Tomb of Khai Dinh is the last emperor mausoleum built in Hue and Vietnam. It’s famous for one-of-the-kind architecture and art that was never seen in the country at that time. There, concrete cement, ceramic, glass and metal replaced timbers, and gardens, trees and lakes disappeared. Local people say that these express the different personality of the owner, the Khai Dinh king who was close to French. In 1993, it’s within the Complex of Hue Monuments which was inscribed by Unesco as a world heritage site.
Construction of Emperor Khai Dinh’s Tomb
King Khai Dinh ruled from 1916 to 1925 and had a close relationship with the French, more so than any of his predecessors. In 1922, he was invited to visit the Marseille colonial exhibition as the “King of the French Protectorate of Annam.” The construction of his tomb began in 1920 and took 11 years to complete, involving thousands of workers including skilled artisans from Hue and other regions. Unfortunately, King Khai Dinh passed away before the tomb was completed and was finished by his son and successor, Bao Dai. The tomb reflects the cultural exchange between the East and West during that time period.
Architecture Of Emperor Khai Dinh’s Tomb
The First Terrace
The staircase leading from the road to the main door of the tomb features steep steps and four dragons crawling down. The ticket check point is located in the right walkway, while the left walkway serves as the exit. On either side of the first paved courtyard are two side houses that were used for reception and other functions.
The second terrace of the Khai Dinh Tomb is known as the “Mandarin Courtyard.” It features seven military and civil mandarins standing in the front, with an elephant, horse, and five guards placed behind. The Stele pavilion, located near the statues, houses a memorial stele named “Thanh Duc Than Cong” written by King Khai Dinh’s son and successor, Bao Dai. The pavilion has a mix of Baroque, Gothic styles and traditional decorative motifs such as bats for happiness, and dragons representing the king’s power. Locals believe that the entrance to the tunnel that allowed for King Khai Dinh’s coffin to be placed in the sepulchre is covered behind the pavilion. Between the staircases and fences with Christian crosses are two minarets with decorative patterns inspired by India, China, Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, and the ancient Champa culture.
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Thien Dinh Hall
Visitors are required to enter the Thien Dinh Palace through two side doors. Before exploring the interior, it is recommended to first admire the grand façade, which resembles a French palace. An English captioned history film can be found near one of the side doors. The interior of the palace is a display of incredible art, featuring fake marble coverings and elaborate paintings made by local skilled artisans. The wall paintings depict the four seasons, four holy animals, four types of trees or flowers, eight precious objects, a longevity letter in Chinese, and more.
The king’s altar, made of concrete cement and decorated with colorful ceramic mosaic panels, can be found in the palace. At the front, there are two pairs of cranes standing on a turtle, symbolizing the balance between heaven and earth, and a bronze incense burner. On top of the altar is a picture of Khai Dinh, taken by the French. Visitors can see more photos of him, including a portrait taken during his visit to Paris and personal belongings, as they continue to tour the palace. Displayed there are also a classic clock gifted by the Governor-General of the French Indochina Federation, a silver bell from the Ethiopian king on his 40th birthday, and souvenirs he bought in France.
The ceiling mural is a Vietnamese art masterpiece, depicting a scene of nine dragons in the clouds, and was drawn by the feet of the artisan Phan Van Tanh.
The statue of King Khai Dinh is a magnificent representation of the king that sits on a throne. The westward facing position symbolizes the death of the king, and the sun behind the statue has significant iconography. The baldachin above the statue weighs 2 tonnes and is ornately designed. Wreaths from the French funeral ceremony are displayed on the walls. The inner shrines are off-limits to tourists and only accessible to members of the royal family for ceremonies. The exact location of the king’s coffin is a closely guarded secret for security reasons.
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How To Reach Emperor Khai Dinh’s Tomb
The Tomb of King Khai Dinh is located 10 km south of Hue city center and is easily accessible by various modes of transportation such as taxi, private car, motorcycle, bicycle, bus, and jeep. Tour operators usually include this attraction in their city tours. If visiting independently, a taxi ride may cost 150,000 VND. The tomb can be reached in 15 minutes by motorbike and 30 minutes by bicycle. It is conveniently located near the QL1A highway and a popular destination for day trips from Da Nang and Hoi An.
Opening Hours Of Emperor Khai Dinh’s Tomb
Khai Dinh Tomb opening hours are from 6:30 a.m to 5:30 p.m in the dry season (March to August) and from 7 a.m to 5 p.m in the rain season (September to February).
Entrance Fees At Emperor Khai Dinh’s Tomb
Visitors should consider the fitness of family members before purchasing tickets, as the Khai Dinh Tomb has steep staircases. The entrance fee is 150,000 VND for adults and visitors over 12 years old or taller than 1.3 meters, and 30,000 VND for those between 7-12 years old or between 0.8-1.3 meters tall. Admission is free for children under 0.8 meters tall. There are also three ticket combos available for those who wish to visit more than just the tomb. The first combo, which includes the Imperial city and Minh Mang Tomb, costs 420,000 VND for adults and 80,000 VND for children. The second combo, with the addition of the Tu Duc Tomb, costs 530,000 VND for adults and 100,000 VND for children. The third option allows for sightseeing at all sites within the Complex of Hue Monuments and costs 580,000 VND for adults and 110,000 VND for children. The tickets are valid for 3 days from the date of purchase. Visitors should keep their tickets carefully as they are physical.
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Travel Tips At Emperor Khai Dinh’s Tomb
The Khai Dinh Tomb has 127 steps, many of which are steep. Before purchasing tickets, ask if those traveling with you, especially kids or elders, are able to climb. The staircases can be slippery in rainy weather, and it’s recommended to visit during the early morning or late afternoon in the dry season to avoid the heat. A dress code is required in the worship palace, with clothing covering the armpits, navel, and knees. See-through fabrics are not acceptable and it’s important to show respect. Remove sunglasses and hats, but shoes can be kept on. Photos are not allowed with flashlights per regulations to preserve heritage.