In this article Feng Shui of Hue Tombs, we only talk about feng shui principles used in the construction of the Hue tombs, the “arrangement” of nature which Vietnamese use to build the tomb, to ensure their alignment with the natural surroundings and to create a beautiful and poetic environment.
The mandarins under the Nguyen Dynasty paid close attention to the topography of the region, including rivers, mountains, lakes, and streams, and selected sites that met all of the feng shui principles.

MInh mang tomb map
Many elements make a good place to build Hue tombs (Minh Mang tomb map)

1. Definition of Feng Shui: What is the Feng-shui?

Feng shui is a traditional East Asia practice that aims to harmonize individuals with their surrounding environment through the arrangement of objects and orientation of spaces to achieve harmony and balance in a way that will bring peace and prosperity. Can understand that Feng shui is the art of arrangement of nature, all of the elements in your space, and it makes you happy, and healthy, bringing good. And find a good place, it make you and your family become developing rapidly and successfully; thriving. In Asian culture, this philosophy is called the Tao, which translates to mean “the way.” Taoism is the way of nature, and all the basic rules of feng shui reflect nature. Here’s a look at the essential rule of feng shui: the commanding position, the bagua, and the five elements.

To know more about The Basic Principles of Feng Shui, you can read more here: Spruce

2. Use of Feng Shui in the construction of Hue Tombs

Importance of the Location of Hue Tombs

Feng shui of Hue tombs is known that the architects under the Nguyen Dynasty paid close attention to the topography of the region, including rivers, mountains, lakes, and streams, and selected sites that met all of the feng shui principles. The surrounding natural surroundings were also utilized to create a beautiful and poetic environment. The mausoleum is situated on a grass-covered hill in a peaceful pine forest, hidden behind luxuriant century-old trees or reflected in a serene and clear lake. This blend of natural surroundings and man-made architecture is a hallmark of ancient Vietnamese landscape architecture.

Importance of feng-shui principles in building Royal tombs in Hue

Most of the Hue Royal tombs were built when their masters were still on the throne. It took many consecutive years to complete each royal mausoleum and the construction depended on the Emperor’s skill, as well as drawing massively on the country’s human and material resources. It was the Emperor himself who established the artistic theme and idea, approved the architectural project and frequently, he also supervised the construction.

First and foremost, the architects under the Nguyễn Dynasty paid attention to the feng-shui principles.

The mandarins in the Ministry of Rites, Astronomical Service, and some other agencies had the duty to take care of this important aspect. Whether the Hue Royal tombs would be good or not, as well as whether the Royalty’s future would be bright or not, depended on the choices of site, direction, and date for the construction of the mausoleum.

Each mausoleum had to be built in compliance with the rules related to the topography such as rivers, mountains, lakes, and streams. In particular, the mausoleum must be built on a good layer of earth. The best geomancers at that time had to spend months, or even years, traveling throughout the mountainous areas to the west and southwest of the Hue Citadel to choose a site that would meet all the feng-shui principles. In whatever manner this ancient feng-shui theory is assessed, it created impressive and poetic natural surroundings for the architecture of Hue in general and the royal tomb in Hue in particular.

3. Topographical Considerations for Hue Tombs

Attention paid to topography and natural surroundings in site selection

When visiting or studying Hue tombs, you should pay attention not only to the architectural structures within the perimeter but also look a further 10 kilometers to see all the natural geographical entities associated with them and to enjoy the imposing natural beauty of the entire extended area of the mausoleum complex.

Feng shui of gia long tomb
The Hue Tombs were set against the backdrop of the natural landscape of the foothills of Hue, which had been modified to some extent.

Overview of Gia Long, Thieu Tri, and Khai Dinh tombs and their surroundings

It is little known that Gia Long tomb is as large as 2,875 hectares in area and is surrounded by 42 mountains.

Thieu Tri tomb is 475 hectares in area and is screened by a mountain eight kilometers away.

Khai Dinh tomb is fronted by the winding Chau E Stream flowing from left to right and surrounded by the mountain ranges of Chop Vung and Kim Son, which look like a flanking dragon and a tiger lying prostrate on two sides.

Hue tombs Fengshui

Khai Dinh Mausoleum is one of the royal tombs located in Hue, Vietnam, and was constructed during the Nguyen Dynasty. The architects took great care to ensure that the tomb complied with feng shui principles. The mausoleum is fronted by the winding Châu E Stream flowing from left to right and is surrounded by the mountain ranges of Chóp Vung and Kim Son, which look like a flanking dragon and a tiger lying prostrate on two sides. The surrounding natural surroundings were also utilized to create a beautiful and poetic environment.

The skillful artisans in those days exploited the space and natural surroundings to the full, proactively bringing them into the architectural design, and forcing them to comply with the intentions of the project managers. Simultaneously, they also reshaped the natural surroundings if they were imperfect, or introduced architectural structures into them to create an appropriate level of beauty. Tu Chi wrote: “The external space slips into the architectural space, drawing the architecture close to nature and contributing to the reorganization of the collective space.”

  • The exploitation of natural surroundings to create poetic natural surroundings
Hue tombs - Minh Mang King tomb
Minh Mang tomb

Reflection of ancient Vietnamese landscape architecture

The Vietnamese know how to choose the most beautiful natural settings for their architectural works for worship.

This is proved most clearly through the architectural art of the royal tomb in Hue. Here, each work of architecture is situated on a grass-covered hill in a peaceful pine forest, hiding behind luxuriant century-old trees or being reflected in a serene and clear lake. The whole scene is covered with fresh and harmonious green.”

Each Hue tomb here is a blend of the colors of the sky, water, high mountains, thick forests, winds blowing over the tops of the trees, and streams murmuring through stone caves… It is the combination of a beautiful natural setting and a marvelous man-made one. It reflects the artificial factors as an embellishment for the landscape… It is hard to describe in words the strange and extremely pleasant feeling it brings to us… It is hard to find anywhere else the harmony between the architecture and landscape; the palaces are in the same colors as the surrounding mountains and trees as if those mountains and trees matched nothing but those palaces as if those palaces fitted nothing but those mountains and trees.”

Ancient Vietnamese architecture is generally called landscape architecture. The peak of this art is expressed in the royal tomb in Hue. In 1981, after his visit, Mr. Amadou-Mahtar-M’Bow, General Director of UNESCO, wrote:

The Mausoleums of the Nguyen Emperors reflect unique variations on a united subject. Each mausoleum with its own features is an excellent achievement of landscape architecture and inspires a special echo in visitors’ emotions. Gia Long Mausoleum, which is built amid an immense natural park, brings visitors an impression of grandiosity and peace; Minh Mang Mausoleum is coated with solemnity; Tu Duc Mausoleum brings visitors a feeling of peace and romance.”

While visiting the royal tomb in Hue, one will feel as if he was walking in splendid parks in a vast mountainous area. There, he can see flowers blossoming and hear the sounds of birds, streams, and pine trees.

What we have mentioned above is, however, just one aspect of the matter. For a better understanding of the landscape architecture of the Tombs of the Nguyễn Kings, we should learn about their perception of life and death, or their profound philosophy of life, hidden behind what we can see in their final resting places.
Here, besides specific images that can be enjoyed with the natural senses, there are also abstract and supernatural elements that cannot be understood, or perceived without thinking. These elements reflect the philosophy of life pertaining to a historical era. Therefore, the Royal tombs in Hue should be viewed in the historical and ideological context of the previous centuries of the intelligentsia in general and that of the Nguyễn Kings in particular.

Synthesis of Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism in the Nguyễn Emperors’ idea of eternal life after death

The division of each royal mausoleum into two sections: one for tombs and the other for temples, palaces, and pavilions

According to another way of thinking, death is forever life and therefore, the royal mausoleums in Hue are not sorrowful places. Each of them is divided into two main sections: one for tombs and the other for temples palaces, and pavilions, frequented by the emperors for enjoyment. The latter section can be seen as the second royal palace of the contemporary emperor.

4. Best known for visiting Hue tombs: 

Entrance fee for Hue Monument

Update 1 Apr 2023 (Update from Hue’s Monument Entrance tickets)

Royal tombs in Hue Adult Child (7-12 years old)
Gia Long tomb, Minh Mang tomb, Khai Dinh tomb, Tu Duc tomb 150.000 30.000
Free in Gia Long tomb
Dong Khanh tomb 100.000 Free
Thieu Tri tomb 50.000 Free
Imperial Citadel + 2 tombs 420.000 80.000
Imperial Citadel + 3 tombs 530.000 100.000

Opening Hours:

  • Oct to Dec (Rain season) 7:00 to 17:00
  • Jan to Sep: 6:30 to 17:30

5. Travel guide for visiting Hue Tombs

  1. What are the best tombs of Hue?
    There are several tombs to choose from, including the Tomb of Emperor Gia Long, the Tomb of Emperor Minh Mang, the Tomb of Emperor Tu Duc, the Tomb of Emperor Dong Khanh, and the Tomb of Khai Dinh. You may not have time to visit all of the tombs in 1 day.
  2. What are 2 well-known tombs?
    If you only have 1 or 2 days in Hue, we suggest you can visit 2 tombs: Khai Dinh tomb and Tu Duc tomb. It is 2 different architects and on this route, you can visit Thuy Xuan Incense Stick village too, you also buy combo tickets include: Hue Imperial Citadel, Khai Dinh Tomb, and Tu Duc Tomb. It cost only 420.000 vnd ~ 18 USD/ adult
  3. Plan your visit:
    The tombs are located outside of Hue, and it’s best to visit them with a guide or as part of a tour. You can arrange for a tour through your hotel or a local tour company. It’s also a good idea to plan your visit for the morning, as the tombs can get quite hot in the afternoon.
  4. What is the dress code for the Hue tomb?
    Hue tombs are religious sites, so dress modestly and respectfully. Wear comfortable shoes, as there will be a lot of walking involved.
  5. Bring water and snacks
    There are no food or drink vendors inside the tombs, so it’s a good idea to bring your own water and snacks.
  6. Follow the rules
    There are certain rules that visitors must follow when visiting the tombs, such as not touching any of the artifacts or climbing on the structures. No smoking inside temples, and palaces.
  7. Take your time
    The tombs are large and complex structures, so take your time to explore each one thoroughly. Don’t rush through them, as you may miss some of the most interesting features. If you are making plans, consider visiting each tomb for 60-90 mins/per site

Daily tour of Hue Tombs

Visiting the Hue tombs is a great way to learn about the history and culture of Vietnam. By following these tips, you can make the most of your visit and have a memorable experience. To learn more about the architecture of Hue, the lifestyle of Hue City, and the culture of Hue, consider booking a guided tour of the Hue royal tombs with Hura Cars.

Make a reservation now.

  1. Hue city tour 1 day by private car
  2. Hue Royal tombs tours: Minh Mang, Khai Dinh, Tu Duc tomb
  3. Join a Small Group city tour of Hue