The Secrets of Khai Dinh Tomb – the Last Tomb of Nguyen Dynasty

ILAStaffTravel TipsLeave a Comment

Khai Dinh Statue in Khai Dinh Tomb

Nguyen Dynasty is the last dynasty of Vietnam, which leave an enormous amount of heritage sights in Hue city. Therefore, as a former capital of Vietnam, it is easy to find many historical architectures. The most special landmarks in Hue is the Complex of Hué Monuments which includes the Citadel, the Imperial City, and the tombs. Besides the famous Imperial City, visiting the King’s tomb is also a must-do in Hue. The most special and unique tomb among all of the landmarks is Khai Dinh Tomb – the last tomb of the 12th King, Khai Dinh Emperor.

Who is Khai Dinh

Khai Dinh is the title of Nguyen Phuc Buu Dao, the 12th King out of 13 Nguyen Kings. He became a king at the age of 31 until he died at the age of 41. During his reign, the most remarkable thing he had made was the Khai Dinh Tomb, which is probably what he was proud of the most. Khai Dinh could be considered as one of the most special kings in Nguyen Dynasty due to his unique characteristic which also influenced the design of his tomb. There are 3 facts about this King which you may interest to know.

Khai Dinh as a king

Firstly, despite being a Vietnamese King, he really interested in France and spend most of his time there. Due to this close collaboration with France, he has been accused as “a French puppet”. Although Khai Dinh claimed that he wanted to restore the power and wealthiness of the empire, his policy could not prove it. For instance, in order to build his tomb, he raised taxes on Vietnamese peasants to 30 percents which cause them suffer a lot. Therefore, Khai Dinh is hated and criticized by many people.

King Khai Dinh - 12th King of Nguyen Dynasty

King Khai Dinh – 12th King of Nguyen Dynasty. Source: Baomoi

The talent of the 12th King

However, Khai Dinh proved that he is a good and creative designer when he designed his own clothes and tomb. He liked to combine the traditional patterns and culture with the French modern style. This was ridiculed by many nationalist leaders back the. But now people recognize his arts and believe that he may not be a good politician, but he was a good designer.

King Khai Dinh's clothes

King Khai Dinh’s clothes. Source:

His special private life

When we take a closer look at his private life, Khai Dinh is even more special. Despite having 12 wives, Khai Dinh only had one son, who is also the next king – Bao Dai. According to some historical documents, the 12th King was not interested in sex or women. There was a royal guard named Nguyen Dac Vong, who was the closest “friend” of the king.  He always stayed with the king, even at night. The books also mentioned about the entertainers of the royal palace. Instead of beautiful female dancers, the king replaced them with men who dress and make up like women.

What is so special about Khai Dinh Tomb

Khai Dinh Tomb is one of the most outstanding structures of Nguen Dynasty. It is different from all other landmarks. This is because Khai Dinh has broken the traditional rules to build a completely extraordinary tomb which satisfied his own fantasy. Many people refer this tomb as a hot pot, where Khai Dinh just throw in everything he liked. The tomb is a blend of Eastern and Western architecture, so it is a unique tomb among all Nguyen Dynasty structures.

Khai Dinh Tomb in Hue

Khai Dinh Tomb in Hue

The highlight features of Khai Dinh Tomb

Khai Dinh Tomb has many “most” in comparison with the others. Firstly, inspire of its smallest size, Khai Dinh Tomb is the most expensive tomb with most materials are imported from France. It also took longest to build the tomb, which is exactly 11 years. The tomb is also the highest, with 137 steps from the foot of a hill to the top. This is the only tomb which we know exactly where the king was buried. As in other tombs, it would be a secret, however, in Khai Dinh Tomb, the king’s body is 9 meters under his statue in the center.

Khai Dinh Statue in Khai Dinh Tomb

Khai Dinh Statue in Khai Dinh Tomb. Souce: Tran Duc Phu

The secrets of Khai Dinh Tomb

There are many stories around this special tomb. The most special one is the painting of 9 intricate dragons on the ceiling of the tomb. It was painted by Phan Vang Tanh, one of the most talented and famous artists of that time. However, the artist had an edgy character which he did not even care about the king.

It was told that when the king visited the unfinished tomb, everyone had to stop working to greet the king, except for Phan Vang Tanh. Even worse, he was lying on a tall stool and paint with his feet, not his hands. The king was so mad at the artist that he wanted to cut off his head. However, the artist explained that if he had stopped to greet the king he would not have finished his painting. Moreover, he had to draw by his feet because with that he can see the whole picture from afar. Despite being so mad, the king had to forgive the artist, but he also said that if he could find another painter who is as talented as him, he would have executed him already.

The painting of 9 intricate dragons is still keeping its sharp shape and beautiful colors after almost 90 years. The tomb keepers used to say in an interview that they have never seen any spider or insect on the ceiling. Researchers are still questioning the special coat which the artist use in the past.

The painting of 9 intricate dragons in the ceiling of Khai Dinh Tomb

The painting of 9 intricate dragons in the ceiling of Khai Dinh Tomb. Source: Vietfuntravel


Khai Dinh is a special tomb which you must not miss when visiting Hue. It would be more interesting if you go there with a local guide to learn more about the tomb’s secrets. The Khai Dinh Tomb is included in the Hue City Tour by Motorbike in the morning and Hue City and Local Food Tour by Motorbike in the afternoon. It would be great to travel around Hue on the motorbike. In addition, you can also learn from the female riders who are local students about Vietnamese culture and history.


Leave a Reply