Hidden Treasures of Emperor Tu Duc

The Tu Duc Royal Tomb in Hue, Vietnam is one of several Royal Tombs in the outskirts of the former Imperial Capital and took three years to build from 1864–1867. It is divided into a Temple Area and a Tomb Area. The tomb was designed as a tribute to the fourth Nguyen Emperor Tu Duc. He lived a life of imperial luxury and carnal excess: he had 104 wives and countless concubines, though no offspring. Interestingly, despite the grandeur of the site and the amount of time Tu Duc spent here, he was actually buried in a different, secret location somewhere in Hue. To keep the secret safe the hundred laborers who buried the king were all beheaded after they returned from the secret route. 

Tu Duc began planning his tomb long before his death in 1883. The major portions of the tomb complex were completed from 1864-67, along with future temple buildings that served as a palatial retreat for Tu Duc and his many wives during his lifetime. 

Construction of the tomb demanded so much corvee labor and extra taxation that there was an abortive coup against Tu Duc in 1866. This was put down, and for the remainder of his life, Tu Duc continued to use the tomb's palace buildings as his place of residence. Once the complex was complete, Tu Duc and his many wives utilized it as a residence and a scenic retreat. They would go boating on Luu Khiem Lake and Tu Duc hunted small game on the island within the lake. After boating, it was common for Tu Doc and his wives to relax in the nearby pavilion, where he would often compose or recite poetry. There was also an onsite temple for worshipping, which now houses royal artefacts for tourists.

After the Emperor's death in 1883 his adopted son Kien Phuc took over as the Nguyen Emperor. Perhaps because he only ruled seven months before dying, a separate tomb was not established for him. Instead, he was laid to rest in a small corner on the grounds of Tu Duc's tomb. Between the tombs of Tu Duc and his son is the tomb of Empress Le Thien Anh, Tu Duc's primary wife.

No other Royal Tomb in Hue can compare to Tu Duc’s in the department of size and luxuriousness. The tomb’s architecture was designed to work in harmony with the carefully-manicured landscape. The tomb, enclosed by a wall, is on the far side of a tiny lagoon. It’s a drab monument and the emperor was never interred here; where his remains were buried (along with great treasure) is not known. To keep it secret from grave robbers, all 200 servants who buried the king were beheaded. 

To this day, the real tomb of Tu Duc remains hidden for future generations to discover along with his royal treasures.


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