Raining on pond and lotus flower. Tu Duc Tomb, Hue. Pavilion of  imperial tomb Nguyen dynasty - Vietnam; Shutterstock ID 28059859; Your name (First / Last): Josh Vogel; Project no. or GL code: 56530; Network activity no. or Cost Centre: Online-Design; Product or Project: 65050/7529/Josh Vogel/LP.com Destination Galleries

Shutterstock / baldovina

Tomb of Tu Duc


This tomb (completed in 1867) is the most popular, imposing and impressive of the royal mausoleums, designed by Emperor Tu Duc himself before his death. The enormous expense of the tomb and the forced labour used in its construction spawned a coup plot that was discovered and suppressed. Tu Duc lived a life of imperial luxury and carnal excess, with 104 wives and countless concubines (though no offspring). The tomb is 5km south of Hue on Van Nien Hill in Duong Xuan Thuong village.

From the entrance, a path leads to Luu Khiem Lake. The tiny island to the right, Tinh Khiem, is where Tu Duc used to hunt small game. Across the water to the left is Xung Khiem Pavilion, where he would sit with his concubines, composing or reciting poetry.

Hoa Khiem Temple is where Tu Duc and his wife, Empress Hoang Le Thien Anh, were worshipped; today it houses royal artefacts. The larger throne was for the empress; Tu Duc was only 153cm tall. Minh Khiem Chamber, to the right behind Hoa Khiem Temple, was originally meant to be a theatre. Dress-up photo opportunities and cultural performances are available here. Directly behind Hoa Khiem Temple is the quieter Luong Khiem Temple, dedicated to Tu Duc’s mother, Tu Du.

Around the lake shore is the Honour Courtyard. You pass between a guard of elephants, horses and diminutive mandarins (even shorter than the emperor) before reaching the Stele Pavilion, which shelters a vast 20-tonne stele. Tu Duc drafted the inscriptions himself. He freely admitted he'd made mistakes and named his tomb Khiem (Modest). 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 treasures) is not known. To keep it secret from grave robbers, all 200 servants who buried Tu Duc were beheaded.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Hue attractions

1. Tu Hieu Pagoda

0.63 MILES

Nestled in a pine forest, this pagoda was built in 1843 and later co-opted by eunuchs from the Citadel. Today 70 monks reside at Tu Hieu; they welcome…

2. Nam Giao Esplanade

1.18 MILES

This three-tiered esplanade was once the most important religious site in Vietnam, the place where the Nguyen emperors made animal sacrifices and…

3. Tomb of Thieu Tri

1.22 MILES

The only royal tomb not enclosed by a wall, the monument of Thieu Tri (built 1848) has a similar floor plan to his father Minh Mang’s tomb, but is…

4. Ho Quyen

1.29 MILES

Wildly overgrown but evocative, Ho Quyen was built in 1830 for the royal pastime of watching elephants and tigers face off in combat. The tigers (and…

5. Bao Quoc Pagoda

1.73 MILES

Founded in 1670, this hilltop pagoda is on the southern bank of the Perfume River and has a striking triple-gated entrance reached via a wide staircase…

6. Thien Mu Pagoda

1.93 MILES

Built on a small hill overlooking the Song Huong (Perfume River), 4km southwest of the Citadel, this seven-storey pagoda is an icon of Vietnam and as…

7. Ho Thuy Tien Abandoned Water Park

1.94 MILES

Closed for mysterious reasons in 2006, this long-abandoned water park outside Hue centres on a dramatic dragon head poking from the waters of Thuy Tien…

8. Ho Chi Minh Museum


The father of the modern Vietnamese nation spent 10 years in Hue, and you’ll find intriguing photographs of Ho Chi Minh as well as a collection of his…