Emperor Tu Duc struggled with rebellion, French encroachment, and court intrigues for thirty-odd years Emperor and had the longest reign of any monarch of the Nguyen dynasty, ruling from 1848-83.
Although he had over a hundred wives and concubines, he was unable to father a son. So he decided to write his own epitaph on the deeds of his reign. For all that, the Emperor affected humility, adding the word Khiem, or “modesty”, to all the building names in his tomb complex.
The epitaph can still be found inscribed on the stele in the pavilion just to the east of the Emperor's tomb. Tu Duc began planning his tomb long before his death in 1883. The major portions of the tomb complex were completed from 1864-67, along with future temple buildings that served as a palatial retreat for Tu Duc and his entourage during his lifetime.
The Emperor used this site as his home away from home, so the amenities for the living are unmatched at any other tomb I reckon. Here, the Emperor could boat on the lake and hunt small game on the tiny island in the lake's middle. He could recline at Xung Khiem Pavilion and recite or compose poetry in the company of his concubines.
Interestingly, despite the grandeur of the site and the amount of time Tu Duc spent here, he was actually buried in a different, secret location somewhere in Hue. To keep the secret safe the 200 laborers who buried the king were all beheaded after they returned from the secret route. To this day, the real tomb of Tu Duc remains hidden for future generations to discover.
The tomb site and its buildings are relatively well-preserved despite the ravages of war and time, and serve as a reminder that money and power can only buy one so much happiness.
Getting to Tu Duc’s tomb, which is about four miles from Hue is possible by package tours, taxi, xe om, and cyclo drivers from the town center or you just walk as I did.
This building housed the Royal Concubines.
Nearby at the lake where the lotus was in blossom there has been as well plenty of life going on. There will be more images from the whole site coming up soon.