Having the longest reign in the history of Nguyen Dynasty, Emperor Tu Duc did leave us a lot of precious art works and building. Among them, his tomb can be considered the most popular and impressive one. Constructed between 1864 and 1867, tomb of Tu Duc (Khiem Lang) is located in a narrow valley in Duong Xuan Thuong village. It stretches along Perfume River, which is about 8 kilometers from Hue city.
The Tomb of Tu Duc – The unique beauty of traditional architecture
Throughout Emperor Tu Duc’s life, he had over a hundred wives and concubines, however, because of contracting smallpox, he was unable to have a son. Considering this as a serious guilt, he was very sad and disappointed. To forget his sadness, he spent most of his time designing his tomb to use before and after his death.
To build this tomb, Emperor Tu Duc had to mobilize an incredible amount of money and labour, which led to a rebellion of workers at that time. The former name of the tomb was Van Nien Co, however, it was later renamed as Khiem Lang to express the humility of Emperor Tu Duc. After the tomb complex was completed, for the remainder of the King’s life, he continued to use the tomb’s place buildings as a palatial retreat for him and his wives. Although people call Khiem Lang a tomb, it is not the burial site of the king. To protect his resting place from grave robbers, his body was buried in another secret place.
According to the history, Emperor Tu Duc was a gentle and educated man. He was also very fond of art and poetry. As a result, the design of his tomb clearly reflects his profound knowledge and characteristics. Unlike other tombs, Khiem Mausoleum is a set of construction including lakes, mountains, pavilions, temples, and palaces. He often comes there to compose poetry, read books, and go fishing.
The structure of Tu Duc Tomb
The tomb is divided into three main parts which includes Temple, Tomb and Stele House Areas. From the entrance, there is a path leading to Luu Khiem Lake. In the middle of the lake is a tiny island, where Emperor Tu Duc used to hunt small game. Across the water to the left is Xung Khiem Pavilion. In the past, he often sat with his concubines to compose or recite poetry.
The Temple Area
Hoa Khiem Temple is where Tu Duc and his wife, Empress Le Thien Anh, were worshipped. Nowadays, people also use it to house royal artifacts. Beyond Hoa Khiem Temple is Minh Khiem Chamber. In the past, it was originally meant to be a theatre. Because Emperor Tu Duc liked classic opera very much, he ordered to build two theatres, one in the Imperial City and one in his tomb. There used to be many performances of classic opera excerpts here.
Straight ahead of Minh Khiem Duong is Luong Khiem Temple, which was originally the emperor’s residence. However, in 1901, people turn it into a temple to dedicate to Tu Duc’s mother – Empress Tu Du.
The Tomb Area
Returning to the main path, around the lake shore is the Honor Courtyard. There are many honor guard of stone elephants, horses and mandarins here.
Similar to other emperors, in order to avoid robbery, Emperor Tu Duc’s real burial place was situated in another area. There was a legend that about 200 laborers were beheaded after they returned from the real burial site in order to preserve the secret of its location. Until now, the real tomb of Tu Duc still remains hidden for future generations to discover.
The Stele Area
Following the Salutation Court (Bai Dinh) will lead to a massive Stele House (Bi Dinh). The stele here is the largest on in the country. This “Thanh Duc Than Cong” stele contains a sad – self critical eulogy with 4935 words. Emperor Tu Duc wrote the inscription himself in 1871. He freely admitted that he had made mistakes. According to him, he said that the most important task of a king was to have a son. However, he was childless and also unable to achieve anything remarkable during his life. For these reasons, he named his tomb Khiem (Modest).
Of all the royal tombs in Hue, the tomb of Tu Duc is a masterpiece. It is a perfect combination between nature and architecture. As a place for Emperor Tu Duc to relax in the past, it makes visitors feel very peaceful and comfortable. Overall, the tomb deserves to be one of the most impressive attractions for tourists who would like to enjoy the peaceful atmosphere of nature and explore the unique architecture.
How to get to the tomb of Tu Duc
There are two options for the ones who want to visit the tomb of Tu Duc. Visitors can choose to go by motorbike or taxi. You just need to follow Bui Thi Xuan Street, then turn along Huyen Tran Cong Chua Street, continue to go straight ahead and you will see Tu Duc Tomb.
The ticket for visiting Tu Duc Tomb is 100000 dong/adult and 20000 dong/child. Remember to wear comfortable shoes because when visiting Khiem Lang, you will have to walk a lot.
In case you visit Hue for the first time, on the way to the tomb, you can consider to visit other tourist attractions such as Khai Dinh Tomb or Tu Hieu Pagoda.