The Tu Duc Royal Tomb in Hue, Vietnam is one of several Royal Tombs in the outskirts of the former Imperial Capital. was built between 1864 and 1867, and was designed as a tribute to the fourth Nguyen Emperor’s long and somewhat sad life.
Tu Duc struggled with rebellion, French encroachment, and court intrigues for thirty-odd years (Tu Duc is the longest-reigning Nguyen Emperor on record). Towards the end of his life, the Emperor retreated into his tomb, creating a fantasy-land where he could compose poetry, hunt, and console himself through his concubines.
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 Emperor used this site as his home away from home, so everything had to meet the Emperor’s exacting specifications: a sprawling 30-acre manor that could accommodate the Emperor and his entire retinue; pine forests and manicured grounds where the Emperor could walk undisturbed; pleasure pavilions where the Emperor could write verse; and a lake with its own small island, where the Emperor could hunt miniature animals if he so wished.
For all that, the Emperor affected humility as his end neared, adding the word Khiem, or “modesty”, to all the building names in his tomb complex.
The tomb site and its buildings are relatively well-preserved despite the ravages of war and time, and serve as a reminder that money and power can only buy one so much happiness.
Getting to Tu Duc’s tomb: the site is four miles from Hue, and is served by package tours, xe om, and cyclo drivers from the town center. For more on each method and their prices, consult our article on How to Visit Hue Royal Tombs.
Operating Hours and Admission Fees: Admission to Tu Duc’s Royal Tomb costs VND 55,000, to be paid at the gate. The Tomb is open from 8:00am to 6:00pm.
Must Haves: parasol, sunglasses, and a bottle of water in the sunny season during April-September, and an umbrella and raincoat/jacket during the rainy months of October-March. (See our Weather in Vietnam article to find out more.) Wear comfortable shoes – you’ll do a lot of walking through the tomb’s sprawling grounds.