Our next post will help you to understand how a lady became noble wife or concubine of an Emperor? What traditional ceremony she had to follow in order to receive the higher rank? Finally, how she supported herself and her servants in the Forbidden City?
All will be explained in Part 2 of Harem of Nguyen Dynasty: The Conferred Ceremony and Harem’s salary.
THE ROYAL CONFERRED CEREMONY IN THE HAREM OF NGUYEN DYNASTY
What is a conferred ceremony?
To make it evident, Emperor wrote his order on a Royal Edict, which made of Gold, Silver, or Silk. Each change in a lady rank or honor, there would be a Royal Edict produced for this purpose.
Golden Edict was for the highest rank in the Harem, Hoang Hau (Queen) or Hoang Quy Phi (Imperial Consort).
The First and the Second Grade Wives used gold-plated silver edict. The rest of the harem would be given Silver Edict and the latter having Silky Edict in the Conferred Ceremony.
Story of Hoang Quy Phi Vu Thi Duyen
Vu Thi Duyen was a young charming lady born in a high class family from Quang Binh Province. Her father was one of the top four Royal Advisers for Emperor Tu Duc (which is as high as Minister position nowadays).
She became personal maid of Prince Phuc Tuy Cong Hong Nham (later on, Emperor Tu Duc) at 15 years old.
She quickly gained trust and love from her husband, whom in his later year became Emperor Tu Duc (1847-1883), conferred her many honors in the First Wife Rank. In 1862, she officially became Empress of Vietnam under reign of Tu Duc for almost 20 years.
However, she made a mistake one time when serving a late meal for her Majesty. Emperor Tu Duc wanted to set example to his Harem, thus, took her Rank from Empress (highest rank) to a Middle Rank.
Thus, the Royal Edict above was to inform that Hoang Quy Phi Vu Thi Duyen was now a Middle Rank Concubine in Tu Duc harem.
How is a Royal Ceremony like?
Duty of Ministry of Rites
The Ministry of Rites chose a good day to organize the Conferred Ceremony. A First Rank Executive Mandarin and his deputy (for the top three Wife Ranks) or A Second Rank Executive Mandarin and his deputy (for the rest of Concubine’s ranks) went to Can Chanh Palace to receive Imperial Flag and Royal Edict directly from the Emperor.
They paraded to Duyet Thi Duong Royal Theater where there were also a group of eunuchs and maids waited all together to receive royal news and offer.
People would solemnly bring the flags and Imperial Edict to the Forbidden City. The lady who were being conferred would receive the Edict with 3 kowtows and 6 bows. The Emperor needed to host a feast to the Imperial Court to celebrate this ceremony.
Duty of the Conferred Consort (or Concubine)
The Lady had to come Can Chanh Palace in the next morning to show her appreciation to her Majesty with 3 kowtows and 6 bows.
A day after the ceremony, she must go to Dowager Empress Residence to show her “mother-in-law’ highest greetings. She also received moral teachings from the Dowager Empress.
This is the final step of the Conferred Ceremony in the Harem of Nguyen’s.
HAREM OF NGUYEN’S PLACE TO LIVE
Queen or Empress lived in Khon Thai palace, right behind Can Thanh Palace (where Emperor lived).
First and Second Grade Wives lived in Trinh Minh Palace, in the East of Can Thanh Palace. Third to Fifth Grade Concubines settled in Thuan Huy Institute, in the East side of Empress’s palace.
Hue Forbidden City Map
There were three institutes: Doan Tuong, Doan Thuan, Doan Hoa for Sixth Grade to Ninth Grade ranks. Many unknown ladies, royal maids and eunuchs shared Doan Huy and Doan Trang institutes. These institutes is what we call Royal Harem (See map above).
Doan Trang palace was also place for new ladies to learn royal regulations when they first arrived in Forbidden City.
Unfortunately, severe fighting and bombardments in Hue Citadel during Tet Offensive had destroyed all these specific palaces. Although, there are some foundations still remained for visitors.
THE BENEFITS OF WIVES AND CONCUBINES
Salary for Harem of Nguyen
Let’s take a look at Salary system for Ming Mang‘s wives and Concubines. Note that units used in this context was very old measured units during Nguyen Feudal Era.
Degree of Honor
Salary each year
Hoàng Quý phi
1000 units off money
300 units of rice
Nhất giai Phi
First Grade Wives
500 units of money
250 units of rice
Nhị giai Phi
Second Grade Wives
450 units of money
200 units of rice
Tam giai Tần
Third Grade Concubines
400 units of money
180 units of rice
Tứ giai Tần
Fourth Grade Concubines
350 units of money
140 units of rice
Ngũ giai Tần
Fifth Grade Concubines
320 units of money
120 units of rice
Lục giai Tiệp dư
Sixth Grade Ladies
300 units of money
100 units of rice
Thất giai Quý nhân
Seventh Grade Treasured Ladies
280 units of money
84 units of rice
Bát giai Mỹ nhân
Eighth Grade Beauties
240 units of money
60 units of rice
Cửu giai Tài nhân
Ninth Grade talents
180 units of money
48 units of rice
Court Status for her Family
Many Concubines’ life mission was to win Emperor’s heart or to carry his child so that they could be ranked higher. If that happened, her family would be strongly considered for a higher position at court. Thus, many noble family sent their daughters to become wife of Emperor in order to consolidate their status at court.
HAREM OF NGUYEN DYNASTY, TO SUM UP
The Harem of Nguyen Dynasty was the most complete and complicated in term of size and rank system in any feudal monarchies in Vietnam. We hope this article explains to you well an interesting topic in Hue Forbidden city. Nowadays, when you visit the Hue Imperial City, there still remains of once-to-be the most crowded areas in Hue Citadel.
Planning to visit Hue is a must for your Vietnam travel to understand the most flourishing chapter of Vietnam History. Let one of our story-tellers inspire you with many untold stories of Nguyen Dynasty with the Hue Walk of Imperial City here.
- Harem of Nguyen Dynasty: From Rank to Honor – part 1
- Harem of Nguyen Dynasty: The Notale Women – part 3 (Coming soon)
BEE BEE TRAVEL | MAKE VIET CULTURE SHINE
Enjoy our blog? Like, comment and share below.
Want to explore the Hue Imperial City with a local guide? Book our Hue Walk of Imperial City here.
Check out our tour options here.
Have question? Contact us now.