Tomb of Khai Dinh

Khai Dinh's Tomb (Ung Lang) was built between 1920 and 1931. It is located on top of the Chau E Mountain, 10 km from Hue. Unlike the other tombs located within a vast expanse of wilderness, Khai Dinh's tomb looks like a magnificient palace perched on a slope of a limestone mountain. It is accessible by climbing 109 stone steps starting from the foot of the mountain.

Ascending the throne at the age of 31, Khai Dinh was passionately keen on building palaces, residences and his own tomb (namely Kien Trung Pavilion; An Dinh Palace, Truong An, Hien Nhon and Chuong Duc Gates; especially Ung Lang Tomb).

Construction of Khai Dinh’s Tomb began on September 4, 1920 and was completed one year later. In order to raise funds for the construction, Emperor Khai Dinh asked the protectorate government to increase the land tax by 30%. It was critically condemned in the history of Vietnam.

Despite its limited size (117 m x 48.5 m), Khai Dinh’s Tomb exhibits labour-intensive and time-consuming works. The tomb, on a whole, is on a rectangular block, which is reached via one hundred and twenty-seven steps up the hillside. The introduction of various architectural styles of India, Buddhism, Romanesque and Gothic can easily be found at every corner of the tomb - The columned gates influenced by Indian architecture, towers in the shape of stupas from the Buddhist style, the fence resembling a series of Holy Crosses, a Stele Pavilion supported by octagonal pillars with Romanesque-styled arch and so on. The synthesis of two architectural styles and the two cultures of the East and West reflect the historical transition and the Emperor’s character as well.

Atop this structure is Thien Dinh Temple, the main building of the tomb. Thien Dinh Temple consists of five parts attached to one another. The Right and Left Guards’ Chambers are on either side. In the middle is Khai Thanh Temple, which shelters the altar and portrait of Khai Dinh. Further behind the temple, under the royal canopy, stands the actual-sized bronze statue of Khai Dinh. His remains are interred below the statue. The last hall is reserved for the Emperor’s altar and funerary tablet. The inside walls of Thien Dinh Temple are decorated with murals of the “Four Seasons”, the “Eight Precious Objects”, the “Five Blessings”, and many others. These are made out of colorful bits of broken porcelain and glass embedded in cement. From graceless materials, local artists creatively produced vivid and supple objet d’art. Particularly, the royal canopy above the bronze statue with its graceful decoration give viewers an impression of a silk canopy, rather than a one-ton concreted one.

The person who was in charge of arranging the masterpieces at Khai Dinh’s Tomb, is the artist Phan Van Tanh. His three massive paintings can be seen on the ceiling of Thien Dinh Temple, the most prominent being “Nine Dragons Hiding in Clouds”.
In spite of various criticisms, Khai Dinh’s Tomb still displays an invaluable artistic architecture, which enriches the beauty of Royal Tombs in Hue.

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