Nguyen Dynasty had 13 kings, but due to economic and political reasons, only seven tombs were built, all of which have still existed today with their own architecture. Especially, Hue’s royal tombs were built since the kings were in the position, so these tombs are not sad places but charming sceneries with skillful carvings in harmony with nature.
1. Gia Long Tomb:
Gia Long Tomb (Thien Tho Lang) was built between 1814 and 1820, located in the Thien Tho Mountain area in Huong Tho Commune, Huong Tra District, Thua Thien Hue Province. This is the resting place of King Gia Long (1762 – 1820), the first king of 13 Nguyen Dynasty.
Gia Long’s tomb area has a circumference of over 11 thousand meters. in front is Mount Dai Thien Tho, 2 side is 14 mounts. The central part is the tomb of King Gia Long and Queen Thua Thien Cao. The area is located along the Huong River, all year round in cool air. Gia Long’s tomb is a masterpiece of harmony between nature and architecture.
2. Minh Mang Tomb:
Minh Mang Tomb is from the center of Hue city 12 km, located on Mount Cam Khe, near Bang Lang Fork, Minh Mang (or Hieu Lang) is the resting place of the second king of Nguyen Dynasty, King Minh Mang.
The tomb was built from 1840 to 1843, has the area of 26 hectares. It is is a large architectural complex of 40 large and small works in a hilly area, rivers, and lakes. In front of the tomb, there are 3 doors. The center is Great Hong Mon (only open once when the procession of King Minh Mang entered the tomb). The two sides are Ta Hong Mon and Huu Hong Mon. Inside the Great Hong Mon has a courtyard, the two sides have two stone statue lines carving figures of martial art officers, literature officers, and elephants, horses standing.
3. Thieu Tri Tomb:
Thieu Tri Tomb lies against Thuan Dao Mountain, Cu Chanh Village, Thuy Bang Commune, Huong Thuy District, about 8 km from Hue City. This is a tomb having the shortest time of construction (completed for 10 months).
After Thieu Tri died, his successor son Tu Duc chose land to build the tomb. The architecture of the tomb of Thieu Tri is a combination and selection from the architectural pattern of Gia Long’s tomb and Minh Mang’s tomb in peaceful countryside with rice fields and orchards around.
4. Tu Duc Tomb:
Tu Duc Tomb ( or Khiem Lang) located in a narrow valley in Duong Xuan Thuong village, Thuy Xuan ward, Hue city. The Tomb was built from 1964 to 1867. This is the resting place of Nguyen Duc Tong – Tu Duc Emperor. The Tomb is divided into 2 area: the one for relaxing and entertaining of the king and the one for burying the body of the king. The tomb has a beautiful architecture, harmonious, charming landscape and is considered the most beautiful royal tomb of the Nguyen Dynasty royal ones.
5. Duc Duc Tomb:
Duc Duc (or An Lang) is located in An Cuu Ward, Hue City. The Tomb was built in 1889 and is home to the Emperors Duc Duc, Thanh Thai and Duy Tan.
Compared to other tombs of the Nguyen kings, the Duc Duc Tomb is more simple and modest. The tomb is rectangular with the area of 3.445 m2, inside without Bi Dinh and stone statues as the other king tombs. In front of the tomb is Phuoc Quoc Hill and behind it is Tam Thai Mountain. There is a clear stream flowing around in front of the Hill.
6. Dong Khanh Tomb:
Dong Khanh Tomb (or Tu Lang) is the place where King Dong Khanh was buried. The tomb is in Thuong Hai Village, Thuy Xuan Commune, Hue City, between Thieu Tri Tomb and Tu Duc Tomb. The Tomb was built through four kings, lasting from 1888 to 1923, with the traditional feudal architecture and Western architecture. Especially, Ngung Hy building is famous for Vietnamese lacquer pictures and the multi-colored glass window system.
7. Khai Dinh Tomb:
The tomb is the resting place of King Khai Dinh, the 12th emperor of the Nguyen Dynasty. Khai Dinh Tomb (or Ung Lang) located on Chau Chue Mountain, Thuy Bang Commune, Huong Thuy District, about 10km southwest of Hue City. This is the work mixed architecture between East and West.
The size is modest but meticulous, so it takes more time as well as more money than other tombs. The tomb was built for 10 years, from 1920 to 1930. Especially, Khai Dinh Tomb is famous for three mural paintings “Cuu long an van” (Nine dragons hide in clouds) decorated on the ceiling of three pavilions in Thien Dinh Palace, considered the most magnificent and valuable in Vietnam.
The royal tombs in Hue were built since the kings were in the position, so these tombs are not sad places but charming sceneries with skillful carvings in harmony with nature. Seven royal tombs in Hue are seven art-works each of which has a particular beauty. Visiting all 4 tombs takes a lot of time, but very interesting.