Khai Dinh Tomb in Hue, Vietnam

Khai Dinh Tomb, a royal tomb having special architectural style

Khai Dinh Tomb (or Ung Lang) is the resting place of King Khai Dinh, the 12th emperor of the Nguyen Dynasty. Khai Dinh Tomb is located in Chau Chu Mountain, Thuy Bang Commune, Huong Thuy District, about 10km southwest of Hue City. The architecture style of the tomb is a mixture of the eastern and western architectural styles. That is special and unique architectural style in Vietnam.

Khai Dinh ascended to the throne in 1916 at the age of 31. Right after the throne, he built many palaces for himself and his royal family such as Kien Trung, An Dinh, Truong An, Hien Nhon, Chuong Duc Door, especially Ung Lang.

In order to build his own tomb, Khai Dinh had consulted many of the geographers. the last geological site selected was Chau Chuc Mountain area. In front of Khai Dinh Tomb is a low hill. Two sides in front are Mount Vung and Kim Son. There is a stream slot flowing from the left to the right of the area.

The tomb was started building in1920, and completed in 1930. The commander of the work was Le Van Ba officer. There are many famous craftsmen and artisans all over the country working such as Phan Van Tanh, Nguyen Van Kha, Ky Duyet, Cuu Sung. To have the expenditure building the tomb, King Khai Dinh asked the French government to allow him to raise the nationwide land tax of 30%. This behavior of Khai Dinh has strongly been condemned by history.

Compared with the tombs of the predecessor kings, Khai Dinh tomb is much more modest, with the size of 117 m × 48.5 m, but the opposite, extremely elaborate and time-consuming building. To build the tomb, Khai Dinh sent people to France to buy iron, steel, cement, Ardoise tile …, ordered boats to China, Japan to buy porcelain, colored glass … to build works on Chau Chu Mountain area.

The architecture of Khai Dinh tombs is often placed outside the traditional architecture of the Nguyen Dynasty because of the new, strange and elaborate things created from the architectural style.

In general, the tomb is a rectangular block rising up 127 levels. The infiltration of many styles of architecture such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Roman, Gothique … has left a mark on the concrete works: The pyramidal gate pillars are influenced by Indian architecture; Stoupa shaped pillars are of Buddhist architecture; The fences look like cathedral crosses; The stele with octagonal columns and arches are the variant Roman style. This is the result of two factors: the East-West cultural intercourse in the turn of history and the character of Khai Dinh.

The most prominent work of Khai Dinh Tomb is Thien Dinh Palace. This palace is at the highest position of the tomb. It is the main work of the tomb and is elaborately built. The entire interior of the palace is decorated with pieces of porcelain and glass. Those are the four-season paintings, flowers, tea trays, crowns … Very modern items such as alarm clock, tennis racket, kerosene lamp … are also decorated here. The palace consists of 5 parts. Both sides are the rooms for soldiers protecting the tomb. In front is Khai Thanh Hall where there is the altar and the photo of King Khai Dinh. In the middle is a big umbrella made of reinforced cement where there is King Khai Dinh statue above and the grave below. At the back is the place where the tablet of the king is worshiped.

Under the umbrella is a bronze statue of Khai Dinh cast in France in 1920 by two Frenchmen, P. Ducing and F. Barbedienne, according to the request of King Khai Dinh. The body of the king is brought into the grave through the road with the length of 30m. Behind the grave, there is the picture of the sun setting as showing the king’s death.

Mean responsible person in the creation of artistic masterpieces in Khai Dinh tomb is Artist Phan Van Tanh, the author of three large “Cuu Long an van” (Nine dragons hide in clouds) murals. They are decorated on the ceiling of Thien Dinh Palace.

Generally, Khai Dinh Tomb is a royal tomb having special architectural style. That is a mixture of the eastern and western architectural styles, which creates a new and strange for viewers. The tomb has an architectural style completely different from the tombs of the kings in Vietnam. Traveling Hue, we cannot miss the opportunity of visiting this unique place.

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