Emperor Minh Mạng lived between 25th May 1791 and 20th January 1841. He was born Nguyen Phuc Dam, and also confusingly known as Nguyen Phuc Kieu. These things do get confusing. He was the second emperor of the powerful Nguyen dynasty of Vietnam and held power from 14th February 1820 until his death. He was the fourth son of one of the most famous of all Vietnamese Emperors, Gia Long. He famously opposed the French colonial involvement in Vietnam and was well known as a his rigid Confucian scholar.
With age Gia Long favoured a more isolationist foreign policy, and Minh Mạng, who agreed, grew in popwer. Minh Mạng held a strong dislike of Christian missionaries, and would often try to inhibit their activities. His intransigence towards the French led to negative European relations with Vietnam and fostered discontent both in Vietnam and abroad. This didn’t help matters with Europe at all.
Minh Mang was a bit of a luddite at heart and it is felt by many that he had back developments that could have driven the country forward. He restricted trade with Western governments. At the same time in Vietnam, government became more centralised and further antagonised people leading to several rebellions. The most serious in 1833 led to a civil war lasting a year.
The Minh Mang Tomb is certainly as magnificent as Tu Duc’s in it’s stately elegance and atmosphere. It is probably that people and indeed history judges Tu Duc as something of a dreamer, Minh Mang, is remembered fondly as one who stood up to colonial oppression.
Minh Mang’s tomb is built in strict accordance with Chinese Confucian principles. Importantly it achieves a fine balance and great Fung Shui as its main structures are expertly placed between lakes and gardens. The Emperor was interested in architecture and in addition to building his own tomb, as was the custom, he made important contributions to the Ancient Citadel, one of Hue’s greatest treasures.