The Tomb of Emperor Khai Dinh is located 7 km to the south of Hue in Vietnam on a steep hillside. This is tomb is the last and most ornate of the many tombs constructed in and around Hue by the Emperors of the Nguyen Dynasty.
Main gate to the Tomb of Khai Dinh
The Tomb of Khai Dinh is open to visitors daily from 08:00 to 18:00 and there is an entrance fee of 55,000 VND ($2.35 USD).
About the Tomb of Khai Dinh
Emperor Khai Dinh was the second to last Emperor of Vietnam. His son abdicated in 1945, and the monarchy in Vietnam was abolished. Emperor Khai Dinh was an unpopular figure amongst his people serving as Emperor in name only whilst real power was in the hands of the French colonial government. His detractors believed he capitulated to the French and misused taxes collected from local people to construct an overly grand tomb for himself. Emperor Khai Dinh commenced construction of the tomb complex in 1920, and construction was completed in 1935 by his successor after his death in 1931.
Honour guard at the Tomb of Khai Dinh
The Tomb of Khai Dinh has two striking features which many commentators have suggested reflects on the purportedly deeply unpleasant character of the late Emperor. The Tomb is built on a steep hill, and to reach the crypt at the top visitors must climb 127 very steep steps. Wheel chair user and people with mobility difficulties should note that this particular attraction is inaccessible to anyone who can’t climb the stairs, and one can imagine the difficulties that this caused to the some of the late Emperor’s family and Court who have struggled to fulfil their obligation to visit the crypt to pay homage. The other notable feature is the use of reinforced concrete in the construction which has turned black over the decades adding a very sombre tone to the site. This is literally a blackened structure for a historical figure with a dark reputation.
Stele Pavilion at the Tomb of Khai Dinh
The Tomb is spread over four tiers. The first tier is a large courtyard which contains two rows of statues on either side. The statues of soldier, courtiers, horses and elephants form an honour guard on route to the crypt above. The first tier also has a octagonal structure containing a upright stone plinth detailing the Emperor’s noble deeds which is known as the Stele Pavilion.
Dragon staircase to the Thien Dinh Palace
The next two tiers are landings connecting flights of stairs. The banister rails of each set of stairs are shaped like dragons.
Thien Dinh Palace
The top tier of the tomb contains the Thien Dinh Palace, inside which the crypt of the Emperor is located. The design of the Thien Dinh Palace incorporates elements of both Asian and European design. Emperor Khai Dinh visited France and was clearly influenced by what he saw during his visit. The life size bronze statue of the Emperor in the Crypt was sculpted in Paris and shipped over to Vietnam at great expense.
Baroque style interior of the Thien Dinh Palace
The interior of the Thien Dinh Palace is best described as a combination of an early Vietnamese style Taoist temple, such as the Bach Ma Temple in Hanoi, and a 16th Century French Palace. The ceilings feature paintings and the walls are inlaid with glass and ceramic mosaics. No expense has been spared.
Emperor Khai Dinh’s Crypt
The crypt is the most ornate part of the Thien Dinh Palace. Every square inch of the crypt room has been ornately decorated, and at the centre of the room the expensive life sized statue of the Emperor sits on top of the coffin topped by a bronze canopy shaped to resemble fabric and weighing more than 1,000 kilogrammes. We can only speculate whether the Emperor’s subjects, who funded the construction with a 30% increase their taxes, felt that their money had been well spent.