The Unique Architecture of Khai Dinh Tomb

Step inside the impressive tomb structures

By Quang Binh Tourism Department

Thua Thien Hue Province Department of Tourism

Khai Dinh Tomb Complex by Tran Tuan VietQuang Binh Tourism Department

Khai Dinh Tomb is a part of the Complex of Hue Monuments, recognized as World Cultural Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1993. is located on Chau Chu Mountain, Thua The tomb belongs to Emperor Khai Dinh (1885-1925) and is located on Chau CHu Mountain in Thua Thien Hue province. The tomb is considered to have the most prominent and impressive structure, and is the last construction under the Nguyen Dynasty.

The position of the tomb was chosen according to traditional feng shui. The tomb is located on Chau Chu mountain slope, with a low hill as the front base; Mount Chop Vung and Kim So lie in front as “Green dragon on left" and "White tiger on the right".

Overview of Khai Dinh Tomb by Tran Tuan VietQuang Binh Tourism Department

Mount Chau Chu is both the back base and the ground of the tomb. The king renamed it Ung Son (Ung Mountain), which the Tomb is named after as Ung Lang.

Emperor Khai Dinh portrait by Tran Tuan VietQuang Binh Tourism Department

Khai Dinh is the 12th emperor of the Nguyen Dynasty. He took the through in 1916 at 31 years old. Right after his coronation, he built and completed many palaces and constructions in Hue Imperial Citadel. He was the last king to build a mausoleum for himself. In 1920, at just 35 years old, he began building Ung Lang to be his resting place. Five years after the construction of the tomb began, Khai Dinh died. Six years later, Ung Lang was completed in 1931 by his son, Emperor Bao Dai, taking a total of 11 years.

Mandarins statues in Khai Dinh Tomb yard by Tran Tuan VietQuang Binh Tourism Department

Ung Lang has a more modest acreage than other Nguyen emperors’ tombs. The tomb is only 117m x 48.5m but was designed and built to be extremely intricate, and its construction was time consuming. Emperor Khai Dinh sent people to France, China, and Japan to buy materials such as iron, steel, roof tiles, porcelain and collared glass to decorate the tomb.

Nghi Mon Gate by Tran Tuan VietQuang Binh Tourism Department

Nghi Mon Gate is decorated with delicate clouds and a dragon. It takes 127 steps on the stairway to enter the main space of the Tomb.

Nghi Mon Gate from Bai Dinh yard by Tran Tuan VietQuang Binh Tourism Department

Bi Dinh pavilion in Ung Lang by Tran Tuan VietQuang Binh Tourism Department

Bi Dinh of Ung Lang is an octagonal pavilion. Inside is a 3.1m high stone stele.

A corner of Bi Dinh, from Thien Dinh palace yard by Tran Tuan VietQuang Binh Tourism Department

Stele in Bi Dinh pavilion by Tran Tuan VietQuang Binh Tourism Department

Emperor Bao Dai’s records of Emperor Khai Dinh’s achievements and merits are carved on the stone stele in Bi Dinh pavilion

Mandarins statues in Khai Dinh Tomb yard by Tran Tuan VietQuang Binh Tourism Department

On the right and left of Bi Dinh are two Tru Bieu pillars, upholding two candles that light the way for the emperor’s soul to journey to the other word.

Stone statue in Khai Dinh Tomb yard by Tran Tuan VietQuang Binh Tourism Department

Stone statues are carved in a 1: 1 ratio like real people.

Dragon staircase to Thien Dinh palace yard by Tran Tuan VietQuang Binh Tourism Department

Thien Dinh Palace is at the 5th floor, the highest floor of the tomb complex.

Dragon railing staircase to Thien Dinh palace by Tran Tuan VietQuang Binh Tourism Department

Dragon staircase to Thien Dinh palace yard.

Thien Dinh Palace by Tran Tuan VietQuang Binh Tourism Department

The influence of foreign architectural styles, ranging from Hinduism to Buddhism, Roman and Gothic, has left its imprint on specific constructions in Khai Dinh Tomb. Take note of the tower-shaped pillars influenced by Indian architecture, stoupa pillars from Buddhism, Gothic crosses on the fences, and the stele house with octagonal columns and arches in Roman style.

Main view of Thien Dinh Palace by Tran Tuan VietQuang Binh Tourism Department

The architectural style is a result of two factors: the East-West cultural influence on Vietnam at the time, and Emperor Khai Dinh’s personality.

Interior of Khai Thanh palace, the emperor altar by Tran Tuan VietQuang Binh Tourism Department

The interior of the palace is decorated with exquisite porcelain and glass sculptures.

Items in Khai Thanh palace by Tran Tuan VietQuang Binh Tourism Department

Decoration on the altar by Tran Tuan VietQuang Binh Tourism Department

The decoration on the altar is grafted with porcelain and glassware. The middle is a cloud-dragon shape, surrounded by four seasonal flowers, eight treasures, and five blessing patterns

Emperor Khai Dinh coper statue by Tran Tuan VietQuang Binh Tourism Department

Bronze gilded statue of Emperor Khai Dinh sitting was casted on a 1: 1 scale in France in 1922.

Emperor Khai Dinh's tomb ceiling by Tran Tuan VietQuang Binh Tourism Department

The emperor tomb ceiling, with a sophisticately casting canopy, reinforced with concrete, weighing nearly a ton.

Cloud - Dragon decoration on the tomb ceiling of Emperor Khai Dinh (1920/1931) by Tran Tuan VietQuang Binh Tourism Department

Three of the largest paintings of “Nine Dragons Hiding in the Cloud” in Vietnam are painted on the ceiling of the central hall in Thien Dinh Palace.

Pillars and walls inside the tomb by Tran Tuan VietQuang Binh Tourism Department

Decorations in the emperor's tomb were made of thousands of grafted chinaware, porcelain, and glass pieces to create cloud-dragon patterns, poems and sophisticated patterns.

Decoration on pillars by Tran Tuan VietQuang Binh Tourism Department

Decorative patterns of columns were grafted from porcelain pieces, displaying plants and flowers.

Interior decorating light of Khai Dinh Tomb by Tran Tuan VietQuang Binh Tourism Department

Each decoration in the tomb was made very sophisticated and detailed.

Overview of Khai Dinh Tomb by Tran Tuan VietQuang Binh Tourism Department

Khai Dinh Tomb is a work of valuable art and architecture, enriching and diversifying the royal tombs complex in Hue.

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