Khiem Cung Ky Stele
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Khiem Cung Ky Stele at Tu Duc Tomb
Unlike the inscriptions of Gia Long, Minh Mạng, and Thiệu Trị, which were composed by the kings themselves, Khiem Cung Ky is a stone tablet inscribed by King Tu Duc during his lifetime. As a result, it is considered the most exceptional among the inscriptions left by the Nguyễn dynasty kings for posterity.
Khiem Cung Ky Stele at Tu Duc Tomb
Address: Tomb of King Tu Duc (Dong Ba Bridge, Thuong Village, Hue City, Thua Thien Hue)
Status: Recognized as a National Treasure in 2015

Khiem Cung Ky is located within the complex of Tomb of Tu Duc, a group of architectural structures situated in a narrow valley in the village of Dương Xuân Thượng, Thủy Xuân Ward, Huế City. Originally named Vạn Niên Cơ, it was later changed to Khiêm Cung before being renamed Khiêm Lăng after King Tu Duc's passing. The tomb of Tu Duc features picturesque landscapes and is regarded as one of the most beautiful tombs of the Nguyễn dynasty.

Khiem Cung Ky has been recognized as a National Treasure according to Decision No. 2382/QĐ-TTg dated December 25, 2015, issued by the Prime Minister.


The Đại Nam thực lục (The Chronicles of Đại Nam) records: "In the 20th year of the reign of Tu Duc, in the autumn of the seventh lunar month of the year Đinh Mão (1867), when Khiêm Cung was completed, the king escorted the queen to visit. Dignitaries, princes, civil officials from the fifth rank upward, and military officials from the fourth rank upward all wore mourning attire to celebrate, held a banquet, and presented various hierarchical gifts. Afterward, the king personally composed the Khiem Cung Ky inscription and had it carved into stone before constructing the stone tablet house."

Historical documents indicate that in 1871, King Tu Duc composed the inscription, but it wasn't until 1875 that he personally transcribed the text and had craftsmen carve it onto the stone tablet. Despite having many wives, King Tu Duc didn't have any offspring. Therefore, he wrote this inscription to replace the "Thành đức thần công" inscription commonly found in other tombs.


Khiem Cung Ky is part of the Huế Imperial City complex, situated within Tomb of Tu Duc. The inscription is housed in a brick structure with a tiled roof supported by four large columns. Designed in the distinctive style of Nguyễn dynasty inscriptions, it rests on a tall stone pedestal measuring 100 cm in height, 309 cm in width, and 162.5 cm in thickness. The pedestal is crafted from a single piece of Thanh Hóa stone, skillfully carved with kneeling feet. The exterior of the pedestal features raised and intricate carvings of dragon-cloud motifs, lion-dog figures, and intertwined S-shaped motifs.

The estimated weight of the National Treasure Khiem Cung Ky is around 22 tons, with a height of 407 cm and a width of 259 cm. The inscription is carved on both sides. The front side features 2,319 characters arranged in a khải script style, while the back side features 2,537 characters arranged in a hành script style. Additionally, 4,854 characters are carved on the body of the inscription.

The stele area in the Tomb of King Tu Duc, where the Khiem Cung Ky stele is located - Vietnam's National Treasure

Different from the inscriptions of kings Gia Long, Minh Mạng, and Thiệu Trị, which usually praise the virtues and accomplishments of the kings themselves, Khiem Cung Ky was composed by King Tu Duc during his lifetime. The inscription is divided into five sections, touching upon the construction of his tomb, the description of the landscape within the tomb, the king's concern for the country, his private life, and his reflections on his actions and mistakes.

Visitors watiching Khiem Cung Ky stele when visiting the tomb of King Tu Duc (Photo: Huynh.chao.hung)

Artistic Value:

Based on historical artifacts from the Huế Imperial City Museum, considering both the artistry of the carving and the decorative elements, as well as the content of the inscription, Khiem Cung Ky is considered unparalleled among similar stone inscriptions in Vietnam.

In 2019, on the occasion of World Heritage Day on April 18th, the Tomb of Tu Duc, including the stone tablet pavilion, was among 30 other sites globally, and the first in Vietnam, to be introduced to the world through 3D digitization by Google Arts & Culture.


Khiem Cung Ky Stele

3D models of Bi Dinh and Khiem Cung Ky stele digitized by CyArk Company were cut to create high-resolution architectural drawings of the entire population.

Route Guide:

Tomb of Tu Duc is located in a narrow valley in Dương Xuân Thượng village, Thủy Xuân Ward, approximately 6 km southwest of Huế's city center. If traveling by motorbike or car, one can easily follow Bùi Thị Xuân Street and turn onto Huyền Trân Công Chúa Street to reach the  Tomb of Tu Duc.