Tour of Huế, part 3: Three Imperial Tombs

Kings like their tombs.  So much so that the Nguyễn Emperors began planning years in advance of their deaths to have fancy burial complexes built in their honor.  (A bit egotistical…).  Several kilometres south of Huế are the tombs of Gia Long, Tu Duc, Minh Mang, Khai Dinh and Dong Khanh.  All were members of the Nguyễn dynasty and their tombs are in various states of decay.  I had time only to visit three of them because I had to get back to Hanoi.  Because I am a terrible historian-in-training, I did next to no research on these monuments.  I just looked at them (technically I’m a fledgling art historian anyway) so I give you, once again, photographs of architecture.

The Tomb of Minh Mang

Minh Mang’s tomb was constructed between 1841 and 1843.  The emperor ruled for 20 years, until 1840, and was not buried in the tomb until 1843.

Entrance to the Tomb of Minh Mang

The stelae honoring Minh Mang stands inside this building, the first one you enter at the tomb complex

Memorial stelae for Minh Mang

The Tomb of Khai Dinh

Emperor Khai Dinh’s tomb, the last great imperial tomb built in Vietnam, was completed in 1931.  In 1922, Khai Dinh had visited France and seen the Marseilles Colonial Exhibition, which may have inspired him to blend European and Vietnamese design, which may also reflect his close relationship with the French during his reign.  The tomb is elaborate and more reminiscent of the overindulgence of Versailles than the more understated grandeur of his Ming Manh’s tomb.

Entrance to the Tomb of Khai Dinh

Statues of Mandarins, horses and elephants line the plaza in front of Khai Dinh's tomb.

Khai Dinh's massive mausoleum

Altar in Khai Dinh's mausoleum

A ceiling is better than a headstone--ceiling in Khai Dinh's tomb.

Effigy of Khai Dinh-apologies for the blur, the amount of gold was blinding.

The Tomb of Tu Duc

Emperor Tu Duc died in 1883 but built his tomb in 1867.  The tomb was used as a retreat for the emperor and his wives and concubines while he was living.  Despite having over a hundred wives and concubines, Tu Duc never had a son.  He therefore had to write his own epitaph, which appears on the stelae below, the largest one in Vietnam.

Stelae inscribed with Emperor Tu Duc's epitaph.

Parts of Tu Duc's tomb are walled, various parts of it linked by ornate gates.


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