VIETNAMESE ROYAL FAMILY

VIETNAMESE ROYAL FAMILY

According to Vietnamese Legend, the People of Vietnam descend from the Dragon King Lac Long Quan and his wife, the Water Fairy Au Co and the first Vietnamese kingdom, the Kingdom of Annam, was founded in 2874 B.C. The modern Kingdom was unified in 1788 by the King of Hue, titled The Emperor of Annam since 1802.

In the Confucian world view, which the Vietnamese have traditionally prescribed to, emperors were said to have the "mandate of heaven" to rule their people, who, in turn, owed the emperor total allegiance. Although his power was absolute, an emperor was responsible for the prosperity of his people and the maintenance of justice and order. An emperor who did not fulfill his Confucian responsibilities could, in theory, lose his mandate. In practice, the Vietnamese people endured many poor emperors, weak and strong. [Source: Library of Congress *]

Counterbalancing the power of the emperor was the power of the village, illustrated by the Vietnamese proverb, "The laws of the emperor yield to the customs of the village." Village institutions served both to restrain the power of the emperor and to provide a buffer between central authority and the individual villager. Each village had its council of nobles, which was responsible for the obligations of the village to the state. When the central government imposed levies for taxes, for corvee labor for public projects, or for soldiers for defense, these levies were based on the council of nobles' report of the resources of the villages, which was often underestimated to protect the village. Moreover, there was a division between state and local responsibilities. The central government assumed responsibility for military, judicial, and religious functions, while village authorities oversaw the construction of public works projects such as roads, dikes, and bridges, which were centrally planned. *

As was true with the emperor of China, the power of the Vietnamese emperor was absolute. He was the chief administrator, military leader, judge and priest, and sometimes had more than a hundred wives and concubines (known as yo le ). His authority reportedly came from a mandate from heaven. Villages paid taxes and provided laborers to build dikes and soldiers to fight wars. Otherwise the villages were more independent and controlled more of their own affairs than under the Chinese.

The Vietnamese emperors built Buddhist monasteries and relied on monks as for advisors but had a Chinese administration system. As was also true with the Chinese system, the emperor governed with the help of a civil service made up of mandarins (scholars) selected on the basis of their performance on rigorous Confucian civil service exams. The system was in place from the 11th century when the Chinese were driven out of the country until the mid 19th century when Vietnam was taken over by the French.

The Ly Dynasty (1010-1225) was the first true Vietnamese dynasty. It brought stability to Vietnam, established the nation' first university, built flood-control dikes on the Red River, promoted Buddhism, repelled attacks by the Chinese, Khmers and Chams, and expanded Vietnam's territory southward. The Ly emperors began the tradition of surrounding themselves with scholars and poets. The Tran Dynasty (1225-1400) ousted the Ly Dynasty, defeated the Mongols, built more dikes on the Red River and expanded Vietnam's territory and land under cultivation. After the Tran dynasty collapsed the Chinese invaded and imposed slave labor and heavy taxes until they were ousted in 1428.

Descendants of royal family remaining in Vietnam today keep a relatively low profile. Amanda Hesser wrote in The New York Times, “Phan Thuan An, an elderly scholar and relic of a vanishing Vietnam, is a member of the former royal family.When we visited him at his traditional house in Hue, he was wearing an ao trong, the white two-piece tunic and pants, with a pair of wooden clogs. He took us for a tour of the grounds of his home, designed in a feng shui style with a koi pond in the center and a screen of bamboo at the back. Inside, he showed us the altar dedicated to his ancestors. It was piled with mangoes and cake and his grandmother's ivory chopsticks - a time capsule in a time capsule. [Source: By Amanda Hesser, The New York Times, September 1, 2005]

Mandate of Heaven

Vietnamese monarchs justified their rule in part under the Chinese concept of the Mandate of Heaven. The Chinese people believed that their rulers were chosen to lead with a "mandate of heaven"---the Chinese belief that a dynasty was ordained to rule, based on its demonstrated ability to do so. It was a kind of political legitimacy based on the notion that the overthrow of ruler was justified if the ruler became wicked, lost the trust of the people or double-crossed the supreme being.

The “mandate of heaven” was first adopted during the Zhou Dynasty (1100-221 B.C.) and was described as a divine right to rule. The philosopher Mencius (372-289 B.C.) wrote about it at length and framed it in both moral and cosmic terms, stating that if a ruler was just and carried out the prescribed rituals to the ancestors then his rule and the cosmic, natural and human order would be maintained.

Later the mandate idea was incorporated into the Taoist concept that the collapse of a dynasty was preceded by "Disapprovals of heaven," natural disasters such as great earthquakes, floods or fires and these were often preceded by certain cosmic signs. According to these beliefs on September 8, 2040 five planets will gather within the space of fewer than degrees "signaling the conferral of heaven's mandate."

The mandate of heaven was something earned through "virtue and moral rectitude" by a ruler that had a divine, magical and natural affect on the natural and social order. If the sacred social contract between the people and the ruler was violated, according to Sinologist Orville Schell, "the all-knowing forces of 'heaven' from which an emperor drew his 'mandate' to rule...would be withheld and his dynasty would collapse” and “the mandate then would be passed on to a new leader or dynasty.”

Behind the mandate of heaven was the belief that royal ancestors became divinities after they died. If they and heaven itself approved the current rulers their approval would make sure the world was in order; ying and yang were in balance, the seasons appeared when they were supposed to, harvests were plentiful and there were no calamitous events. If the royal ancestors and heaven didn’t approve then bad things would happen.

Nguyen Dynasty (1802-1945)

The Nguyen Dynasty (1802-1945) came to power after the Tay Son Rebellion (1771-1802), a revolt lead by members of the Nguyen family (with a little French help) that eventually toppled the Trinh leaders in the north in 1802. The Nguyens made Hue the imperial city of Vietnam. A total of 13 Nguyen emperors lived in Hue between 1802 to 1945.

The first ruler of the Nguyen dynasty was Gia Long (Nguyen Ahn, reigned 1802-1819). He established the imperial city of Hue in 1804, brought scholars, poets, philosophers and artists from all over Vietnamese to Hue, tried to keep Vietnam isolated from Europe, brought back Chinese institutions, and began large scale public works programs that improved Vietnam's infrastructure with a great deal of hardship on the Vietnamese people in the form of burdensome taxes and forced labor.

Kings of Nguyen Dynasty (1802-1945): 1) Gia Long (1802-1819); 2) Minh Menh (1820-1840); 3) Thieu Tri (1841-1847); 4) - Tu Duc (1848-1883); 5) Duc Duc (1883, 3 days); 5) Hiep Hoa (1883, 4 months); 5) Kien Phuc (1883-1884); 6) Ham Nghi (1884-1885); 7) Dong Khanh (1886-1888); 8) Thanh Thai (1889-1907); 9) Duy Tan (1907-1916); 10) - Khai Dinh (1916-1925); 11) Bao Dai (1926-1945). [Source: Vietnamtourism. com, Vietnam National Administration of Tourism ~]

Gia Long and Minh Mang, the first kings of the Nguyen Dynasty, unified the country and set up a healthy state. In regards to the internal policy, the Nguyen kings cleared land for cultivation, encouraging irrigation. In regards to the external policy, kings Minh Mang and Thieu Tri sent merchant ships to trade with France, England, Indonesia, and India. The Nguyen kings ordered that books on national history and geography be written and printed important books which had a great impact on the national culture. Confucianism was becoming the basis of the Nguyen dynasty's conservative ideology. The Nguyen Dynasty imposed a closed-door policy and dispelled diplomatic missions who wanted to set up relations with Vietnam.

Nguyen Dynasty Rule

In June 1802, Nguyen Anh adopted the reign name Gia Long to express the unifying of the country--Gia from Gia Dinh (Saigon) and Long from Thang Long (Hanoi). As a symbol of this unity, Gia Long changed the name of the country from Dai Viet to Nam Viet. For the Chinese, however, this was too reminiscent of the wayward General Trieu Da. In conferring investiture on the new government, the Chinese inverted the name to Viet Nam, the first use of that name for the country. Acting as a typical counterrevolutionary government, the Gia Long regime harshly suppressed any forces opposing it or the interests of the bureaucracy and the landowners. In his drive for control and order, Gia Long adopted the Chinese bureaucratic model to a greater degree than any previous Vietnamese ruler. [Source: Library of Congress *]

Vietnamese bureaucrats were required to wear Chinese-style gowns and even adopt Chinese-style houses and sedan chairs. Vietnamese women, in turn, were compelled to wear Chinese-style trousers. Gia Long instituted a law code, which followed very closely the Chinese Qing dynasty (1644-1911) model. Under the Gia Long code, severe punishment was meted out for any form of resistance to the absolute power of the government. Buddhism, Taoism, and indigenous religions were forbidden under the Confucianist administration. Traditional Vietnamese laws and customs, such as the provisions of the Hong Duc law code protecting the rights and status of women, were swept away by the new code. *

The great Mandarin Road, used by couriers and scholar-officials as a link between Gia Dinh, Hue, and Thang Long, was started during this period in order to strengthen the control of the central government. Although chu nom was retained as the national script by Gia Long, his son and successor Minh Mang, who gained the throne upon his father's death in 1820, ordered a return to the use of Chinese ideographs. *

Vietnam's foreign relations were a drain on the central government during this period. Tributary missions were sent biennially to the Qing court in Beijing, bearing the requisite 600 pieces of silk, 200 pieces of cotton, 1,200 ounces of perfume, 600 ounces of aloes wood, 90 pounds of betel nuts, 4 elephant tusks, and 4 rhinoceros horns. Other missions to pay homage (also bearing presents) were sent every four years. At the same time, Vietnam endeavored to enforce tributary relations with Cambodia and Laos. In 1834, attempts to make Cambodia a Vietnamese province led to a Cambodian revolt and to Siamese intervention, with the result that a joint Vietnamese-Siamese protectorate was established over Cambodia in 1847. Other foreign adventures included Vietnamese support for a Laotian rebellion against Siamese overlordship in 1826-27. *

Hue

The new capital at Hue, two kilometers northeast of Phu Xuan, was patterned after the Chinese model in Beijing, complete with a Forbidden City, an Imperial City, and a Capital City. Fought over for centuries by local warlords, Hue became the imperial city of Vietnam in 1802, when Emperor Nguyen Gia Long established a new Vietnamese dynasty here and brought in scholars, poets, philosophers and artists from all over his kingdom. The city was set up out according to principles of feng shui (geomacy) in "the posture of an undulating dragon and sitting tiger" laid out on the river.

Since 1306, after the wedding of the princess Huyen Tran of the Tran Dynasty with Che Man, the Cham King, the territories of Chau O and Chau Ly (comprised of Quang Tri, Thua Thien - Hue and part of Northern Quang Nam today) took the name of Thuan Hoa. In the second half of the 15th century, under the reign of King Le Thanh Tong, the name of "Hue" appeared for the first time. In 1636, the residence of the Nguyen Lords was settled at Kim Long (Hue). In 1687, it was transferred to Phu Xuan – where is the Citadel today. Early in the 18th century, Phu Xuan became the political, economic and cultural center of the southern part of Vietnam. Then, from 1788 to 1801, it became the capital of the Tay Son Dynasty.

Hué served as the administrative center of southern Vietnam in the 17th and 18th centuries. Gia Long, first ruler of the Nguyen dynasty, made it the national capital of united Vietnam in 1802, a position that it held until 1945. It was selected because it is situated in the geographical center of the country and with easy access to the sea. The new capital was planned in accordance with ancient oriental philosophy in general and Vietnamese tradition in particular; it also respected the physical conditions of the site, especially the Perfume River and Ngu Binh Mountain (known as the Royal Screen). The relationship between the five cardinal points (centre, west, east, north, south), five natural elements (earth, metal, wood, water, fire), and five basic colours (yellow, white, blue, black, red) underlies the conception of the city, and is reflected in the names of some important features. The Perfume River, the main axis, divides the capital in two.

The detailed planning was entrusted to Nguyen Van Yen, commander of an army unit specializing in the construction of citadels. Four citadels or defended enclosures made up the city Kinh Thanh (Capital City), for official administrative buildings; Hoang Thanh (Imperial City) for Royal palaces and shrines; Tu Cam Thanh (Forbidden Purple City) for the Royal residences (the two last-named are known collectively as the Dai Noi or Inner City); and Tran Binh Dai, an additional defensive work in the northeast corner of the Capital City, designed to control movement on the river. A fifth fortress, Tran Hai Thanh (Coastal Bastion), was constructed a little later to protect the capital against assault from the sea.

Planning lasted two years, from 1803 to 1805, and it was not until 1832 that construction was complete. The new capital was much larger than its predecessor, Dong Trang, and encompassed several villages as well. Over 30,000 workmen and soldiers were involved in the work, which involved filling in two small tributaries of the Perfume River and digging new moats and canals. The fortress itself was modelled on the European style of Vauban, the first of its type in southeast Asia, but the complex suffered considerably as a result of military operations in 1885, 1947 and 1968.

From 1802 to 1945, Hue was the capital of unified Vietnam under the reign of the 13 Nguyen Kings. During these years, architectural works of a high cultural and historic value were built: the Citadel, especially the Imperial City (including 253 buildings), 7 Royal tomb compound of 9 kings of the Nguyen Dynasty, the Esplanade of Nam Giao, the Ho Quyen arena and the Hon Chen Temple.

See Hue Under Places

Organization of the Imperial City of Hue

The main enceinte of Hue, the Capital City, is square in plan, each side measuring 2,235 The defensive walls have six projecting bastions on each side and ten gates. The external defensive works comprise a berm, ditch, and glacis. The buildings inside the Capital City include various former ministerial buildings, the Royal College and the Hué Museum. The Inner City is rectangular in plan and defended by brick walls, supplemented by a moat and wide berm; there is a single entrance on each of the walls. Inside it is divided by walls into a number of zones - the Great Ceremonies Zone, the Worshiping Zone, the residential zone of the King's Mother and Grandmother, the storage and workshop zone, the garden and school zone for royal princes, as well as the Forbidden Purple City. The palaces within the Inner City are similar in style and design, set on a raised podium, with wooden trusses (usually ironwood), gilded and painted pillars and rafters, brick walls, and roofs of yellow- or blue-glazed cylindrical tiles. Roof edges are straight, and the decoration, both internally and externally, is abundant. Among the most important buildings are the Palace of Supreme Harmony, the royal reception hall; the Mieu Temple, the royal place of worship; the Queen Mother's Palace; and the Pavilion of Dazzling Benevolence.[Source: UNESCO]

At the heart of the complex is the Forbidden Purple City, surrounded by brick walls. There is a single gate in the front wall, reserved for the use of the king, and the other walls have several entrances, each with a specific purpose. Originally there were over 40 buildings within the walls, but most are now in ruins and only their foundations survive.

Outside the Capital City there are several associated monuments of importance. These include the tombs of the Nguyen dynasty to the south of the Perfume River. Other structures along both banks of the river are buildings related to the spiritual life of the dynasty, including the Temple of Literature, the Esplanade of the Sacrifice to the Sun and Earth, the Royal Arena and the Temple of the Roaring Elephant, and the Celestial Lady Pagoda.

Each tomb reflects its owner’s life and character: the magnificence of Gia Long’s tomb in the immense landscape of mountains and jungles represents the spirit of a general in war; the symmetry and majesty of Minh Mang’s tomb combiners both man-made and natural mountains and lakes and reveals the powerful will and solemn nature of a talented politician who was also an orderly poet; the peaceful and sombre qualities of Thieu Tri’s tomb reflects the innermost feelings of an outstanding poet who made few achievements in political life; the romance and poetic atmosphere of Tu Duc’s tomb evoke the elegant and subtle tendency of a poet rather than the strong characteristic of a politician.

Forbidden Purple City

Three emperors, beginning with Emperor Khai Dinh (1916-1925), lived in Hue’s Forbidden Purple City (a scaled down version of China's Forbidden City in Beijing) that was forbidden to everyone except for the emperor, the immediate royal family, their servants and concubines, and select imperial members of court.

The Forbidden Purple City of Hue (inside the Imperial City, behind the Throne Palace) was reserved for Emperor and his family. Known in Vietnamese as Tu Cam Thanh (Forbidden Citadel), it was established early under reign of Emperor Gia Long in 1804 but built mostly by Emperor Khai Dinh and occupied until the 1940s by his son, Bao Dai, the last Emperor of Vietnam.

Like its counterpart in Beijing, the Forbidden Purple City was forbidden to everyone except for the emperor, the immediate royal family, their servants and concubines, and select imperial members of court. Much of it was destroyed during wars with France and United States. A short stairway, a couple brass cannons, empty pedestals and a few floor tiles is virtually all the remains of the former palace. The library has been restored but buildings such as theater, the tea pavilion are little more than crumbling free-standing walls and foundations, which have been engulfed by vegetable and cassava fields and are home to a couple of wandering cows.

After Bao Dai abdicated, he, his wife and their five children left the Forbidden City and moved to Paris. Doan Huy, the Queen mother, wife of Khai Dinh and mother of Bao Dai, stayed in Hue after the abdication. She moved out of the Forbidden Purple City into a two-story stucco house. She stayed on in Hue to attend the tombs of her ancestors. "I am very sad, exceedingly sad. When I was young, Hue was so beautiful, She told an interviewer in 1974, Then it was ruined." She died in Hue at the age of 91 in 1980.

The compound is surrounded by brick walls: 3.72 meters high, 0.72 meters thick, about 1,230 meters in circumference. The front and back sides are 324 meters each while the left and right side are more than 290 meters. There were 50 buildings of different sizes and seven gates. Dai Cung Mon (the Great Palace Gate) is in the front side. It was reserved for the Kings. Important buildings include Can Chanh Palace (the office and place for daily working of the Emperors), Can Thanh (Emperor's Private Palace), Khon Thai Residence (Queen's Private Apartment), Duyet Thi Duong house (Royal Theater), Thuong Thien (the kitchen for the Kings' food) and Thai Binh Lau (King's reading room).

Life in the Nguyen Court

The emperors at Hue used to entertain themselves by watching tigers and elephants fight to the death in the imperial amphitheater. Their treasures included super rare orange pearls, a collection of blue de Hué porcelain, and jade chessboards. There were separate palaces for separate kinds of treasures. The symbols of the emperor were a golden seal and a ceremonial sword.

One former member of the Nguyen court told Smithsonian magazine, "Burma was famous for jade, Thailand was famous for ruby, and Vietnam was famous for pearl. Many, many people were assigned to dive for pearls, also to look for other tribute objects, such as ivory and sandlewood. And it was considered mandatory to bring any fine specimens to the emperor."

The emperors ate meals with 50 courses, each one prepared by a different chef who specialized only that dish. A chef that made steamed duck, for example, often made steamed duck everyday for 50 years. The dishes were served in succession.

The Vietnamese court was known for its savagery and intrigues. The emperors ordered their enemies to have their limbs hacked off and bones broken. Particularly hated enemies were slowly stripped of their skin with pincers. Gia Long disposed of one of his rival by having him tied to four elephants, which were each driven off in a different direction.

Nguyen Emperors

Emperor Gia Long (ruled 1802-1819) returned to Confucian values in an effort to consolidate his precarious position. Conservative elements of the elite appreciated the familiar sense of order, which had evaporated in the dizzying atmosphere of reform stirred up by the Tay Son Rebels. Gia Long’s son, Emperor Minh Mang, worked to strengthen the state. He was profoundly hostile to Catholicism, which he saw as a threat to Confucian traditions, and extended this antipathy to all Western influences.The early Nguyen emperors continued the expansionist policies of the preceding dynasties, pushing into Cambodia and westward into the mountains along a wide front. They seized huge areas of Lao territory and clashed with Thailand to pick apart the skeleton of the fractured Khmer empire.

Emperor was Minh Mang (ruled 1820 to 1840), Gia Long's son, was that the second Nguyen king. He was known as reformer and an isolationist. Educated as a traditional Chinese scholar, he created an assembly of mandarins that advised him on important matters and approved royal decrees. He also banned Christianity, and restricted missionaries who he feared he might "enter furtively, mix with the people and spread darkness in the kingdom." He had 300 wives and concubines, and fathered 142 children.

The forth Nguyen Emperor, Tu Duc (1848-1883), came to power after he murdered his older brother. He spent much of his time at a pleasure palace where he composed more than 4,000 poems, was entertained by dancing girls, made love with his 104 wives and drank tea made from dew condensed off lotus blossoms. Tu Doc's rule was marked by concessions to the French. Even with all those wives Tu Doc died with no heirs. On his death bed he was reportedly overtaken by guilt. A French chronicler wrote: "He pleaded before the phantom of a murdered brother he believed was standing before him."

French Help Nguyen Anh Establish the Nguyen Dynasty

France became more deeply involved in Vietnamese affairs in when a Nguyen lord—Nguyen Anh sent an entourage to Versailles to seek help from Louis XVI. In 1802, with French help. Vietnam ws unified under Nguyen Anh, who became known as Emperor Gialong (1802-20). His successors however persecuted Christian missionaries.

Soon after the Nguyens suffered a serious defeat in 1783 at the hands of their rivals, the Trinhs and the Tay Son Dynasty, Nguyen Ahn met with French missionary bishop Pigneau de Behaine and asked him to be his emissary in obtaining French support to defeat the Tay Son. Pigneau de Behaine took Nguyen Anh's five-year-old son, Prince Canh, and departed for Pondichery in French India to plead for support for the restoration of the Nguyen. Finding none there, he went to Paris in 1786 to lobby on Nguyen Anh's behalf. Louis XVI ostensibly agreed to provide four ships, 1,650 men, and supplies in exchange for Nguyen Anh's promise to cede to France the port of Tourane (Da Nang) and the island of Poulo Condore. However, the local French authorities in India, under secret orders from the king, refused to supply the promised ships and men. Determined to see French military intervention in Vietnam, Pigneau de Behaine himself raised funds for two ships and supplies from among the French merchant community in India, hired deserters from the French navy to man them, and sailed back to Vietnam in 1789. [Source: Library of Congress *]

The second Tay Son Emperor Quang Trung died in 1792, without leaving a successor strong enough to assume leadership of the country, and the usual factionalism ensued. By this time,Nguyen Anh and his supporters had won back much of the south from Nguyen Lu, the youngest and least capable of the Tay Son brothers. When Pigneau de Behaine returned to Vietnam in 1789, Nguyen Anh was in control of Gia Dinh. In the succeeding years, the bishop brought Nguyen Anh a steady flow of ships, arms, and European advisers, who supervised the building of forts, shipyards, cannon foundries and bomb factories, and instructed the Vietnamese in the manufacture and use of modern armaments. Nguyen's cause was also greatly aided by divisions within the Tay Son leadership, following the death of Quang Trung, and the inability of the new leaders to deal with the problems of famine and natural disasters that wracked the war-torn country. After a steady assault on the north, Nguyen Anh's forces took Phu Xuan in June 1801 and Thang Long a year later. In 1802 Nguyen Anh proclaimed himself Emperor Gia Long, thus beginning the Nguyen dynasty. When he captured Hanoi, his victory was complete and, for the first time in two centuries, Vietnam was united, with Hué as its new capital city. *

Emperors Under French Rule

The forth Nguyen Emperor, Tu Duc (1848-1883), came to power after he murdered his older brother. He spent much of his time at a pleasure palace where he composed more than 4,000 poems, was entertained by dancing girls, made love with his 104 wives and drank tea made from dew condensed off lotus blossoms. Tu Doc's rule was marked by concessions to the French. Even with all those wives Tu Doc died with no heirs. On his death bed he was reportedly overtaken by guilt. A French chronicler wrote: "He pleaded before the phantom of a murdered brother he believed was standing before him." [Source: David Alexander, Smithsonian magazine, June, 1986 <>]

At mealtime, Emperor Tu Duc had 50 chefs preparing 50 dishes brought to him by 50 servants. To prepare his tea: every night, the tea leaves would be placed in lotus blossoms and collected the next morning infused with the delicate lotus scent. They would be brewed with the overnight dew on the lotus leaves.

"Tu Duc's successor's continued to mount the throne, maintaining lavish life-styles and the trappings of royalty, but the power was not theirs, " wrote David Alexander in Smithsonian magazine, "They were a tragic and pathetic line of infants, incompetents and rebels. One was deposed after one day; another was poisoned after four months. Three—including a father and son—were exiled for resisting the French." <>

Not all of the emperors were willing puppets. Emperor Duy Tan (ruled 1907-16) planned a general uprising in Hue with his poet friend Tran Cao Va. The plot was discovered the before it was supposed to take place. The emperor was exiled and poet was beheaded with a guillotine. <>

Second-to-Last Emperor, Khai Dinh

Emperor Khai Dinh was one of the most despicable of the Vietnamese puppet rulers. He "aptly symbolized Vietnamese impotence," Alexander wrote. "Sickly, childlike, possibly imbecilic, he loved to dress up in imperial robes, a sword by his side—and light bulbs prankishly attached to his chest, which he would light via wires running from batteries secreted in his pockets." [Source: David Alexander, Smithsonian magazine, June, 1986 <>]

Khai Dihn built and lived in the Vietnamese Forbidden City and pretended he was an imperial ruler. During a three-day celebration honoring an auspicious royal anniversary in 1924, Khai Dihn was presented with gifts made of jade, silk and rosewood while a chorus sang, "May his happiness be as immense as the sea. May he be blessed with ten thousand happiness and ten thousand longevities." <>

During a procession at the celebration, a French chronicler wrote: "The central gate of the Imperial City was opened at last. Troops with yellow leggings and white jackets presented arms at the call of the bugle. Royal musicians broke into a march and two white horses, caparisoned in red, advanced slowly, each followed by a bearer with yellow umbrellas." Dancing to the music of gong, flutes and rums, children with golden lotus flower hats formed patterns with illuminated paper lanterns that told the stories of the Nguyen dynasty. <>

Bao Dai's Abdication and His Life As Post-War Vietnam Struggles for Independence

The Puppet Vietnamese Emperor Bao Dai abdicated on August 25, 1945 at the Belvedere of the Noon gate at the Five Phoenix building in Hue to three emissaries sent by Ho Chi Minh. Dressed in yellow turban and brocaded tunic he stood before a crowd of several thousand people and said: "As for us, we have known great bitterness during the 20 years of our rule. Henceforth, we are happy to assume the status of a free citizen in an independent country," adding "I would rather live as an ordinary citizen of an independent country than be Emperor of a nation of slaves." Bao Dai passed on to Ho Chi Minh's representatives the symbols of his authority: a golden seal and sword with ruby-studded handle. According to the Communist account of the events, one of the representatives lifted the sword skyward to thunderous applause. After his abdication, Bao Dai later wrote that a woman came up and told him: "Your departure is a catastrophe. We will lose everything. It is as if the heavens have fallen on our heads. [Source: David Alexander, Smithsonian magazine, June, 1986]

Initially after the Viet Minh seized power, Bao Dai was given the position of high counselor to the new government. Later he and his wife and their five children moved to Paris. He came back to South Vietnam and lived in Dalat between 1949 and 1955 as the leader of a "nominally-independent" Vietnam but was forced to leave when Ngo Dinh Diem came to power. Judy Stowe wrote in The Independent, after Bao Dai’s abdication "the ex-Emperor, reverting to the name of Vinh Thuy which he was given at birth, made his way to Hanoi at the invitation of Ho Chi Minh to become a special adviser to the new republic. He was accorded a courteous welcome but found his duties less than onerous until in early 1946 he was assigned to head an official mission to Chungking, then the capital of China under President Chiang Kai-shek. [Source: Judy Stowe, The Independent, August 5, 1997 ||||]

"Realising this was a pretext to get him out of Vietnam, Bao Dai declined to return and retired to live in Hong Kong. There he watched from afar as the French returned to Vietnam, tried to reach an agreement with Ho Chi Minh and, when these efforts failed, embarked on full-scale war. He then began to receive feelers from various Vietnamese politicians opposed to the Viet Minh as well as from the French about heading a new State of Vietnam. Since Bao Dai had no wish to be seen as a French puppet, these negotiations were very protracted. In June 1948 he agreed to be flown in a French seaplane to a warship anchored in the picturesque Gulf of Ha Long in northern Vietnam to witness the signing of a document whereby France conceded a measure of independence. He then went on to Paris for further discussions which eventually culminated on 8 March 1949 at the Elysee Palace, where a series of agreements were concluded, leading to the establishment of the State of Vietnam headed by Bao Dai, although no longer as an Emperor with special royal privileges. ||||

"To symbolise his new authority, he immediately flew back to Vietnam to tour the country from Saigon to Hanoi including of course a visit to Hue, his former imperial capital, where the court had been disbanded. He also presided over the establishment of a new government with ministers from all over Vietnam as well as holding discussions with French generals who were still battling against the Viet Minh, about setting up a Vietnamese National Army to join in the fight. Bao Dai then had the satisfaction of seeing the State of Vietnam being accorded diplomatic recognition as an independent country by the Western powers at the end of 1949. A couple of months later, however, Ho Chi Minh, who had been living as a guerrilla in the northern mountains, made a secret visit to Peking and Moscow where he managed to secure Chinese and Soviet recognition for the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. That set the scene for the next stage in the war. ||||

"During the next four years, Bao Dai chose to spend most of his time in France where his children were being educated and where too he could keep a closer eye on the developing international situation. When he did visit Vietnam, it was usually to stay at his villa in the mountain resort of Dalat from where he could once more engage in his favorite sport of hunting.

Meanwhile, with Chinese military aid the Viet Minh were building up their strength in the north of the country. The climax came in May 1954 when after a 57-day siege the Viet Minh succeeded in overwhelming the French garrison at Dien Bien Phu. Fortuitously this occurred on the eve of the opening of a major international conference in Geneva on the future of Indo-China at which Bao Dai played only a backstage role. It resulted amongst other things in an agreement for France to withdraw totally from Indo-China and for Vietnam to be temporarily partitioned between the State of Vietnam in the south and the Democratic Republic of Vietnam in the north. ||||

"At the same time Bao Dai was persuaded, largely as a result of American pressure behind the scenes that the best person to head a strongly anti- Communist government in Saigon was Ngo Dinh Diem, a former mandarin from the court in Hue. That did not endear him to the former Emperor. The feeling was mutual. In 1955, Ngo Dinh Diem staged a referendum throughout the State of Vietnam to decide whether it should become a republic with himself as President. With Bao Dai absent in France and refusing to campaign, the result was unsurprisingly in the affirmative. That marked the end of Bao Dai's official career." ||||

Vietnam's Last Emperor, Bao Dai

After Khai Dinh's death in 1926, his 13-year-old son Bao Dai, became emperor-designate of the French protectorate of Annam. Bao Dai had been sent off to France at age nine for nine years at education at an exclusive school, where he acquired a taste for gambling, women and tennis. He ascended to throne in 1932 at the of Bao Dai was the notorious womanizer and preferred French things to Vietnamese ones. He was also regarded as a gentle, simple man, who occasionally dropped in for tea with peasant families. 18. [Source: David Alexander, Smithsonian magazine, June, 1986 <>]

Bao Dai was a puppet for the French and the Japanese. He tried to assert his independence from the French and make some reforms but as he admitted in his 1980 autobiography Le Dragon d' Amman , "Everything in fact which involved the daily life, the future of my country and my people was forbidden to me. I was nothing but an extra in a play." <>

Judy Stowe wrote in the Independent, "On the advice of his French mentors, Bao Dai (the title, meaning "Keeper of Greatness", was given to him on his enthronement) then returned to Paris to complete his education. Apart from the usual academic subjects, he also learnt riding, tennis, how to drive a car and play poker. These pursuits were later to earn him the reputation of being a playboy monarch. Yet the life style to which the French had introduced him differed little from that of other fashionable young men of noble birth during the 1920s and 1930s. Indeed he was proud of being the first Emperor of the Nguyen dynasty which had ruled Annam since 1802, to have a modern upbringing instead of being constricted by the ancient rites imposed by the court mandarins. [Source: Judy Stowe, The Independent, August 5, 1997 ||||]

"In 1932, therefore, when at the age of 19 Bao Dai returned to his native Hue to assume his royal duties, he sought to introduce some changes to court procedure. Likewise he was eager to see some alleviation of French tutelage over his realm. These hopes proved to be largely in vain. The one small victory he did achieve was the right to choose his own wife rather than enter into an arranged marriage. His choice fell on a young Catholic girl from the south of Vietnam, then known as Cochin-China, who had been educated by French nuns. The fact that she was not Annamese and of royal birth caused shock and consternation in traditional circles. Nevertheless she was duly installed with full court ritual as the Empress Nam Phuong and during the course of the next few years gave birth to two sons and two daughters. "As for Bao Dai, since he could play little more than a ceremonial role in governing Annam, which was still subject to French domination, he devoted himself increasingly to enjoying his private life, which extended to long hunting expeditions in the mountains bordering on Laos and Cambodia. There at least he could escape from the burden of court ritual to a certain degree and, as he stated in his autobiography, Le Dragon d'Annam (1980), see something of his people rather than rows of backs bent in full prostration. ||||

Bao Dai During World War II

Judy Stowe wrote in the Independent, "The outbreak of war in the Pacific in 1941 brought few changes to life in Annam. Unlike the rest of South East Asia where the Japanese brought an end to colonial rule and interned all Europeans, in Indo-China they concluded an agreement with the French to continue administering the territory on condition that Japan would be allowed to station some troops there. As the war progressed this Japanese presence attracted some Allied bombing raids but not in Annam where there were no targets of any significance. Bao Dai was therefore able to continue his life undisturbed until March 1945. [Source: Judy Stowe, The Independent, August 5, 1997 ||||]

"By then Paris had been liberated and the French in Indo-China realising that they were likely to be branded as traitors for having collaborated with the Japanese, began making preparations to welcome an Allied invasion force. This prompted the Japanese to stage a military coup to oust the French administration throughout Indo-China, including Annam. Bao Dai was all the more astonished when on 10 March 1945, a Japanese diplomat paid an official call upon him at the imperial palace in Hue with an invitation for him to proclaim independence for the whole of Vietnam, albeit with a proviso that the country maintain good relations with Tokyo. ||||

"A royal edict to this effect was issued the following day. The Emperor then proceeded to invite prominent dignitaries from all over Vietnam to form its first independent government. But other Vietnamese had different ideas about the country's future. In 1941, the Communist Party under the leadership of Ho Chi Minh and keeping its identity well concealed had launched a movement calling itself the Viet Minh, appealing to all Vietnamese to struggle for the liberation of their country from both Japanese and French domination. This movement was largely confined to the northern mountains bordering China until March 1945, when the French administration was ousted and its troops disarmed by the Japanese. Seizing this opportunity, Viet Minh guerrillas began moving south and spreading their network of contacts throughout the country." ||||

"These moves were scarcely under way when Japan suddenly announced its surrender to the Allied powers on 15 August. This prompted the Viet Minh to stage an uprising in Hanoi and send envoys to Hue to demand that the Emperor abdicate in favor of Ho Chi Minh as President of a new state called the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. In the circumstances, although he knew little about the Viet Minh, or for that matter, Ho Chi Minh, Bao Dai felt he had no option but to comply. ||||

Bao Dai's Abdication and His Life As Post-War Vietnam Struggles for Independence

The Puppet Vietnamese Emperor Bao Dai abdicated on August 25, 1945 at the Belvedere of the Noon gate at the Five Phoenix building in Hue to three emissaries sent by Ho Chi Minh. Dressed in yellow turban and brocaded tunic he stood before a crowd of several thousand people and said: "As for us, we have known great bitterness during the 20 years of our rule. Henceforth, we are happy to assume the status of a free citizen in an independent country," adding "I would rather live as an ordinary citizen of an independent country than be Emperor of a nation of slaves." Bao Dai passed on to Ho Chi Minh's representatives the symbols of his authority: a golden seal and sword with ruby-studded handle. According to the Communist account of the events, one of the representatives lifted the sword skyward to thunderous applause. After his abdication, Bao Dai later wrote that a woman came up and told him: "Your departure is a catastrophe. We will lose everything. It is as if the heavens have fallen on our heads. [Source: David Alexander, Smithsonian magazine, June, 1986]

Initially after the Viet Minh seized power, Bao Dai was given the position of high counselor to the new government. Later he and his wife and their five children moved to Paris. He came back to South Vietnam and lived in Dalat between 1949 and 1955 as the leader of a "nominally-independent" Vietnam but was forced to leave when Ngo Dinh Diem came to power. Judy Stowe wrote in The Independent, after Bao Dai’s abdication "the ex-Emperor, reverting to the name of Vinh Thuy which he was given at birth, made his way to Hanoi at the invitation of Ho Chi Minh to become a special adviser to the new republic. He was accorded a courteous welcome but found his duties less than onerous until in early 1946 he was assigned to head an official mission to Chungking, then the capital of China under President Chiang Kai-shek. [Source: Judy Stowe, The Independent, August 5, 1997 ||||]

"Realising this was a pretext to get him out of Vietnam, Bao Dai declined to return and retired to live in Hong Kong. There he watched from afar as the French returned to Vietnam, tried to reach an agreement with Ho Chi Minh and, when these efforts failed, embarked on full-scale war. He then began to receive feelers from various Vietnamese politicians opposed to the Viet Minh as well as from the French about heading a new State of Vietnam. Since Bao Dai had no wish to be seen as a French puppet, these negotiations were very protracted. In June 1948 he agreed to be flown in a French seaplane to a warship anchored in the picturesque Gulf of Ha Long in northern Vietnam to witness the signing of a document whereby France conceded a measure of independence. He then went on to Paris for further discussions which eventually culminated on 8 March 1949 at the Elysee Palace, where a series of agreements were concluded, leading to the establishment of the State of Vietnam headed by Bao Dai, although no longer as an Emperor with special royal privileges. ||||

"To symbolise his new authority, he immediately flew back to Vietnam to tour the country from Saigon to Hanoi including of course a visit to Hue, his former imperial capital, where the court had been disbanded. He also presided over the establishment of a new government with ministers from all over Vietnam as well as holding discussions with French generals who were still battling against the Viet Minh, about setting up a Vietnamese National Army to join in the fight. Bao Dai then had the satisfaction of seeing the State of Vietnam being accorded diplomatic recognition as an independent country by the Western powers at the end of 1949. A couple of months later, however, Ho Chi Minh, who had been living as a guerrilla in the northern mountains, made a secret visit to Peking and Moscow where he managed to secure Chinese and Soviet recognition for the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. That set the scene for the next stage in the war. ||||

"During the next four years, Bao Dai chose to spend most of his time in France where his children were being educated and where too he could keep a closer eye on the developing international situation. When he did visit Vietnam, it was usually to stay at his villa in the mountain resort of Dalat from where he could once more engage in his favorite sport of hunting.

Meanwhile, with Chinese military aid the Viet Minh were building up their strength in the north of the country. The climax came in May 1954 when after a 57-day siege the Viet Minh succeeded in overwhelming the French garrison at Dien Bien Phu. Fortuitously this occurred on the eve of the opening of a major international conference in Geneva on the future of Indo-China at which Bao Dai played only a backstage role. It resulted amongst other things in an agreement for France to withdraw totally from Indo-China and for Vietnam to be temporarily partitioned between the State of Vietnam in the south and the Democratic Republic of Vietnam in the north. ||||

"At the same time Bao Dai was persuaded, largely as a result of American pressure behind the scenes that the best person to head a strongly anti- Communist government in Saigon was Ngo Dinh Diem, a former mandarin from the court in Hue. That did not endear him to the former Emperor. The feeling was mutual. In 1955, Ngo Dinh Diem staged a referendum throughout the State of Vietnam to decide whether it should become a republic with himself as President. With Bao Dai absent in France and refusing to campaign, the result was unsurprisingly in the affirmative. That marked the end of Bao Dai's official career." ||||

Bao Dai’s Last Years and the Fate of Vietnam’s Royal Family

Vinh Thuy (Bao Dai) toured the country a few times during the Vietnam war and lived briefly in Hong Kong. He lived quietly with his family in Paris, where he died quietly on July 31, 1997. Judy Stowe wrote in the Independent, "Since 1955, although he undoubtedly followed developments in Vietnam closely, he rarely commented on them. Nor did he live as a rich foreign exile. The villa which he occupied in Cannes during the early 1950s was the property of the State of Vietnam. Instead, until his death, he lived in a modest flat in Paris on a French state pension with the occasional donation from Vietnamese living abroad to finance a few foreign trips. [Source: Judy Stowe, The Independent, August 5, 1997 ||||]

Some members of the extended Annamese royal family were hoping that he would emulate the example of King Sihanouk of Cambodia and try to regain his throne. Bao Dai was however a very different character and his direct heirs appear to be content with their life in Western Europe.

Nguyen Vinh Thuy married Marie-Therese Nguyen Huu Hao in 1933. She died 1963. They had two sons and two daughters.

Doan Huy, the Queen mother, wife of Khai Dinh and mother of Bao Dai, stayed in Hue after the abdication. She moved out of the Forbidden Purple City into a two-story stucco house where she died at the age of 91 in 1980. She stayed on in Hue to attend the tombs of her ancestors. In 1974, several years after Hue was decimated in Tet offensive fighting, she said, "I am very sad, exceedingly sad. When I was young, Hue was so beautiful. Then it was ruined." As of 1967 there were a 100,000 Vietnamese that were considered part of the royal family. All of their names were written in a book. One prince in the 1800's alone sired 72 children.

Re-enactment of Vietnamese Royal Procession

In 2006, Grant McCool and Nguyen Van Vinh of Reuters wrote: "Led by a pair of elephants, robed men with red conical hats carry the king on a gilded, silk-tasseled sedan chair. The streets are lined by tens of thousands of excited people. The procession is not in an Asian monarchy such as Thailand or Japan, but at the Hue Festival of arts and culture in Communist Party-ruled Vietnam, which less than a generation ago shunned its feudal past. This seemingly contradictory re-enactment of a royal ritual in communist Vietnam is one highlight of the mid-June festival, where officials are increasingly comfortable displaying the country's royal heritage to promote tourism and development. [Source: By Grant McCool & Nguyen Van Vinh, Reuters, June 28, 2006 |:|]

"The Hue festival is unique in Vietnam because it is not a political event, it is not a celebration of the state, of the party or the revolution," said Michael DiGregorio, arts and culture expert with the U.S. philanthropic Ford Foundation that has funded parts of the two-yearly event since it began in 2000. The king, an actor from a traditional dance troupe, is taken to a temple called Nam Giao or Temple of Heaven. There, he pretends to perform sacrificial rights on a goat, a pig and a buffalo and prays for good rains and his people's prosperity. His performance and those of other actors in the roles of royal court officials are shown live on national television. The central Vietnam city of Hue was the royal capital from 1802 during the Nguyen dynasty until 1945, when the royal family abdicated to the communists. |:|

"About 150,000 people from 52 nations visited the June 3-11, 2006 festival and overall, 1.5 million attended, officials say. There were re-enactments of three royal court ceremonies, including the seven-hour long Nam Giao procession and ceremony in honor of the earth and heavens. It starts at the Imperial City near the northern bank of the Perfume River, crosses the Truong Tien bridge and winds through city streets to the Temple of Heaven and back to the palace. Tens of thousands of people, including throngs of motorbike riders, fill the streets in 35 degrees Celsius heat to see the procession that is the tradition of the Nguyen royal family.

Several generations stand or sit by the roadside and shaven-headed Buddhist monks emerge from their pagodas to watch. The procession of elephants, ponies and people is a moving mass of yellows, reds and blues by the time it comes up the hill leading to the temple. For the old man who plays the role of a mandarin in the ceremony, the occasion is thrilling. "I feel very young now, it takes me back to my childhood," says 83-year-old Duong Thong, who is dressed in red and orange mandarin's robes for his part. "This ceremony was stopped for a long time because of the wars until 2004. Now, it's really good for the people to remember and to live with the old times that are our cultural heritage."

Dragons and the Vietnamese Emperor and Royal Family

According to Vietnam-culture.com: "Like Chinese monarchs, Vietnamese sovereigns chose the dragon as the symbol of their power. But unlike the Chinese dragons, which were shown descending from heaven and spitting fire, the Vietnamese dragons were shown ascending from water. Though imposing and fierce, the Vietnamese dragons were never threatening. That dragons, or long, associated with royalty, are revealed by the names given to the king's personal effects and person, such as long con (royal tunics), long chau (royal boat), long thi (royal person), and long dien (royal countenance). [Source:Vietnam-culture.com vietnam-culture.com ^*^]

Dragons were also associated with kingship. Every Vietnamese person knows the legend of Lac Long Quan and Au Co. Lac Long Quan (King Dragon of the Lac Bird Clan) is known as the forefather of the Vietnamese people. He is said to have been the son of a dragon, while his wife, Au Co, was the child of a fairy. Their eldest son, King Hung, taught the people to tattoo their chests, bellies and thighs with dragon images to protect themselves from aquatic monsters. A flying dragon is a symbol for royalty. A pearl with a flaming tail pursued by a dragon is the symbol of the emperor. ^*^

During the Ly Dynasty (11th to early 13th centuries), the dragon became a common decorative motif in plastic arts. In the royal edict on the transfer of the capital to Thang Long in 1010, it was written: "The Capital is chosen due to the lay of the land, which affects a coiling dragon and a sitting tiger". Legend has it that on the sunny day when the royal barge landed at Dai La, the king saw a golden dragon rise into the sky. Taking this as a good omen, he named the new capital Thang Long, or City of the Soaring Dragon. The modern city of Hanoi stands on this same site. ^*^

The Ly king had a cluster of shops and inns built up to the walls of an ancient temple once dedicated to the dragon deity. One night, the dragon deity revealed himself in the form of a violent northerly wind, which knocked down all of the houses but left the temple intact. Following this event, the king cheerfully proclaimed: "This is the Dragon God, who takes his charge over earthly affairs". ^*^

The Ly dragon was derived from India's mythical Naga, which Southeast Asian peoples influenced by Indian mythology had transformed into a sea god. The Ly depiction of the dragon is both sophisticated and unique. The dragon's elaborate head is raised, flame-coloured crest thrust out, a jewel held in its jaws. Its mane, ears and beard flutter gracefully behind, while its lithe, undulating body soars above the waves. The dragon was usually depicted inside a stone, a piece of wood, a bodhi leaf, or a lotus petal. Dragon images appear on the pedestals of statues of Amitabha Avalokitecvara (Kwan Kin), on cylindrical stone pillars in the hall dedicated to heaven in Thang Long Citadel, and on a five meter-high hexagonal stone pillar in Giam Pagoda in Bac Ninh province. The latter is considered by art historians to be a colossal linga. Lingas symbolize the male Yang element, while dragons symbolize the Yin element. ^*^

During the Tran Dynasty (early 13th to end of 14th centuries), the dragon retained the sophisticated style of the Ly dragon, yet changed to reflect the greater authority of the dynasty which defeated invading Mongol forces three times. The image became more detailed, with a large head, forked horn, four fierce a claws (stone carving in Boi Khe Pagoda), and a massive, rounded body, covered in carp scales (Pho Minh Pagoda).

The dragon took on a whole new appearance under the Le Dynasty (early 15th to end of 18th centuries). With a raised head, forked horn, wide forehead, prominent nose, large, forceful eyes, five claws, and two splayed feet, a dragon crept up the balustrade of Kinh Thien Hall's central staircase. This fierce and imposing dragon was clearly a symbol of royal authority. Examples of Le era dragons may be found carved in stone in Co Loa Temple, carved on wooden doors in Keo Pagoda, and carved in the royal stone bed in Dinh Temple. The Nguyen Dynasty (early 19th to mid 20th centuries) had dragons much like those of the Le. The top ridges of palace roofs were decorated with undulating dragons covered in sparkling porcelain tiles. ^*^

Imperial Order of the Dragon of Annam

The Imperial Order of Dragon of Annam was created on 14th of March 1886 in the ancient Vietnamese city of Hue, by His Majesty, The Imperial Emperor of Vietnam, Emperor Dong-Khanh, ancestor of the current Grand Master, His Imperial Highness Prince Regent Nguyen-phuc Buu Chanh of Vietnam. The Order was originally created to reward and acknowledge those outstanding individuals who had performed both military and, non-military services to the Imperial Vietnamese House of Annam. [Source: imperialvietnam.net *+*]

In 1976, after the fall of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, the Order was abolished by the Communist government of the day, however it was never a communist award and the "fons honorum" always rested with the Imperial House of Annam. At times during its honoured and revered history the Order of the Dragon of Annam was also bestowed by the French Colonial Government, and later the Republic of South Vietnam. However, the Order always was, and to this day remains the real, personal and dynastic property of the Imperial Vietnamese House of Annam. *+*

In October 2002, the Imperial Order of the Dragon of Annam was solemnly re-established under the protection of the Imperial Nguyen Dynasty of Vietnam, according to the Chapters and Articles established by the Order. The Order was re-established by His Imperial Highness Prince Nhiep Chinh Nguyen-Phuoc Buu Chanh of Vietnam, with himself as Provisional Grand Master. *+*

Solemn ceremonies for the re-establishment of the Order of the Dragon of Annam were also co-ordinated in the United States, and held at Quang Minh Tu Temple in Illinois; the Bat Nha Buddhist Temple in Santa Anna, California; the Quan Am Tinh Xa Temple in California; the Phap Duyen Tinh Xa Temple, San Jose, California; Buu Mon Temple in Temple of Port Arthur, Texas; Co Lam Tu Temple in Seattle, Washington State. This was in association with the wishes of HIH Prince Nhiep Chinh Nguyen-Phuoc Buu Chanh and the Imperial Nguyen Family. *+*

Imperial Dragon Ring of Vietnam

According to Vietnamese legend, the People of Vietnam descended from the Dragon King Lac Long Quan and his wife, the Water Fairy Au Co. The most important and Sacred Symbol of Vietnam, the Dragon is a symbol of kingship, sovereignty, wisdom, good luck and health. Endowed with mystical and supernatural powers [Tu Linh] and known in Vietnamese as Con Long, or Con Rong, the Dragon is often the essence of many traditional stories, tales, fables, legends and myths. It is endeared and revered by Vietnamese as a creature of fantasy, imagination and intrigue. [Source: imperialvietnam.net *+*]

The Dragon Ring of the Imperial Nguyen Dynasty of Vietnam is an Insignia Ring traditionally worn the Vietnamese Emperor to designate one's Blessing, Authority and Jurisdiction.:"A Traditional Symbol of Kingship and Sovereignty, the Bestowal of the Dragon Ring is indicative of being Anointed the Successor to the Throne." Throughout history, the Dragon Ring was often used by the Emperor to seal public proclamations and other official documents; it was also affixed onto private correspondence. "To all and sundry throughout the realm, sighting the emperor's distinctive imprimatur was sufficient enough to obtain and compel the consent of court attendants, officials, government authorities and the general populace throughout the land to accede to and obey the Emperor's declarations, commands, summons and edicts without question. *+*

Formerly belonging to the late Emperor Khai Dinh—who reigned from May 1916 to November 1925—the Dragon Ring is the most treasured and Sacred Heirloom and possession of the Imperial Nguyen Dynasty of Vietnam which today. *+*

Reestablishing the Imperial Order Of the Dragon of Annam

According to an Imperial Decree issued on October 30, 2002 (September 25, Year of the Horse of the traditional Vietnamese calendar) the Imperial Order of the Dragon of Annam was re-established by Provisional Grand Master, Prince Regent Nguyen-phuc Buu Chanh of Vietnam, Duke of Kien Hoa. [Source: imperialvietnam.net *+*]

The decree read: "By the command of the Imperial Nguyen Dynasty of Vietnam, and the sacred succession of Our beloved Imperial Nguyen Forefathers and Ancestor Emperors, AND acting in pursuit of the cause of the complete liberation of our fatherland from her modern day oppressors, and as of the auspicious date of 30 October 2002, on the ninth hour of the morning, Central Standard Time of the United States of America, (which is the twenty-fifth of September, of the Year of the Horse), the Imperial Order of the Dragon of Annam is solemnly re-established under the protection of the Imperial Nguyen Dynasty of Vietnam, according to the Chapters and Articles established by the Order. *+*

His Imperial Highness Prince Regent Nguyen-phuc Buu Chanh of Vietnam, Duke of Kien Hoa, Descendant of His Imperial Highness Prince Nguyen Phuc Mien Dieu, Duke of Kien Hoa, the 71st Prince of His Imperial Majesty Emperor Minh Mang, is recognized as Provisional Grand Master. THE Imperial Order of the Dragon of Annam is re-established so as to honor and recognize those brave and fearless patriots who contribute to the noble struggle to bring liberation, independence, national unification, freedom, cultural rejuvenation and assistance to the people and country of Vietnam. *+*

The Imperial Order of the Dragon of Annam is re-established with the intent to further the cause of the Freedom of the Nation of Vietnam and to unite all of our people under a free and democratic traditional government. We charge that this imperial decree be recognised and respected by all who value freedom.*+*

The Order of the Dragon of Annam had lain in abeyance since 1975 years following the tragic events that unfolded in the Fatherland of Vietnam and the communist take over. And although the Order had been awarded by both the French Colonial Government, and also the Republic of the South, it was then and has always been the Real, Personal and Dynastic property of the Imperial Nguyen Family of Vietnam. In late 2002, the Imperial Nyugen Family proudly announced the restoration of the Order of the Dragon of Annam as a way of bestowing both Honor and Recognition to those Brave and Fearless Patriots who advance the struggle for the liberation of Vietnamese liberation, for the benefit of the Vietnamese People, and to encourage and protect the sacred traditional culture of Vietnam. *+*

The Order's re-establishment in the 21st century began at exactly 9:00am (US Central Standard Time) on October 20, 2002, (which is September 25, of the Year of the Horse of the traditional Vietnamese calendar). That exact time was chosen as being especially auspicious after Prince Regent Nguyen-phuc Buu Chanh of Vietnam, Duke of Kien Hoa, discussed the re-establishment, and sought the advice of several venerable prophets of the Buddhist Faith. Since the restoration of the Order was announced the Imperial Family has received a tremendous amount of support, and were congratulated by leading members of the Buddhist, Roman Catholic, Protestant and Cao Dai Faiths as well as leading political dignitaries and prominent members of the Vietnamese exile community. *+*

Solemn ceremonies for the re-establishment of the Order of the Dragon of Annam were held at a number of very esteemed Religious Temples on the morning of the restoration. They included: 1) Buddhist Venerable Thich Quang The, Chairman of Quang Minh Tu Temple in Illinois, which included a number of members of the Imperial Nguyen Dynasty in attendance. 2) Great Buddhist Venerable Thich Nguyen Tri, Chairman of Bat Nha Buddhist Temple in Santa Anna, California (local time is 7 AM) including two representatives of His Imperial Highness the Prince of Kien Hoa and other members of the Imperial Family. 3) Buddhist Venerable Thich Giac Minh, Chairman of Quan Am Tinh Xa Temple will celebrate at 7 AM at the Temple in El Monte, California which also included two representatives of the Provisional Grand Master, His Imperial Highness Prince Regent Nguyen-phuc Buu Chanh of Vietnam of Vietnam, Duke of Kien Hoa and members of the Nguyen Dynasty. 4) Great Buddhist Supreme Venerable Thich Giac Luong, Chairman of Phap Duyen Tinh Xa Temple celebrated at 7 AM in San Jose, California with two representatives of the Prince of Kien Hoa and members of the Nguyen Imperial Family. 5) Great Buddhist Venerable Thich Huyen Viet, Chairman of Buu Mon Temple held the ceremony in the Temple of Port Arthur, Texas at 9 AM. 6) Respected Buddhist Venerable Thich Nguyen An, Chairman of Co Lam Tu Temple held celebrations in the Temple in Seattle, Washington State at 7 AM. 7) The Provisional Grand Master, His Imperial Highness Prince Regent Nguyen-phuc Buu Chanh of Vietnam of Vietnam, and his wife Princess Phan Lien Buu also received sacred news and good wishes for the future of the Nguyen Dynasty, the Nation and the People of Vietnam. by the Venerable Buddhist clergy. *+*

The Imperial Nguyen Family has also asked all concerned people, and all Vietnamese patriots, to pray for the restored Order, and also for the struggle of the Monarchist movement toward the liberation of Vietnam. In future, the Order throughout the world will celebrate the 30th October as the Order's Feast Day, and prayers are asked of all people, of all religious creeds pray for the success of the Order in a free Vietnam at 9 AM US Central Standard Time or its equivalent in their area on that date. *+*

The Imperial Order of the Dragon of Annam is the Real, Personal and Dynastic property of the Imperial Nguyen Dynasty of Vietnam In the West an order of chivalry is considered extinct 100 years after the death of the last Knight of that Order. On the 30 October 2002, there were still many Knights of the Imperial Order of the Dragon of Annam living, therefore historically the Order has never been regarded in the West as being extinct. The French Colonial version of this Order (known as the Order of the Green Dragon of Annam or 'Ordre du Dragon Vert'), was placed in abeyance by the President of France, however this in no way impacted on the history, or the linial descent of the Imperial Order of the Dragon. *+*

New Prince Regent of the Nguyen Dynasty

In July 2004, in a solemn Bestowal of the Dragon Ring ceremony held in Washington D.C., Nhiep Chinh Nguyen Phuc Buu Chanh of Vietnam was anointed the new Prince Regent, His Imperial Highness Prince Regent of Imperial Nguyen Dynasty of Vietnam. [Source: imperialvietnam.net *+*]

The Most Venerable Hòa Thng Thích Giác Minh presented His Imperial Highness Prince Nhiep Chinh Nguyen Phuc Buu Chanh of Vietnam with the Imperial Nguyen Family Dragon-Ring. This most treasured and sacred Imperial Family gold ring, formerly belonging to the late Emperor Khai Dinh. This scared ring was presented in the presence Her Imperial Highness Cong Nuong Princess Phan Lien, Respectable and Loyal Members of the Imperial Nguyen Family, Official and Honorable Guests, Respected Religious Venerables, Respected and Imperial Dignitaries, High-Ranking Military Officials and Members of the Vietnamese Diaspora. *+*

The Dragon Ring - customarily presented by the Dowager Empress to the Anointed Successor to the Throne - had long been entrusted to the custody of the Most Venerable Hoa Thng Thich Giac Minh by the Dowager Empress Doan Huy Hoang Thi Hau Tu Cung, who was the Consort of the late Emperor Khai Dinh, and the mother of Vietnam's last Reigning Monarch, the late Emperor Bao Dai. *+*

Effective from the date of this most Solemn and Significant Ceremony, His Imperial Highness Prince Nhiep Chinh Nguyen Phuc Buu Chanh of Vietnam became Prince Regent and - acting by official mandate and authority accorded by Imperial Edict of His Imperial Majesty Bao Dai, the late Emperor of Vietnam, and with adherence to his prerogatives, rights and responsibilities as Regent of Vietnam - he became the rightful and legal Grand Master of the Imperial Order of the Dragon of Annam. *+*

In late 2004, a pretender Grand Master announced himself to the world. This (non-speaking), part Vietnamese gentleman attempted to organize a mirror organization based on the Order of Saint Lazarus on Reunion Island. This gentleman is the natural son of the late Emperor His Imperial Majesty Duy Tan. Such an organization is non-Vietnamese and was set up initially by a small group of several very crass Americans, none of whom had ever spent a day in the military, and all of whom it should be noted went to great lengths to avoid being drafted during the Vietnam War. This group were also involved with the Hanoi government in an attempt to obtain communist honours for themselves, much to the disgust of the Vietnamese Diaspora. *+*

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Vietnamtourism. com, Vietnam National Administration of Tourism, CIA World Factbook, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Global Viewpoint (Christian Science Monitor), Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, Fox News and various websites, books and other publications identified in the text.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated May 2014

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