The unique architecture of Khai Dinh’s Tomb

The Tomb of Khai Dinh in Hue, Vietnam is considered the most majestic imperial tomb with the unique architecture in the country. Designed as a monument and mausoleum, the tomb took 11 years to build, from 1920 to 1931, and is the last Imperial tomb of the Nguyen dynasty.

The tomb of Khai Dinh’s location was decided by that Emperor to be at the foot of the mountain Chau Chu, 9 kilometers south of the city of Hue. Compared with the rest of imperial tombs, this tomb is small in size, it is only  more than 5600 square meters, yet its construction, decoration and details are very elaborate.

The tomb of Emperor Khai Dinh is a rectangle 117 meters long, 48.5 meters wide. Khai Dinh’s tomb is built mostly of reinforced concrete and it’s the imperial tomb of Hue which has the most influences from the West.

The tomb is divided into 2 parts: the palace Thien Dinh, where we can see the tomb of Emperor Khai Dinh, and the outside of the tomb, where the statues of court ceremonies, housed of the mandarins and the flag of the stele, hexagonal, is the highlight.

After climbing the stairs, we find a small courtyard with houses of mandarins on both sides. To access the next part of the Imperial Tomb, we have to climb another 29 steps more, this is one of the most beautiful spots of the visit, the ceremonial courtyard with stone statues (the material we see very little in this tomb ) with 2 rows of statues.

In the same place of the grave, in the courtyard of ceremonies, we see pavilion with a stone stele engraved on the life and reign of the emperor. This monument is unique as it is the only pavilion with hexagonal shape.

The last part of Khai Dinh complex, high in the Imperial Tomb, Thien Dinh is the palace where we can see the tomb of the emperor. In the main hall there is a statue of Emperor Khai Dinh sitting on his throne and at his feet is his sarcophagus. The decor is stained glass and mosaics made of broken pottery pieces.

In the next room, there is a statue of Emperor Khai Dinh, with real scale, made of bronze.

An interesting fact: the sun setting is right behind the statue of the emperor, symbolized the emperor’s death.

The Imperial Khai Dinh tomb is unique with respect to other imperial tombs in Hue for their influences and mixtures of architectural styles, eg the Indian Influence is found on the upper door trim, towers and obelisks and the Romanesque influence is in hexagonal stele pavilion.

Khai Dinh imperial tomb is so elaborate that Khai Dinh had to send people to go to  France to buy steel, iron, cement and tiles. The emperor also sent ships to China and Japan for ceramic and stained glass necessary to the grave.

The cost of building the Imperial Tomb Khai Dinh was so high that the emperor raised taxes to Vietnamese people by 30%.

The royal tomb of Khai Dinh with its history and unique architecture has become a very famous tourist site whenever you have city tour in Hue.

Ngo Mon Gate – the principal gate to the Imperial City

Ngọ Môn also known as the Gate of Noon, is the principal gate to the Imperial City, located within the citadel of Huế. It was built in 1833 in the traditional Vietnamese Nguyen style under the dominion of emperor Minh Mạng and the supreme used it as an observation point for troop campaigns and ceremonies.

The gate is splitted into two levels: the stone and brick fortress-like base structure, and the more elaborate, palace-like upper level.

The ground level has five entries, of which the centre one was always used for the monarch’s only. The two side entries (smaller) were used for mandarins, soldiers and horses. The two small bowed entries on the side were for the rest and common people.

The upper layer consists of a grand pavilion, called the Lầu Ngũ Phụng (Five-Phoenix Pavilion). It’s easy for the emperor  to watch troop campaigns and his subjects bringing homage from the principal hall. The roof of pavillion is decorated in imperial yellow, glazed ceramic roof tiles that are various animals and creatures to ward off evil.

Ngo Mon Gate’s architecture is somehow similar to Tiananmen Square in Beijing but also reflects the national architectural style of Vietnam. Ngo Mon is sophisticated and elegant, it’s considered the pinnacle of architectural art of the imperial court. Ngo Mon Gate was also where many important historical events and holidays of the Nguyen Dynasty took place y as publish new calendar, naming doctorate ceremony etc. August 30, 1945, Ngo Mon witnessed the abdication of Emperor Bao Dai, the last emperor of Vietnam’s monarchy who handed power to the interim government of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam

Ngo Mon Gate was able to survive the large-scale destruction during the Vietnamese War from 1950’s-1970s. In 1968, after the Battle Mau Than in Hue, Ngo Mon was severely damaged. Until 1970, the gate and some other places (also damaged) were repaired.

Ngo Mon Gate is one of the most important sites which you should visit during your trip to Hue

Thai Hoa Palace – Hall of Supreme Harmony

Thai Hoa palace is one of the most important center constructions of the citadel in Hue, Vietnam. It can be considered as the the hall of supreme harmony – where the court organized monthly gala evenings and special ceremonies with the presence of king, queen, imperial clan and mandarins.

Thai Hoa Palace began to be built on February 21, 1805 and completed after eight months. Almost 30 years later, in 1833 Emperor Minh Mang decided to move this palace 30 meters to the front to the current position.

Passing the Gate of Noon (Ngo Mon Gate), we follow the main route, also called the path of courage (Dũng Đạo). Opposite the palace courtyard is Thai Dich Lake – the lake was excavated from the reign of Emperor Gia Long. The bridge of loyalty (Trung Đạo) crosses the lake and leads to the courtyard which has 3 floors. The lowest floor is a place that seniors over 70 and relatives on the mother side of the king stood on holidays.

The second floor – where mandarins – middle position and low (in court, mandarins were classified in 9 position, the first is the most powerful and the ninth is the least powerful, this place is designated for mandarins from the fourth to the ninth) stood  in ceremonies. Both sides of the room have two rows of stone to show the title of mandarins

The top floor is a place for major mandarins from third position to the first. On this floor, the two sides have flags and water bowls.

Crossing the giant courtyard, we found a huge palace which is about 1300 square meters. The main hall is 43.30 meters long, 30.1 meters wide. The palace has two chambers – the front chamber and the main chamber. The main one has the throne.

In the days of ceremony or funeral, the King sit on his throne in the main hall to proclaim edicts, receive important guests or praise of mandarins.

Decoration and architecture of Thai Hoa Palace, in general, has a special concept of number 5, and especially the number 9. The numbers do not appear only in the exterior decoration of buildings but also in the number of steps. From the Great Hall of the Gate of the Forbidden City to the Thai Hoa Palace, Emperor needed to pass one stair of 9 steps and one of 5 steps. Standing in the field looking from the Forbidden City to the palace, we can see nine dragons (in different positions) on each roof

Inside, from the throne, the wooden strip around until each side of three floors are decorated with nine dragons each location. Today, thanks to its historical value, Thai Hoa Palace became one of famous tourist destinations in Hue, Vietnam