|Reign||05/10/1847 – 19/07/1883|
|Died||19/07/1883 (aged 53)|
|Full name||Nguyễn Phúc Hồng Nhậm|
Being the old capital of Nguyen Dynasty from 17th to 19th century, Hue is a land with long – standing history. In Hue history, during their time of governing the country, each ruler of Nguyen Dynasty was remembered for their distinctive personality and contribution to Vietnam. Having the longest reign of power, which is about 35 years, Tu Duc is a Nguyen King with controversial arguments till now.
The political life of Tu Duc – One of the kindest ruler in Hue history
Rough pathway since early life
Tu Duc’s real name is Nguyen Phuc Hong Nham, he is the second son of Emperor Thieu Tri and Madam Pham Thi Hang. Seeing a more appropriate manners in Tu Duc over his eldest brother, Prince Nguyen Phuc Hong Bao, his father chose him for the successor position. That’s the reason why later, Hong Bao became the leader of a rebellion group against Tu Duc . He was angered that the family hierachy had been dishonored because of not passing the crown over the eldest son.
Strongly aided by royal army, Tu Duc suppressed the rebellion and imprisoned his brother, Hong Bao. The emperor’s brother is said to die in prison leaving Tu Duc with bad reputation since his beginning of reign.
Vietnam during Tu Duc Reign
According to Hue history, Emperor Tu Duc was a gentle and educated man. As a great Confucianism follower, he cared for agriculture and education matters. Like his previous predecessors, Tu Duc’s policies oppressed all foreigners in Vietnam and rejected all the renewed Western ideas from other reformers.
Meanwhile, in the competing run in occupying territory with Britain, France lost their potential lands and desperately looked for colonies in the Far East. Vietnam, with fertile lands for coffee, cotton plantation and rich natural resources for their industrial revolution was targeted.
Tu Duc with his policy of conservatism and isolation, he suppressed Christianity by forbidding Vietnamese people to follow this religion and executed many French missionaries. This fueled France to operate an invation to Danang and the South of Vietnam later on.
The invasion of French in 1858
In 1857, the execution of the Spanish bishop José Mariá Díza insulted French Queen Eugenie, and brought immediate action on Vietnam religion issue. In 1858, French forces approached Danang port and at the same time defeated Vietnam at Gia Dinh (Known as Saigon).
At the same time, many rebellions by Vietnam anti-colonists also broke out throughout the country.
Fearing that his authority was crumbling, Tu Duc agreed to cede his three Southern Provinces to France. The French later referred to this area as Cochinchina. His acceptance to be a colony of France had caused a lot disturbance among his mandarins. Many Vietnamese patriots refused to accept the treaty and fought against French on their own.
When signing in that treaty, Emperor Tu Duc may not know that his decision had brought many consequences to his country.
Four years after his death in 1883, French government started to establish the Indochinese Union, which divided Vietnam into three parts, namely Tonkin ( North of Vietnam totally under French control), An Nam ( Central Vietnam suppressed by French) and Cocochina ( South Vietnam). Vietnam began its colony period to France for nearly a hundred years.
Tu Duc’s personal life
An intelligent and poetic Emperor
Despite the fact that Tu Duc failed to successfully rule the country, he was a warm – hearted person. He showed interest in modernizing Vietnam and had a deep concern for Vietnam’s education and culture.
The Emperor Tu Duc was known as a great writer. During his life, he left us 4000 verses and 600 prose in poetry, philosophical texts, and history works. Besides, he often invited scholars to visit his mausoleum complex to discuss about literature.
A devoted son
Tu Duc was also famous for his respect and gratefulness to his mother – Queen Tu Du. In spite of busy with managing the whole country, he always made time to visit his mother during 36 years of reign. He also followed everything his mother said, and wrote all her advice in a book named “Tu Huan Luc”. He is a great example for Vietnamese to look upon how to pay respect to your parents in Asian culture.
Unfortunately, a tragic head of family
During his lifetime, he had 104 wives and many more concubines, unfortunately, he had no children. He was often ill, and he was likely sterile due to smallpox early in his life.
Having no son to weary, he spent time in making poetry and planning construction of his tomb as a fairyland with poetical features. He aspired to make it a recreation ground and a good preparation for his eternal life after death.
Because of having no children, he adopted his nephews to become the successor later. However, his three adopted sons later on gradually became Emperors with dramatic ending as well.
Ending of Tu Duc Reign
Emperor Tu Duc died on July 17, 1883, according to one contemporary, until his last breath, he still regretted the decision he made on the French domination in Vietnam.
In the recent years, many people have unfairly criticized Emperor Tu Duc. Despite the fact that he had the longest reign in comparison with other emperors of Nguyen Dynasty, his struggle to lead the country against enemies is still a debating topic for many historians and Hue history-lovers alike.
Regardless being right or wrong, Tu Duc is a part of our beautiful history. He deserves our empathy and kind judgement. When visiting Hue, you can come and pay tribute to him in Khiem Lang, a masterpiece of art and poetry and stories, and learn about a man who had tried his best to serve his beloved country Vietnam.
For the life of other kings of Nguyen Dynasty and Hue history, you can find it here.