Explore Hue Royal tombs in Vietnam, and discover their beauty and cultural significance. Each tomb has a unique architectural style and is tied to the Nguyen Dynasty’s philosophical approach to death and the afterlife. The Royal tombs in Hue are considered one of the world’s wonders and continue to attract visitors from around the world.
Brief overview Hue Royal tombs
The Nguyen Dynasty (1802-1945), the last monarchical dynasty in the history of Viet Nam, left the nation a great cultural legacy that has both national and international value: a group of Hue Royal tombs in the west of Hue city
Hue is an attractive tourist center, Hue famous for the Imperial Citadel, the Royal City, and Royal tombs which have attracted the special attention of travelers and artists. Hue Royal tombs of the Nguyen Kings alone are valuable enough for tourism and are more beautiful than those of the Kings in China. Many Specialists Vietnamese or foreign have even claimed that the Hue Royal tombs are among the most brilliant achievements of the ancient tradition of Vietnamese architecture.
There were 13 Kings of the Nguyen Dynasty, but only 7 tombs were built which can be viewed nowadays. The reasons for this involve complicated historical factors, properly within the sphere of careful historical study. The 7 Tombs that can be seen in Hue today belong to the Kings Gia Long, Minh Mang, Thieu Tri, Tu Duc, Duc Duc, Dong Khanh, and Khai Dinh.
In this article, we only mentioned the tombs of the Kings, not all of the tombs of Nguyen’s Lord (9 Lords) and we used “Hue Royal Tombs” for meaning “7 King’s tombs”
Hue Royal Tombs: Architectural Marvels
According to the original design of the Nguyen Capital, drawn up in the early 19th century, the location reserved for the Tombs is situated in a secluded area to the west of the Hue Citadel as observed from the center of the Hue Ancient Capital. Many inscriptions found in this area indicate that the King was associated with the Sun and considered to be the incarnation of the Supreme Deity. The setting of the sun indicated the decease of a King; and (it was believed that) after death, the King went westward with the sun to sleep a long time in the tranquility of the mountainous area where the serene and poetic Perfume River flows.
According to an additional way of thinking, death is life, and therefore, the Royal tombs in Hue are not sorrowful places. Each of them is divided into two main sections: one for graves and the other for temples palaces, and pavilions, frequented by the Kings for enjoyment. The latter section can be seen as the second royal palace of the contemporary King. In Tu Duc Tomb, for instance, there are tens of architectural structures of different sizes built for the King’s daily activities and entertainment.
They include Hoa Khiem Palace as the King’s workplace, Luong Khiem Palace as the King’s sleeping and dining place, and Xung Khiem Pavilion and Du Khiem Pavilion where the King sat to fish and take some fresh air, write poems, and enjoy view.
Luu Khiem Lake was where the King rowed about to pick water lilies, Minh Khiêm Hall was a center, and Y Khiêm Palace and Tri Khiem Palace were where the King’s concubines and maids stayed when they followed the King here.
Cultural and Symbolic Meanings
After a King died, all the architectural structures in his Tomb were kept intact and dedicated to his worship. His concubines and maids had to stay there to take care of his grave until they died. They had to consider ‘death as life, inexistence as existence’ with all the meanings of this dogma, as well as with loyalty to the deceased King. After a King died, his Tomb became his new living place.
The division of each Royal Tomb in Hue into two sections and its architectural style is determined by the Faster concept of “eternal life after death.’ Accordingly, life on Earth is temporary. Even though one may live up to one hundred years, his life is just a dream. Everything is impermanent and changeable like clouds.
Thus, each Royal Tomb in Hue is a palace in the other world, to which they return for eternal life.
Because of this perception of life and death, each of the Nguyen Kings, except one, had his Tomb built while still alive and on the throne. Recently, a critic from the UNESCO Committee of the Center for Asian Culture made a brief, but profound and exact, assessment of the underlying philosophy of the Tomb architecture of the Nguyễn Kings as follows: “With the short-lived paradise on earth, the impressive Tombs were built for an eternal paradise later.”
Attitude Towards Death of Nguyen King
The architecture of the Royal tombs in Hue has its language with profound meanings. Only by understanding it can one explain why each of these Royal tombs has a system of palaces for entertainment and theatres for the enjoyment of theatrical arts and beautiful women, why the interior of Thien Dinh Palace in Khai Dinh tomb looks like that of an attractive and sparkling art museum, and why these Royal tombs are decorated with so many patterns in the shapes of the Chinese characters [longevity] and [happiness].
The architecture of the Royal tombs in Hue also reflects a peaceful and wise attitude towards the inevitability of death. In some of them, the tomb and temple sections are separated only by a tiny distance. When coming to the palaces for entertainment, the Kings would have a quick look at their graves, which had been dug in advance, without feeling worried or frightened. Having understood thoroughly the natural law of human life, they would feel happy before death and get ready for death to come which would lead them to the other world. There they would find. their eternal houses, their final resting places, and their everlasting worlds. The Royal tombs in Hue show a synthesis of the sacred and profane and represent the world of the dead. Thanks to their artistic architecture, the often-felt mournfulness was, to a great extent, replaced with joy.
In summary, thanks to the ideological theme springing from the outlook on life as a synthesis of Eastern philosophies, as well as the marvelous artistic talent of the Vietnamese architects of the time, the Royal tombs in Hue have become colorful and fragrant flowers of art blossoming in the mountainous area of Hue. These Royal tombs have unique features that differentiate them from other Tomb structures all over the world. Each Royal Tombs in Hue is a historical and cultural site and a beauty spot with charming parks. Moved by the beauty of the Royal tombs in Hue, both natural and supernatural. Each part in this poem refers to a Royal Tombs in the area of Ngu Mountain and the Huong River.
Unique Characteristics of each Royal Tomb
They are built on the same principles, but have different styles of art, succinctly described by the adjectives below:
- Gia Long Tomb: imposing, grand, magnificent
- Minh Mang Tomb: solemn, serious
- Thieu Tri Tomb: light, buoyant, supple, flexible
- Tu Duc Tomb: poetic, lyrical, graceful, refined
- Duc Duc Tomb: simple and modest
- Dong Khanh Tomb: pretty, charming
- Khai Dinh tomb: sophisticated, polished, and refined
As a final tribute, in 1957, because of their high cultural and artistic value, the Royal tombs in Hué were classified as one of the world’s wonders by a group of fifteen Western scholars, as recorded in the book Les Merveilles du Monde (Wonders of the World) by Jean Cocteau of the French Academy.
Travel Guide: Exploring the Hue Royal Tombs
Hue Royal Tombs are an essential cultural and historical attraction in Vietnam. Here’s a travel guide to help you make the most of your visit:
Making a plan to explore
- Best Time to Visit: The months from February to April and September to October are generally considered the best times to visit, as the weather is pleasant and rainfall is minimal.
- Duration: Allocate at least one full day to explore the royal tombs thoroughly.
- Transportation: Hire a private car, and join a guided tour to reach the tombs. They are located on the outskirts of Hue City.
Hura car offer: Hue Royal tombs tour by private car. Join the tour and hear about the Feng shui of the tombs
Selecting the Tombs to Visit
- The most popular royal tombs in Hue are Minh Mang, Khai Dinh, and Tu Duc. Consider visiting these as they showcase distinct architectural styles and cultural significance.
- If time permits, you can also explore additional tombs like Gia Long, Thieu Tri, Dong Khanh, and Duc Duc to gain a comprehensive understanding of the Nguyen Dynasty.
- You should wear comfortable clothing and footwear suitable for walking and exploring the tomb complexes.
- Carry sun protection, such as a hat, sunscreen, and sunglasses, as the tombs often have open areas without much shade.
- Combine your visit to the royal tombs with other attractions in Hue, such as the Imperial City, Thien Mu Pagoda, or Hue Citadel, to make the most of your time in the city, and buy a combo ticket to visit the heritage site, it is cheaper. You can find here: Entrance tickets for Hue Momument 2023
Exploring the Tombs
- Hire a local tour guide or rent an audio guide to learn about the historical and cultural significance of each tomb. This will enhance your understanding and appreciation of the architectural details and stories behind the tombs.
- Take your time to explore each tomb’s different sections, including the graves, palaces, temples, and scenic surroundings.
- Admire the intricate architectural designs, decorative elements, and serene lakes within the tomb complexes.
- Don’t forget to capture photographs of the beautiful landscapes, structures, and scenic views of Hue Royal Tombs
Hura Travel also offers tours and itineraries for exploring Hue City and Royal Tombs, take part in our tour and learn more about history, culture, and Hue people: