|Reign||18/05/1916 – 06/11/1925|
|Died||06/11/1925 (aged 40)|
|Full name||Nguyễn Phúc Bửu Đảo|
House of Nguyen was the last dynasty of Vietnam. In 1802, after defeating the forces of Tay Son, Nguyen Anh unified the country and established Nguyen Dynasty. Later, he chose Phu Xuan as the capital for the next 143 years. Succeeding him, twelve kings of Nguyen dynasty tried their best to make Phu Xuan become a powerful political and cultural center of Vietnam. After their reign, the Nguyen did leave a huge heritage including a number of national historical books, royal relics, land registers and family records. Among their magnificent constructions, the tomb of Khai Dinh (officially Ung Mausoleum) can be considered as one of the most unique Hue tombs.
The life of Khai Dinh
Emperor Khai Dinh’s real name is Nguyen Phuc Buu Dao. He is the 1st son of Emperor Dong Khanh and Madam Duong Thi Thuc. He was born on September 1st of the lunar year of At Dau.
At the time Emperor Dong Khanh passed away, Prince Buu Dao was only 4 years old, so he wasn’t chosen for throne. Until 1916, after Emperor Duy Tan’s exile to Reunion, Hue Court and French crowned Buu Dao with the title Khai Dinh on May 18th 1916.
Vietnam during Khai Dinh Reign
French continued to have strong influence in An Nam court while they totally took charge of the development of Tonkin ( Hanoi and surroundings) and Cocochina ( Saigon and surroundings). Intellectual class and nationalists kept pursuing their reform ideas and many uprising erupted during Khai Dinh’s reign.
Meanwhile, Khai Dinh’s love for French culture and throughout cooperation led him to carry a title of “The Bamboo Dragon” hinting the fact that he was a powerless French Puppet.
Let’s watch a live footage recorded Khai Dinh, his First Rank Wife Ho Thi Chi and Prince Vinh Thuy in France below
He was also the first An Nam Emperor to visit Marseille and Paris in 1922 which drew widespread concern from all classes in An Nam at that moment. Many fiction novels and criticism articles aiming at Khai Dinh were published and are great resources to learn of an interesting image of Vietnam society in early 20th century.
Rumor about Khai Dinh
Khai Dinh has only one son whose name was Vinh Thuy, who later in 1926, became the last Nguyen Emperor. In spite of the fact that he had up to 12 wives, he only had one son. Several descendants of Nguyen family suggested that Khai Dinh was impotent and thus could not have fathered Vinh Thuy. He preferred male companions. Every night, he would like to stay with a royal guard named Nguyen Dac Vong rather than go to his concubines’ places.
End of Khai Dinh life
According to historian Tim Doling in his book “Exploring Hue”, like his father Dong Khanh, he had an ill-fated life and died of tuberculosis in 1925, aged 40.
Khai Dinh Artwork in Hue
Despite the fact that Khai Dinh was not serving his people succesfully, he was remembered for sponsoring many ornate palaces and a revolutionist in art and architecture. Below are some of his famous East-West “fusion” works.
You can visit many of his creative works in the Imperial City.
Aside from that, An Dinh Palace and Ung Mausoleum are phenomenal to visit in Hue as well.
The architecture of Ung Mausoleum – one of the most unique Hue tombs
Planning and construction of Khai Dinh tomb was long before the anticipation of his death. Being an painter and sculptor himself, he aspired to build a masterpiece to awe any visitors who would come for a visit. It is an interesting combination of oriental decoration in a huge Western style building. He also had imported many different materials from other countries such as Japan, India or France,…
The view from the gate
In comparison with other tombs, Khai Dinh surface area is much smaller than his predecessors. However, the building is much more elaborated than others of it era. It is a rectangular block leaning against Chau Chu mountain. To get to the main palace, you will have to climb 127 stairs. The steps leading up to the forecourt are guarded by four dragons, which creates an imposing scene for the tomb.
Exploring the forecourt and the main palace
In front of the palace, there is a concrete stele monument written by his son – Emperor Bao Dai. Besides, there are also stone statues including the King’s bodyguards, mandarins, elephants, and horses.
Inside Thien Dinh palace, visitors will see the appearance of many different schools of art, most affected by Western architecture. The tomb is decorated with precious furniture from all over the world. Most of the decorations are made of porcelain and crystal. There are also some of Emperor Khai Dinh’s personal stuffs such as a gold chair, photographs of his life and other countries’ tributes.
The most impressive art of the tomb is the ceiling of the palace. It is decorated with the picture of nine intricate dragons. Surprisingly, the artist painted this incredible artwork by his feet as a way to oppose Khai Dinh’s rules. Lucky for him to create such a masterpiece, otherwise, Khai Dinh would have killed long before his work finished. Besides, there are also copper statues carved an image of Khai Dinh King standing and sitting.
Truth about Khai Dinh Tomb
Contrary to many assumptions made by some tour guides, Khai Dinh did not raise any special taxes to build his mausoleum, but the high cost of building the complex and the illness and deaths of some workers during construction did draw attention and argument of many nationalists and anti-monachists back in the day.
How to get to the tomb of Khai Dinh
There are several ways to get there, either by private car, motorbike or bicycle.
First, if you are at Minh Mang Tomb, you can go straight on 1A highway to get to Khai Dinh tomb. Or if you are in Tu Duc tomb, you should follow on Le Ngo Cat Street and then turn right to Minh Mang street, it will take you about 15 minutes by car.
- The tomb is open daily from 07:00 to 11:30 and 13:30 to 17:30.
- Price is 100,000 VND/ person. You can buy combo tickets of 280,000 VND ( Imperial City, Minh Mang and Khai Dinh) or 360,000 VND ( Imperial City, Minh Mang, Khai Dinh, Tu Duc)
- It’s best to wear something full-length (skirt or trousers), not shorts or sleeveless shirts.
At his time, people think Khai Dinh tomb is ridiculous and a failed construction. However, nowadays, many critics do admit that he is a creative architect. Although Khai Dinh is not a great king, he is definitely an excellent artist.
If you are planning a trip to Hue, this has to be in your must – see list. Don’t miss it because it can be seen as the most unique one among a set of magnificent Hue tombs.
Visiting this tomb, not only will you see the unique beauty of it, but you also learn more about his life as well as the harsh truth behind its exquisiteness.
In case you visit Hue for the first time, you can visit this link to know which sites you should not miss.