EMPEROR TU DUC MAUSOLEUM
Tu Duc tomb constructed between 1864 and 1867, is the most popular, and certainly one of the most impressive of the royal mausoleums. Emperor Tu Duc designed it himself, for use both before and after his death. The enormous expense of the tomb and the forced labour used in its construction spawned a coup plot that was discovered and suppressed.
Tu Duc lived a life of imperial luxury and carnal excess (he had 104 wives and countless concubines), though no offspring.
From the entrance a path leads to the shore of Luu Khiem Lake . The tiny island to the right, Tinh Khiem , is where Tu Duc used to hunt small game. Across the water to the left is Xung Khiem Pavilion , where he would sit with his concubines, composing or reciting poetry.
Hoa Khiem Temple is where Tu Duc and his wife, Empress Hoang Le Thien Anh, were worshipped – today it just houses a jumble of dusty, unlabelled royal artefacts. The larger throne was for the empress; Tu Duc was only 153cm tall.
Minh Khiem Chamber , to the right behind Hoa Khiem Temple, was originally meant to be a theatre. Cheesy dress-up photo ops and cultural performances are available here today. Directly behind Hoa Khiem Temple is the quieter Luong Khiem Temple dedicated to Tu Duc’s mother, Tu Du.
Just around the lakeshore is the Honour Courtyard . You pass between a guard of elephants, horses and diminutive mandarins (they were even shorter than the emperor) before reaching the Stele Pavilion , which shelters a 20-tonne stone tablet. Tu Duc drafted the inscriptions himself. He freely admitted that he had made mistakes and chose to name his tomb Khiem (‘modest’).
The tomb , enclosed by a wall, is on the far side of a tiny lagoon. It’s a drab grey monument and the emperor was never interred here – the site where his remains were buried (along with great treasure) is not known. To keep it a secret from grave robbers, all of the 200 servants who buried the king were beheaded.
Tu Duc’s tomb is about 5km south of Hue on Van Nien Hill in Duong Xuan Thuong village.