Of all royal the tombs around Hue Tu Duc Tomb is my favorite. Some buildings are restored while other areas are in a state of arrested decay keeping its ancient atmosphere. Situated in the midst of a pine forest 6 km from the city, it’s a beautiful and peaceful place with many ancient structures as well as a lake with a pavilion and small island where Tu Duc used to hunt small game.
Designed by Tu Duc himself, construction of the Tomb began in 1864 and was frequently used by Tu Duc and his 104 wives and countless concubines, as a place of rest and relaxation. Luu Khiem Lake was hand dug where a stream entered the grounds and the excavated earth used to make Tinh Khiem Islet, a small island in the middle of the lake, stocked with rare birds and other animals.
The most expansive and beautiful of all the tombs in Hue, perfectly integrated with its natural setting, with over 50 structures. This came at a high cost, built with forced labor in a feudal system, and required additional taxation for the citizens of Hue. The construction of the tomb and its many buildings gave rise to a coup but was discovered and suppressed before it materialized.
Chi Khiem Temple and Pavilions
The Chi Khiem Temple (On your left as you enter the grounds) is dedicated to Tu Duc’s minor wives and his predecessors.
Behind the Chi Khiem Temple are a series of pavilions in the state of disrepair. It’s a perfect place to spend some time shooting the old crumbling structures.
Residences Temples and Theatre
Follow a crumbling path up some stairs into the former residences of Tu Duc’s 104 wives and numerous concubines.
These buildings are now used as temples to Tu Duc and his first wife as well as displays of Tu Duc’s personal belongings and information displays about the emperor and his reign.
The larger throne on the left was used by Empress Le Thien Anh (Tu Duc was only 153 cm).
Minh Khiem Theatre
The Minh Khiem Theatre is the only one built in any of the Royal Tombs of Hue and the oldest in-tact theatre of its kind in all Vietnam. The theatre used for operas and shows performed by Tu Duc’s wives and concubines. Today visitors can dress up in the royal costumes and take pictures for a fee.
Tu Duc Tomb
Elephants, horses and short Mandarins (Tu Duc was short and thus the Mandarin statues must be shorter) stand guard before the Stele House(Under Construction, May 2018) containing his epitaph and accomplishments during his reign. It was up to him to write this himself as he fathered no sons (perhaps due to his infection with smallpox).
The 20-ton stele is the largest in Vietnam. It took 4 years to transport the stele from the quarry 500km away.
While most of the rest of the grounds were used by Tu Duc and his many wives and concubines during his long reign this section of the grounds is for the afterlife.
Tu Duc’s Tomb is behind the Stele House, surrounded by ponds and trees (Under construction, May 2018).
The “Modest” Tomb. Tu Duc openly admitted that he made mistakes during his reign and changed the name of the tomb to “Khiem” means “Modest”. You’ll find “Khiem” in all the names of the various structures of the tomb.
Tomb of Empress Le Thien Anh
Through the forest, across a stream, in a beautiful setting is the final resting place of Empress Le Thien Anh, Tu Duc’s first wife, 1828–1902.
Tu Duc’s Adopted Son Kien Phuc
Kien Phuc was adopted by Tu Duc but only ended up ruling for 7 months before his death. A temple for his worship and his tomb sit alongside Empress Le Thien Anh’s.
Luu Khiem Lake & Grounds
A peaceful lake with 2 pavilions used by Tu Duc to relax and write poetry with his wives and concubines. He also had a small boat he would use to visit Tinh Khiem Islet in the middle f the lake (off-limits to visitors).
A small stream runs through the grounds to Luu Khiem Lake with several bridges. The whole area is very peaceful and it’s worth spending some time just enjoying the peace and nature.
Getting to Tu Duc Tomb
Admission: 100,000 VND (~$5)
Hours: 8:00 AM — 5:00 PM Daily
The Tomb of TU Duc is easily reached on a bicycle or motorcycle 5–6 km outside of Hue. You can also hire a motorcycle taxi (or regular taxi) to get there and pick one up when you leave. Use the App Grab which is quite common in Vietnam (like Uber).
There are signs in English with an overview of the different attractions inside.
Tu Duc’s Final Tomb
For all the grandeur of the tomb and its grounds, Tu Duc decided to be buried along with his treasure in a hidden location elsewhere in Hue. Upon their return, the 200 laborers tasked with burying the emperor were beheaded, taking their secret to the grave. To this day Tu Ducs final resting place and all his treasure have yet to be discovered.
Tu Duc is generally considered as the last real Emperor of Vietnam as he ruled without being under French control. Legend says he cursed the French with his dying breath.