into court life, seemingly
indifferent to the people he ruled, and the brutal treatment
of the three thousand artisans and workers pressed into
service to build his tomb.
In complete contrast to Emperor Tu Duc's stylish creation,
the tomb of Emperor Khai Dinh is appears at first to be
an unprepossessing concrete construction. Its interest lies
within in an uneasy combination of Vietnamese and European
features and the use of fragments of ceramics and glass
Khai Dinh’s tomb is of great interest as an architectural
watershed, the cusp between the influences of a Chinese
past and a Western oriented future. The lavish embellishments
inside the tomb come as a shock after the grimy and rather
sombre façade and courtyard. A golden effigy of the Emperor
seated on his throne under a magnificent cement canopy extravagantly
decorated with ceramic fragments could be regarded as a
other four tombs are less-visited, but all have interesting
Gia Long’s tomb is the least visited, the furthest from
Hue, the most difficult to get to, but arguably the most
significant. The founder of the Nguyen dynasty, his tomb
was the template for those that followed. The site is neglected
and overgrown. However, the damage it received during the
war is not the main reason for its neglect – Gia Long was
a cruel tyrant who allied himself with the French and remains
a hated figure in Vietnamese history. Nevertheless, it’s
worth the trip to visit the tomb if only to enjoy the atmospheric
atmosphere and its classic design.
Uniquely, Thieu Tri's tomb was built by his son, Tu Duc,
according to his father’s design. As his reign was comparatively
brief and the work did not commence until some time after
his accession, his tomb was not completed when he died.
Consequently, his body was temporarily interred in the Long
An temple, within the outer area of the Citadel and now
the home of the Museum of Antiquities. Thieu Tri's design
for his tomb was influenced by that of his father, Ming
Mang, but his instruction to his son was to make it ‘convenient
and economical’. Although it lacks the flamboyance of his
father’s tomb, it is well designed with several distinctive
features including a covered bridge similar to that in Hoi
Duc, Thanh Thai and Duy Tan
Although known as Emperor Duc Duc's tomb, it is actually
a small complex that includes the tombs of two other Emperors,
Thanh Thai and Duy Tan. It is surprising that Duc Duc has
a tomb at all, as his reign lasted a mere three days and
he starved to death in prison. A nephew of Tu Duc, he was
selected by the Emperor to be his successor as he had no
son to follow him. However, he was soon deposed by members
of the court who were displeased by his closeness to the
has it that he was taken to be buried tied up in a rush
mat. However, halfway to the intended burial site, the rope
broke and the two men carrying the body decided to bury
him there and then. Six years later, his son Thanh Thai
built a tomb for his father around the makeshift grave.
both his son and grandson that ruled after Duc Duc, and
are buried with him were strongly anti-French and were deported
to Africa by the colonialists. Thanh Thai was eventually
allowed to return to Vietnam but died shortly afterwards
in Vung Tau, a year before the French were finally expelled.
His son, Duy Tan, was sent to join his father in exile,
but died in an aeroplane crash.
tomb complex tomb is only two kilometres from Hue, and is
in three parts, the Long An temple, Duc Duc's tomb and the
tombs of his son and grandson.
The tomb of Emperor Dong Khanh is the smallest, but the
most individual. He was another adopted son of Tu Duc who
usurped the throne shortly after the French gained control
of Hue. He ruled as a puppet Emperor protected by the French,
but died after three years at the age of 24.
successor, Thanh Thai, lacking funds, converted the temple
that Dong Khanh has built to worship his father into his
tomb. It marks an interesting turning point in the evolution
of Vietnam’s architecture as it was built at a time when
European culture was entering Vietnam. The interaction between
oriental and occidental styles can be seen in the use of
stained glass, terra-cotta relief and French artworks among
traditional Chinese and Vietnamese features.
this development would be taken to an extreme in the uneasy
fusion of these disparate elements in Emperor Khai Dinh’s
bizarre concrete edifice.