Exploring the tombs of the Emperors of the Nguyen Dynasty in Hue, Vietnam

When I travelled to Hue, the old capital of Vietnam, the first thing I did was visit the old Imperial Citadel of the Nguyen Dynasty, which ruled the country between 1802 and 1945.

Although the citadel was badly damaged during the Vietnam War, it is still very impressive as it is slowly being restored to its former glory. The Nguyen Dynasty was relatively short, lasting only 143 years, yet surprisingly there were 13 Emperors who ruled during that time. The Emperors of the Nguyen Dynasty obviously believed that life is short, but death is forever, and so they all wanted elaborate tombs built for them to see them through to the afterlife. These tombs were built all along Song Huong (The Perfume River) which runs through the city of Hue, and unlike the Citadel, they were not destroyed during the war.

The day after visiting the Citadel, I decided to visit some of these tombs.

Pavilion at Minh Mang Tomb in Hue, Vietnam

The path leading from the Pavilion at the front of the tomb of Emperor Minh Mang

The first tomb that I visited was that of Emperor Minh Mang, the second Emperor of the Dynasty who actually saw the completion of the Imperial Citadel and died in 1841. His tomb is not only elaborate, but the sheer size of it is quite impressive. The entire walled tomb covers a huge area of land with gardens, lakes and impressive buildings. Feng shui was important to the Vietnamese, and the layout of this tomb was shaped as a person, with the buildings making up the body, the head the tomb itself in the hillside, and the surrounding lakes representing the arms.

Temple in Minh Mang Tomb in Hue, Vietnam

Panorama of the temples in Minh Mang’s Tomb

Pavilion in the tomb of Minh Mang in Hue, Vietnam

Walking towards the final pavilion

The tomb of Emperor Minh Mang in Hue, Vietnam

Entrance to the grave site

The next tomb that I visited was much smaller, however it was absolutely stunning and my favourite of the three that I visited today. This is the tomb of Emperor Khai Dinh, one of the later Emperors who died in 1925. His tomb is by far the most elaborate, with stairs leading up past perfectly symmetrical buildings and statues, with the main tomb building itself at the top of the hill.

Stairway at the tomb of Khai Dinh in Hue, Vietnam

Stairway to the tomb of Emperor Khai Dinh

Statues at Khai Dinh Tomb in Hue, Vietnam

Statues at Khai Dinh Tomb

Dragon lined at Khai Dinh Tomb in Hue, Vietnam

Dragon lining a staircase

Statue at Khai Dinh Tomb in Hue, Vietnam

One of the many statues at Khai Dinh’s Tomb

Khai Dinh Tomb in Hue, Vietnam

Walking up to the tomb of Khai Dinh

View from the top of Khai Dinh Tomb in Hue, Vietnam

View from the top

Being one of the later emperors, Khai Dinh’s tomb has many European influences in its architecture, and I found that the paintings on the roof certainly reflect this. The interior is a true feast for the eyes, and I found that I wandered around in silence with my mouth wide open.

Interior of Khai Dinh Tomb in Hue, Vietnam

The beautiful interior of Khai Dinh’s Tomb

Detail at Khai Dinh Tomb in Hue, Vietnam

Detail on the interior wall

Painting in Khai Dinh Tomb in Hue, Vietnam

Painting on the ceiling

Elaborate interior of Khai Dinh Tomb in Hue, Vietnam

The elaborate interior of the tomb of Emperor Khai Dinh

There wouldn’t be any topping the pure beauty of Khai Dinh’s Tomb, but I visited one last tomb on this day, that of Emperor Tu Doc who died in 1883 . Although not as impressive as the tomb of Khai Dinh, the thing that I found interesting about this tomb was that Tu Doc actually used to spend a lot of his time living here as well while he was alive, as he wasn’t fond of living in the Citadel in Hue.

Stairs leading to a building at Tu Doc Tomb in Hue, Vietnam

Stairs leading to one of the buildings in the tomb of Emperor Tu Doc

Elephant statue at Tu Doc Tomb in Hue, Vietnam

An elephant statue inside Tu Doc’s Tomb

Building on a lake in Tu Doc Tomb in Hue, Vietnam

A building on a lake inside the Tomb of Emperor Tu Doc

Pavilion in Tu Doc Tomb in Hue, Vietnam

Walking to the pavilion

Pavilion in Tu Doc Tomb in Hue, Vietnam

The pavilion inside the tomb

Wall at Tu Doc Tomb in Hue, Vietnam

One of the walls in Tu Doc’s Tomb

If you visit Hue during your travels in Vietnam, don’t just visit the Imperial Citadel. Make some time to visit the tombs as well, particularly the tombs of Ming Mang and Khai Dinh. They are sure to impress.

You might also like:

9 comments… add one
  • you take beautiful photos! Vietnam is one of our favorite countries in SE Asia, and we regret missing out Hue while we visited there last year because we have limited time. This article makes me want to go back there soon! Thanks for sharing.

    • Dean Wickham Jul 16, 2013

      Thanks! Hue is definitely worth checking out if you have time.

  • Hai Nguyen Apr 10, 2014

    Dean:
    Small correction: It’s Emperor Tu Duc – not Tu Doc! Thanks for your impressive captures…Just came across your post today. Timeless, nevertheless!

    • Dean Wickham May 2, 2014

      You’re right Hai. He was certainly an Emperor and should have that it front of his name. Cheers.

Leave a Comment

CommentLuv badge

Inline
Inline