Tiger Arena (Ho Quyen), Hue
Located in Truong Da Village, Thuy Bieu Ward, Hue City, Tiger Arena or Ho Quyen is a relic in the Hue Ancient Capital complex. It is a tiger cage and an arena, unique that may not be available anywhere in the world.
Ho Quyen is an open arena with a ring shape. The outside circle’s perimeter is 140m, its height is 4.75m. The inside circle’s diameter is 44m, its height is 5.80m high. The outside circle has a gate made of wood, with the height of 7m 70cm and the width of 4m 50cm. Above the gate, there are words “Ho Quyen”. Elephants are brought into the arena through this entrance. There are two ways leading to the grand stands made of stone steps, a way for the king and the high-level officers, a way for low-level officials and soldiers. The king’s grand stand faces the southeast of the arena. Facing the grand stand, there are five tiger sheds, the round fighting yard is covered with grass.
Before Ho Quyen was built, during the time of the Nguyen lords, the matches between elephants and tigers were held in Da Vien Island on the Perfume River. In 1750, Lord Nguyen Phuc Khoat and his courtiers went on 12 boats to Da Vien Island to see an unprecedented battle between elephants and tigers. This is probably the worst and bloodiest match in history because from the beginning to the end, 40 elephants massacred 18 tigers.
During the Nguyen kings, when there was not a separate arena to ensure safety, the fights between elephants and tigers were still held and considered great festivals of the court and the people. However, there are many accidents happening. During Minh Mang’s reign, on the occasion of the 40-year-old celebration (in 1829), the king took a dragon boat to watch a match between elephants and tigers on the northern bank of the Huong River. While fighting, the tiger rushed out and swam towards the dragon boat. Minh Mang King could just use the pole to repel the tiger, the army rowed the boat to kill the tiger among the river to save the king in time.
Due to this incident, in the 11th Minh Mang year (1830), the king chose the land in Truong Da village, Nguyet Bieu village, located to the West of the Ancient Citadel to build a solid arena to hold competitions safely. The purpose of the matches is to entertain the kings and at the same time train combat skills for the elephant soldiers. In the Nguyen dynasty, dead battles between elephants and tigers were held once a year. Before each match, tigers were cut off tusks and claws, so elephants always killed and rub the tigers. The last match took place in 1904 in the reign of King Thanh Thai.
Nearly 200 years have passed, the Ho Quyen arena is still there with moss-stone walls, like a witness to a historical dynastic, a dynasty of ups and downs, Nguyen Dynasty, last feudal dynasty of Vietnam.
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