The Royal Tombs of Nguyen’s Emperors

Eighty years ago, a Westerner, Ph. Eberhard wrote “Hue is an attractive tourist center. There lies the Citadel, Royal Palaces and several royal tombs, which attracts the special attention of not only tourists but also fine arts creators. The royal tombs of Nguyen’s Emperors are especially worth visiting”.

The Dynasty of Nguyen (1820-1945) consisted of thirteen emperors. However, due to various complicated historic reasons, only seven royal tombs remain in Hue City, namely those of Gia Long, Minh Mang, Thieu Tri (including the tomb of Kien Phuc King), Duc Duc (including two tombs of Thanh Thai and Duy Tan), Dong Khanh and Khai Dinh. According to the  planning scheme on the architecture of the Nguyen Dynasty’s capital city in the early 19th century, these royal tombs were constructed in a separate region west of Hue.

The architectural style of the Nguyen Dynasty strictly conforms to the rules of geomancy. Each tomb follows rigid regulations relating to natural environment and geographical objects, such as rivers, mountains, ponds and lakes, streams and particularly to what is termed “mysterious palace”. The “mysterious palace” is considered the architectural focal point of all structures built during the Nguyen Dynasty. Centrally located, they are believed to be the most fertile earth within this construction. The surface arrangement of every tomb is divided into two main parts: the sepulchral area and the temple area. The sepulchral area is reserved for burying the King’s corpse and the temple area is a place where many palaces, mansions, pavilions and others were built for the king’s entertainment during his visits.

Consequently, every royal tomb in Hue is not only a historical and cultural relic, but also landscapes and architecturally artful ‘flowers’ of Hue Ancient City. Since Hue’s royal tombs have their own unique artistic and cultural features, they have been included in the list of World’s Wonders in “Les Merveilles du Monde” by the French Academician, Jean Cocteau (published in 1957 by a group of fifteen Western authors).

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