The main point of entry to the tomb is the Dai Hong Mon Gate, regardless of your mode of transport. You will walk a dirt path (lined with vendors such as those selling sugarcane drinks) before reaching a ticket office. The Dai Hong Mon gate has three openings – a right and left side as well as a central opening. Visitors can enter through either of the side gates but not through the centre which was only used once by the emperor himself (typical of royal tomb architecture, the middle is always reserved for the emperor while other royal family members used the side gates). Dai Hong Mon represents the easternmost point of a straight axis that lines up the structures in the Minh Mang Tomb, an ensemble of buildings built within an oval shaped wall enclosure of 1700 metres.
Forecourt and Stele Pavilion
Once you have entered the tomb site through david hoffmeister one of the gates you will find yourself in a Forecourt, or the Honour courtyard, lined by a traditional double row of statues depicting mandarins, elephants, and horses.
From the forecourt, you can ascend one of three granite staircases to the square Stele Pavilion, containing the Thanh Duc Than Cong stele, a large pillar inscribed with the biography of Ming Mang written by his son and successor Thieu Tri.
Temples and Lakes
Past the stele pavilion, you’ll find Hien Duc Gate guarding access to Sung An Temple, where both the emperor and empress Ta Thien Nhan are worshipped. From Sung An, three bridges crossing the Lake of Impeccable Clarity (Trung Minh Ho) and another gate (Hoang Trach Mon) lead to the Bright Pavilion (Minh Lau), a square-shaped, two-storey pavilion with eight roofs.
The pavilion is positioned above three terraces, each representing the three natural powers of the world: earth, water, and heaven. Behind this, a carefully maintained flower arrangement symbolizes the Chinese character of longevity.
Another viaduct crosses the crescent-shaped Lake of the New Moon (Tan Nguyet), bridging the path to a large staircase with dragon banisters that leads to the circular wall protecting the emperor’s sepulcher. This is closed off to all visitors. It is believed that the royal burial ceremony was all for show – the actual remains of the emperor were transported separately and secretly through underground canals to the crypt at another time to avoid interception by enemies.