2/27/2023 3:21:54 PM
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Khiem Cung Ky stele at Khiem tomb of emperor Tu Duc
Khiem Cung Ky is the stele with the epitaph written by emperor Tu Duc himself (1848-1883) in 1871. Rectangular stele has two sides decorated with the same pattern but different inscriptions. The top is in gong shape carved with “dragon and cloud” motif consisting of dragon face above and twisted tail below, surrounded with clouds and fired balls. Four stele ears are carved with four dragons, in which the two upper ears carved in relief with “flying dragon” while four lower ears carved in relief with “dragon turning its head”. The stele border is embossed with “two dragons flanking the sun”, “flying dragon”, “descending dragon”. The pedestal is in kneeling feet shape and carved elaborately: the outside surface embossed and engraved with dragon, cloud, lion mask and repeated S-shaped pattern. The stele and its pedestal are put on a bi-level thanh stone base with step system.

All the steles at the royal tombs of the Nguyen emperors are written by the successive emperors [1] with the content referring to the merits, virtue of the dead emperor, called Thanh duc than cong bi ky. Particularly Khiem Cung Ky stele was written by emperor Tu Duc and the content recording the process of building the tomb, depicting the tomb landscapes and expressing his heart to the country and private things. Therefore, Khiem Cung Ky stele is a unique one, not identical with any other stele. This is the stele that has the most number of inscriptions in Vietnam with 4,935 Chinese characters carved on both sides of the stele. Particularly, it is also the only stele that preserves the pen strokes of the author of the epitaph – emperor Tu Duc. Thus, in terms of plastic arts, fine art decoration and carving techniques, Khiem Cung Ky stele has the most unique form in the tomb steles of the Nguyen dynasty.

Khiem Cung Ky stele meets the characteristics of the stele style under the Nguyen dynasty (rectangle, gong-shaped top, four corners have stele ears, etc.). Particularly, Khiem Cung Ky stele has been placed in a high stele house bounded by four large pillars, creating a comprehensive matching in the magnificent space of the Khiem tomb.

The content of the epitaph not only records the mind of an emperor in the difficult state of the country with many challenges and changes but also provides information about the feng shui landscape surrounding the tomb area of the emperor. Whereby, the location of emperor Tu Duc's tomb was selected in close relationship with other monuments according to the owner’s will.

Considering the plastic arts, fine art decoration and content of stele, Khiem Cung Ky stele has the most unique form and content in the same type of stone stele in Vietnam.

[1] The inscriptions in Tu tomb of emperor Dong Khanh were written by emperor Khai Dinh and inscribed in 1917, after emperor Khai Dinh's enthronement.

In 2015, the Khiem Cung Ky stele were recognized as the National Treasures of Vietnam.

- 3600 view of  Khiem Cung Ky stele:


Hue Royal Antiquities Museum
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