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By way of a complete contrast, the Mausoleum of Khai Dinh is a monumental confection of European baroque, highly ornamental Sino – Vietnamese style and even elements of Cham architecture. Its most attractive feature is the setting, high up on a wooded hill, but it’s worth climbing the 130 – old steps to take a look inside the sanctuary itself, still in its original state. Khai Dinh was the penultimate Nguyen emperor and his mausoleum is a radical and only one main structure. Khai Dinh was also a vain man, a puppet of the French very much taken with French style and architecture and though he only reigned for mine years it took eleven to complete his mausoleum, and it cost so much he had to levy additional taxes for the project.

The approach is via a series of grandiose, dragon – ornamented stairways leading first to the salutation courtyard, with an unusually complete honors guard of mandarins, and on to the stele – house. Climbing up a further four terraces brings you to the principal temple, built of reinforced concrete with slate roofing imported from from France, whose extravagant hall are a startling contrast to the blackened exterior. Walls, ceiling, furniture, everything is decorated to the hilt, writhing with dragons and peppered with symbolic references and classic imagery such as the Four Season panels in the antechamber. Most of this lavish display, not as garish as it might sound, is worked in glass and porcelain mosaic – even the central canopy, which looks like fabric. A life – size gilded bronze statue of the emperor holding his royal scepter sits under the canopy, while his altar table and firearm tablet are up on the antechamber. Khai Dinh was a particularly flamboyant dresser and it’s rumored that he brought back a string of fairy light from France and proceeded to wear them around the palace, twinkling, until the batteries ran out.

 

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