Location and history
The Minh Mang Mausoleum is located on mount Cam Khe, near Bang Lang fork on the west bank of Perfume River, far away from Hue 12km. Minh Mang tomb was built from 1840 and completed in 1843 with the effort of ten thousand workers and artisians. After his death in 1841, King Thieu Tri continued the task, according to his father’s plan. The monument was finally completed 2 years later. It can be said that Minh Mang tomb is different from the rest of imperial tombs because of its architecture. Minh Mang tomb offers a balance of nature and structures that is unmatched among tombs in Hue. This balance between landscape and buildings reveals a lot about personality of Minh Mang emperor and characteristics during his reign. Famous for being a staunch Confucian, who was doubtful of Christ and was largely disliked by his European counterparts, he contributed a lot for Vietnamese people under his ruling. He restricted trade with the West, focused on building and refining Vietnam’s infrastructure like highways, a postal service, public storehouses for food and a variety of monetary and agricultural reforms all aimed at helping the poor. That why every building, every detail composed in a whole from which we can see the representation of emperor who sought balance in his reign.
Touted as the most majestic of all Nguyen Dynasty royal tombs, Minh Mang Tomb is a complex of 40 constructions: palaces, temples, pavilions, etc. Many people said that it’s a perfect combination of manmade and natural beauty of Hue, where architecture fits harmoniously into the surrounding landscape.
It’s designed as a symmetric axis (called Than Dao) running from the Great Red Gate to the foot of the Surrounding Wall behind the King’s tomb. Apart from this gate at the center, there are 2 other gates: the Left Rad Gate and the Right Red Gate, which led to the Honour Courtyard – where two rows of mandarins, elephants and horse’s stone statues are standing. At the other side of the 3 gates, on Mount Phung Than is the square Stele Pavilion, where the stele “Thanh Duc Than Cong” inscribed with the King’s biography and merits written by his son, is placed. Sung An Temple, where King Minh Mang and his wife are worshipped, can be accessed through Hien Duc Gate. There are 3 stones bridges on the other side of this temple, with the marble one reserved only for the king. Finally, the Hoang Trach Gate heads to the Minh Lau Pavilion. It is placed on top of three terraces representing heaven, earth and water. Closer to the tomb area, the New Moon Lake (Ho Tan Nguyet) is crescent-shaped and embraces the circular wall surrounding the grave (Buu Thanh)
Minh Mang Tomb
Tomb of Minh Mang was organized in a main straight pathway, through series of construction: gates, the court yard, the stone tablet, the worship yard, Hien Duc gate, Sung An temple hall, lake Trung Minh, Minh Lau house, Tan Nguyet lake, Quang Minh Chinh Truc gate, Trung Dao Buu and finally the tomb of king Minh Mang which has the whole area of 475 ha, surrounded by walls, ponds and pine trees. Stopping at the entrance, we can see Dai Hong Mon gate which has three openings, a right and a left side as well as a central opening. Visitors can enter either through the two sides of the gate but not the central which was only used the emperor himself. Dai Hong Mon represents the easternmost point of a straight axis that lines up the structures in the Minh Mang Tomb.
The next step following Dai Hong Mon is the Forecourt or Honor Courtyard and Stele Pavilion lined by a traditional double row of statues depicting mandarins, elephants, and horses. The square Stele Pavilion contains the Thanh Duc Than Cong stele, a large pillar inscribed with the biography of Minh Mang written by his son Thieu Tri.
View Minh Mang Tomb 360
After the Stele Pavilion, we will find Hien Duc Gate guarding access to Sung An Temple, where the memory of the Emperor and his Empress Ta Thien Nhan are worshipped. From Sung An, three bridges crossing the Lake of Impeccable Clarity (Trung Minh Ho) and another gate (Hoang Trach Mon) lead to the Bright Pavilion (Minh Lau), a square two-storey pavilion with eight roofs. The Pavilion is positioned above three terraces that represent three powers in the world: earth, water, and heaven and with two obelisks, a representation of the Emperor’s power. Two flower gardens behind Minh Lau create an arrangement of flowers in the shape of the Chinese character signifying longevity. Another stone bridge crosses the crescent-shaped Lake of the New Moon (Tan Nguyet), bridging the path to a huge staircase with sinuous dragon banisters. The staircase leads to a circular wall enclosing the emperor’s sepulcher.