Minh Mang (1791-1841) succeeded his father as emperor at the age of twenty-nine. Over his two-decade rule (1820-1841), he led in an administrative reorganization of Vietnam, he oversaw enlargement of programs for civil service exams and education, and he built an expansive Vietnamese empire which included much of neighboring Laos and Cambodia.

Emperor Minh Mang was also important as a poet and writer. In regard to other nations, he rejected official diplomatic relations with both France and the United States but tolerated French commerce.

Minh Mang also proved suspicious of Western missionaries and prohibited the practice of Christianity in Vietnam, and there was some persecution of Christians. These attitudes and policies were the result of his strong advocacy of morality and his desire to protect Vietnamese culture.

Minh Mang was also a builder of many of the temples and other structures within the Imperial City in Hue, the capital of Vietnam and home of the Nguyen emperors. In particular, he is remembered for construction of the Mieu Temple in 1821. This temple today honors ten of the Nguyen emperors. Minh Mang also ordered the casting of nine dynasty urns still remaining outside the Hien Lam Pavilion and in front of the Mieu Temple. These bronze urns are quite large and bear carvings depicting rivers, mountains, seas, sea products, and other images important to the Vietnamese.

In a burst of nationalistic pride, the Vietnamese writer of a present-day guidebook for the Hue Citadel complex notes that bronze casting is "a traditional trade of Hue people and Nine Dynastic Urns are its gems. With their bare hands, artisans of Hue have produced what could only be made in other countries with machinery of light or heavy industries."

Ernest Bolt
University of Richmond


Go to Professor Bolt's Photos and Comments on a Visit of Hue, 1997

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