Where Are The Kings Of Hue? (Viet Nam)

Where are the Kings of Hue? (Viet Nam)

“And so sepúlchred in such pomp dost lie, that kings for such a tomb would wish to die”  John Milton

Between 1802 and 1945 Hue was the imperial capital of the Nguyen Dynasty which had thirteen kings.  Huế was the national capital until 1945 when the last king abdicated and the new capital was Saigon in the south.


The Imperial City at Hue is the best-preserved remnant of a vast citadel and royal quarters that once existed on the site.


In the early nineteenth century the first King Gia Long wished to build a replica of the Forbidden City of Beijing.


The King decided to locate his own palace within the walls of the citadel of his “Forbidden City”along the east side nearest the Perfume River.


The “Purple Forbidden City,” was where the Emperor built a network of palaces, gates, and courtyards that served as his home and the administrative core of the Empire. The occupants were many concubines, wives, eunuchs and children.


The ruins of the Imperial City are both old and more recent.


In 1968 the Viet Cong launched an attack on the city of Hue. It was the Tet Offensive and the largest and bloodiest military action of the war up until that point. The fighting went on for a month and the Viet Cong massacred many people. This resulted in the destruction of the city by U.S. forces. The Viet Cong hid in the Imperial City fighting the US until they died from lack of supplies.

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Though the city was in ruins, long before the US bombed it, there was a lot of war damage to the historic buildings and many were reduced to rubble.



Even so, the remaining buildings are enough to give the visitor a sense of how the Vietnamese interpreted Chinese imperial architecture and adapted it to their culture.



The Nguyen Dynasty lives on in Hue if only through the Tombs of the Kings. The best and the worst of the line are commemorated through their imposing tombs, scattered through the hills of Hue.

Only seven of the thirteen kings have tombs in Hue. Each tomb began construction during each kings lifetime, and was completed after his death with a stone inscribed with the dead king’s biography. A few of the actual bodies have never been found and their tombs remain intact. All the tombs are equipped with statues and monuments in perfect “Phong Thuy” (Feng Shui) harmony to create a natural setting, in the architecture of which the king’s philosophical tendencies are often reflected.

The respective tombs of Tu Duc and Khai Dinh reflect the absolute extremes of tomb design. Tu Duc’s tomb is expansive and poetically beautiful in its layout.




Khai Dinh’s is done in a more monumental style – crafted of concrete, the grayness outside broken on the inside with pieces of broken glass and porcelain.



Khai Dinh is said to have intended for his tomb to be built at the top of a long series of stairs, so courtiers would have to exert extra effort to pay respect to his memory.


His tomb took 11 years to complete.



His enduring unpopularity is due in part to his heavy taxation on peasants to finance the construction of this edifice.



Once the capital of Vietnam and an inspiration for poets and artists alike for centuries, Hué is divided by the waters of the Perfume River, which separate the city’s 19th century citadel from the suburbs that radiate from the eastern shore. The second half of Stanley Kubrick’s film Full Metal Jacket takes place primarily in and around the bombed-out ruins of the city of Huế.


It is a very Buddhist city with many monasteries and vegetarian restaurants. The food in Hue which is in central Viet Nam is spicier than the north and south.


Thich Nhat Hanh, world-famous Zen master originates from Huế.


Hue was declared “ a master of urban poetry” and a Unesco site in 1981 due to its history and cultural heritage.

My guide in Hue and Hoi An was Mr. Ngo Duc Huan. Huan had a huge amount of information about the Kings of Hue. I hope I retained some of it. Huan was fun, knowledgeable and kind.  My time in Central Viet Nam was definitely better because of him and I learned a lot. Thank you so much for the wonderful time I had in those cities.


Di du lịch một cách an toàn











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