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Royal tombs

Hue Travel Blog

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The royal tomb of Minh Mang (Hue, Vietnam)

The landscape south of Hue harbors seven imperial tombs. In total as much as thirteen Nguyen emperors ruled between 1802 and 1945, but since six of them were banished or got disgraced, there are only seven tombs to see. Three of these tombs are listed in every travel guide as worth seeing: the tombs of Minh Mang, Khai Dinh and Tu Duc.

Since our boat trip brought us to all three tombs, all we had to do was sit back and relax, and try and ignore the enthusiastic guide who tried to speak English. The first tomb we saw, was the one of Minh Mang. As soon as we entered the premises, we realized that this was no ordinary burial site.

The royal tomb of Minh Mang (Hue, Vietnam)
It had more resemblances with a temple complex. There was a courtyard with statues, some of them reminded me of the terracotta soldiers in Xi’An, China. Then there came several elegant buildings that looked like a small palace and a temple. These were followed by a well kept garden, a small lake and finally the actual burial area. Although the burial site was not accessible (which was also unnecessary to get an impression of emperor Minh Mang) it was an amazing sight that can only be equaled by the incredible  tombs of pharaoh‘s in Egypt.

The entire premises was supposed to represent Minh Mang’s life, his power, his reign as an emperor. This tomb, or burial area, had an atmosphere that was peaceful, yet strict and controlled. Everything was perfect and flawless, this represented a person who was equal to the gods.

When I later read about emperor Minh Mang, it was no surprise to me that he wrote laws to banish Catholic missionaries.

The royal tomb of Minh Mang (Hue, Vietnam)
He also punished Buddhists and Taoists because he thought these spiritual people diminished the divinity of the emperor. During his reign, his administration was divided into six ministries. There was a ministry of finances, one for homeland, one for justice, one for war and so on. There was no ministry of foreign affairs though, because the emperor thought that ‘western barbarians were not worthy of that much attention.’

After a bus ride of about half an hour we arrived at the royal tomb of Khai Dinh, an extraordinary different tomb in every way. Minh Mang, who ruled from 1820 till 1841, left a tomb area that was classical, traditional and stretched out. The tomb area of Khai Dinh, who ruled for only nine years, from 1916 to 1925, is compact, modern and resembling a European castle.

Khai Dinh got to the throne after two previous emperors were exiled by the French because of their resistance to the colonial regime.

The royal tomb of Minh Mang (Hue, Vietnam)
Khai Dinh was assigned to be emperor by the French and therefore had no choice but to closely collaborate with the occupiers. Because of this, Khai Dinh was very unpopular with the Vietnamese people. He was accused of selling out his country to the French. The tomb, with its many stairs and courtyards, statues and final explosion of colour at the altar and his actual tomb is beautiful in every possible way. Still, it manages to air a certain sadness.

He was no more than a puppet, hated by his people and disrespected by his wives and concubines because he only managed to produce one child, a son, who would turn out to be the very last emperor of Vietnam.

The last royal tomb we visited was the one of emperor Tu Duc.

The royal tomb of Minh Mang (Hue, Vietnam)
Again, we were stricken by the enormous differences in atmosphere and architecture. There were more resemblances to the tomb of Minh Mang, than to the one of Khai Dinh, it was no surprise we read that emperor Tu Duc ruled from 1847 till 1883, after Minh Mang and before Khai Dinh. The entire area is huge, there is a large lake, a forest and several buildings and temples, not just for the emperor, but also for his first wife. The architecture is simple and graceful, almost minimalistic. It shows traditional Vietnamese styles combined with humility. Tu Duc had extreme xenophobia (a fear for strangers and foreigners) which led to the motive for the French to attack and occupy Vietnam. Tu Duc was the last emperor of an independent Vietnam, after his reign everything changed.

The whole day tour (including the boat trip and sights along the Perfume River) may have had some downsides, but turned out to be excellent value.

The royal tomb of Minh Mang (Hue, Vietnam)
It would have been a lot more expensive if we had hired a taxi and/ or boat for the day and ordered a lunch in a restaurant. Sure, we had to pay all admissions and we had no idea what the so-called English speaking guide said. But who cares? We had had a wonderful day with stunning sights, learning more about Vietnamese culture and history for very little money. I’d say it’s very highly recommended.

rotorhead85 says:
Great pictures - I gotta get up there... thanks!
Posted on: Jan 11, 2010
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Hue
photo by: Paulovic