As Good As Vietnam Gets
Wandering through the Nguyen Dynasty’s Imperial Tombs in Hue
Once the capital of Vietnam, Hue City was for years, home to 13 emperors of the last Vietnamese dynasty. From 1802 to 1945, the powerful Nguyen Dynasty made waves not only in politics but also culturally and religiously. Many used to call the tombs of Old Hue a place where “death smiles and joy sighs.”
Today, evidence of their reign still exists and continues to live on by the Perfume River in seven carefully structured imperial tombs.
Although each of these imperial tomb complexes have their own unique layout, each is meticulously sited with respect for the Five Cardinal Points (centre, north, south, east, west), Five Elements (earth, metal, wood, water, fire) and Five Colours (yellow, white, blue, black, red). Although the lives they led were temporary, the emperors strongly believed in eternal life. In these complexes, the Nguyen Dynasty would live on forever.
These historical grounds are also part of the Complex of Hue Monuments which was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993. Photographer and Hue native, Hieu Truong explores the seven royal tombs in these images.
Emperor Gia Long was the only king of the Nguyen Dynasty to have his mausoleum and his queen’s built side by side in their Thien Tho Lang complex.
The temples, pavilions and tombs in Hieu Lang (Emperor Minh Mang’s Tomb) are built on a symmetrical axis, complemented by all kinds of cool landscaping and water-scaping.
The architecture of Xuong Lang (Emperor Thieu Tri’s Tomb) melds ideas and aesthetics from Thien Tho Lang and Hieu Lang.
Although named Khiem Lang (Modesty Tomb), Emperor Tu Duc’s Tomb features about 50 different elements.
There’s one bizarre thing about An Lang (Emperor Duc Duc’s Tomb): a bas-relief of the Chinese character for “double-happiness” on the screen in front of the emperor’s mausoleum.
Tu Lang (Emperor Dong Khanh’s Tomb) was built over the course of several imperial reigns, and borrows liberally from royal, traditional and European styles.
Ung Lang (Emperor Khai Dinh’s Tomb) is a really dense architectural complex located on a hill. It kind of looks more like a European palace when seen from afar.