King Minh Mang is the son and successor of King Gia Long – the first Nguyen Emperor and the last reigning royal family of Vietnam.
Minh Mang Tomb is located in Huong Tho Commune, Huong Tra District, on the west bank of Perfume River and about 12 km on the south of Hue city center. This place is where 2 tributaries joining to form the picturesque Perfume River.
After seven years on the throne, Minh Mang had his mandarins search for land suitable for building his tomb. The geological mandarin, Le Van Duc, chose a site in the Cam Khe mountain, an area near Bang Lang confluence, where Huong River is formed from two tributaries, Ta Trach and Huu Trach. However, it took nearly 14 years of planning, considering and choosing before Emperor Minh Mang decided to have his tomb built in this location. He also named the mountain as Hieu Son instead of Cam Khe, and named his tomb as Hieu Lang. The King himself examined and ratified the drawings designed and submitted by talent mandarins Bui Cong Huyen and Truong Van Que.
The tomb was started constructing in 1840 under the order of King Minh Mang. After He died in 1841, King Thieu Tri, his successor continued the project according to his father’s plan. The monument was finally completed two years later.
Touted as the most majestic of all Nguyen Dynasty royal tombs, Minh Mang Tomb is a complex of 40 constructions: palaces, temples, pavilions, etc. Many said that it’s a perfect combination of manmade and natural beauty of Hue, where architecture fits harmoniously into the surrounding landscape.
It’s designed as a symmetric axis (called Than Dao) running from the Great Red Gate to the foot of the Surrounding Wall behind the King’s tomb. Besides the main gate at the center, there are two other gates: the Left Red Gate and the Right Red Gate, which led to the Honor Courtyard – where two rows of mandarins, elephants and horse’s stone statues are standing. At the other side three gates, on Mount Phung Than is the square Stele Pavilion, where the stele “Thanh Duc Than Cong” inscribed with the King’s biography and merits written by his son, is placed. Sung An Temple, where King Minh Mang and his wife are worshipped, can be accessed through Hien Duc Gate. There are 3 stones bridges on the other side of this temple, with the marble one reserved only for the king. Finally, the Hoang Trach Gate heads to the Minh Lau Pavilion. It is placed on top of three terraces representing heaven, earth and water. Closer to the tomb area, the New Moon Lake (Ho Tan Nguyet) is crescent-shaped and embraces the circular wall surrounding the grave (Buu Thanh)
Looking from afar, the complex looks like a human being with the hill as his pillow and his hands and feet reaching to the river. From the front gate to the back door is almost 700 m. The fence is high but does not block the view to mountains and Cam Ke Hill nearby.
From a stone bridge across crescent-shaped Tan Nguyet Lake (Lake of the New Moon), a monumental staircase with dragon banisters leads to the sepulcher of King Minh . The gate to the tomb is opened only once a year on the anniversary day of the Emperor’s death.
To get this majesty Tomb, you could travel by car or motorbike but it is so fantastic to rent a dragon boat then you will be boated on beautiful Perfume River. The boat station is in the city centre so you only walk from your hotel, besides the price of dragon boat is so reasonable.