Minh Mang Tomb, Hue

Among the emperor tombs in Hue, the author of this article likes the Minh Mạng Tomb the most. The Tomb is 12km from Hue, on Cam Ke Hill, on the west bank of the Perfume River and can be reached by car or – much nicer – by boat.

The Minh Mang Tomb is one of the most interesting emperor tombs in Hue. It is situated 12 km outside the city, on Cam Ke Hill, on the west bank of the Perfume River and can be reached by car or – much nicer – by boat. Emperor Minh Mang (1820 - 1841) was the second son of Emperor Gia Long, who founded the last Vietnamese dynasty, the Nguyen Dynasty (1802-1945). He had been planning to build a tomb for himself as early as 1826. But it was not until September 1840, after fourteen years of looking for a suitable location, that the construction of the tomb began. During the building phase, in January 1841, Minh Mang got ill and passed away at the age of 52. Emperor Thieu Tri, his successor to the throne, continued the task according to his father’s plans. Minh Mang's corpse was buried in Buu Thanh in August 1841. The construction of the tomb, however, was not completed until two years later, in 1843. The Minh Mang Tomb is renowned for its architecture, which fits harmoniously into the surrounding landscape. Like in other tombs of this period, the general elements of the tomb architecture are: outer-walls, triple gate (Tam Quan Gate), Salutation Court, Stele House, temples, lakes, pavilions, gardens and the tomb itself. The structure is laid out according to three main parallel axis, the center of which is the Than Dao path.

 

The Dai Hong Mon Gate is the main entrance to the tomb. The gate was opened only once to carry the Emperor's coffin to the tomb, and has been tightly closed since then. The visitors' gates are Ta Hong Mon (on the left) and Huu Hong Mon (on the right). Adjacent to the main gate, there is the Honors Courtyard, which hosts a number of stone statues: two rows of high-ranking mandarins, elephants and horses. From the courtyard, three granite staircases lead to the Stele Pavilion (Bi Dinh). The stele "Thanh Duc Than Cong" contains inscriptions (in Chinese character) from Minh Mang's biography written by his son Thieu Tri, praising his merits. About 60 stanzas of inscripted poems can be found in the Stele Pavilion. The Salutation Court has four main areas. The Hien Duc Gate leads to the worship place. In the centre, there is the Sung An Dien Temple surrounded by Ta Phoi Dien and Huu Phoi Dien (the frontal temples to the left and right) and Ta Tung Phong and Huu Tung Phong (the rooms in the back on the left and right side). The worship site for the Emperor and his wife is the Sung An Temple.

 

Finally, the Hoang Trach Gate leads to the Minh Lau Bright Pavilion. It is placed on top of three terraces representing heaven, earth and water. Behind Minh Lau, there are two flower gardens designed as the Chinese character "Longevity". The Minh Lau Pavilion radiates a remarkable, mystical atmosphere; it also features an anthology of selected poems of Vietnam’s early 19th century. Closer to the tomb area, the New Moon Lake (Ho Tan Nguyet) is crescent-shaped and embraces the circular wall surrounding the grave (Buu Thanh). A monumental staircase with dragon-shaped handrails and consisting of 33 stone steps leads to the sepulcher of the Emperor. Among the emperor tombs in Hue, the Minh Mang Tomb is the most impressive one and it is certainly worth a visit (admission fee 55,000 Dong). In 1993, it was admitted in the list of world heritages by UNESCO together with some other Hue monument complexes.

 

Vietnam.com’s tip (trip to Minh Mang Tomb) Take a boat trip from Hue, join an organized tour or rent your private boat (boat rental office between Truong Tien Bridge and Phu Xuan Bridge, appr. 600,000 VND/ca. 33 US$ for the four hour boat ride, up to six persons). The boat will take you to the Thien Mu pagoda. Thereafter, you can continue to Dien Hon Chen and then the Minh Mang Tomb before heading back to Hue. On the way back, you could stop at Kim Long village for a bowl of the famous Bun Thit Nuong (grilled meat with rice vermicelli). Negotiate the fare and the stops you wish to make before departing.