The Mausoleums of Emperors

by hopesfrenzy

After the Imperial Citadel, we biked over the Perfume River to the new part of Hue, got lunch, and then biked far down the river to Thien Mu pagoda, which was a beautiful towering structure. It wasn’t as tall as I imagined it, and there were large crowds ascending the steps and mulling about the property. There was a plaza with dozens of bonsai trees in colorful pots, including one that looked like a troll.

One powerful part of the grounds was dedicated to Thích Quảng Đức, the first (of several) Buddhist monks to self-immolate in protest of the south Vietnamese government’s treatment of Buddhists during the war. His car that he drove to Saigon in was on display.

The next morning, on our way to Hoi An, we also visited some other places in Hue. As the Imperial Citadel for almost 100 years of the Nguyễn dynasty, Hue was naturally home to the kings. Each one built their tomb and mausoleum outside the city limits, which have since grown up around them. We only got to visit two of them, but I’m glad we chose these two because they were so incredibly different from each other.

First was the mausoleum of Emperor Minh Mang. His was a familiar feel, with it’s typical architecture and design. The massive grounds, beautiful and verdant in the early morning rain, were almost completely empty for us as we arrived. It feel eerie and romantic, having the place to ourselves. Each shrine or pavilion seemed to build up to another one, and provided great views of the next one, until we reached his shrine. He had an elephant guardian standing at the entrance.

The next one was the mausoleum of Khai Dinh, who had his designed as a fusion of Vietnamese and western influences, and in a dark stone. I’ve never seen anything like it! Just past the steep staircase we ascended to reach the main square, a series of guardians stood watch. Up two more levels past dragons and small pavilions, and his tomb was ornately designed, composed almost entirely of colorful tile mosaics. It was a stark contract to the dark stone outside.

After these two tombs, we headed out of Hue and were onwards to Hoi An.

Sightseeing with Stéphane
Location: Hue, Vietnam

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