An Emotional Visit to the Grave of a Vietnamese Legend, The Keeper of Grandeur.
Visiting the magnificent tombs of the Vietnamese emperors in Hue, many people wonder about the tomb of the last emperor, Bao Dai and how history treats him as the last Emperor of the Nguyen Dynasty.
As a culture and history savvy Vietnamese, I always want to learn more about our history and I am passionate about Bao Dai’s inspiration life and what he did for the independence, freedom and unity of the Vietnamese nation. His opulent life story inspired me to create our project, Emperor Cruises, and write the book you now have in your hands. I am very grateful to our last emperor and have recently been to pay my respects at his tomb in Paris.
Sadly, like many other Vietnamese, I didn’t know much about his life before I started work on this project. The reign of Bao Dai and Nguyen Dynasty were portrayed in a very negative way according to the propaganda of the communist regime. However, from my own research it is clear that he was a reformer, patriot, and democrat. The ruling party cast doubt on his role in the turmoil of Vietnamese history, Tran Trong Kim goverment without providing proper evidence, in relation to his advisory role to Ho Chi Minh and the government in Hanoi and even the disputed islands off the coast of Vietnam.
Under his rule the facts show that he actually successfully maintained and controlled the Hoang Sa and Truong Sa archipelagos until his abdication in 1945. It was the majesty to declared the independence from France for Vietnam for the first time on 11 March 1945. Coincidently I have founded LuxGroup (www.luxgroup.vn) in the same date and month just after 60 years.
I’m sad to see the beautiful heritage French villa where he lived with Mong Diep in Hanoi in a poor state. His home in Nha Trang has been damaged and converted to a resort and others are not well restored or cared for at all. This is the reason why I am publishing this book tilted “Emperor’s Best-Kept Secrets” to share my humble knowledge and to help you to understand the Emperor Bao Dai story and the importance of the name of The Keeper of Greatness. His greatness even surpasses the emperor of China according to the Hue researcher, Nguyen Dac Xuan.
The biannual Hue Festival would be a good opportunity to celebrate the contributions of the Nguyen Dynasty, including the last Emperor of Vietnam, and make the festival more meaningful rather than a series of gaudy activities.I had occasion to travel to France and say Bonjour Paris! I speak French and Vietnamese, the same languages as the Emperor Bao Dai, and have travelled to Paris numerous times since my first visit in 1995. The emperor passed away in 1997 and a visit to Paris is always an emotional one for me.
This year I was able to pay respects to His Majesty Bao Dai by visiting his tomb, remembering one of the most important people in Vietnamese history. Passy Cemetery is located in the Boulevard Paul Doumer, named after the former general governor of Indochina (Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia); the Long Bien Bridge over the Red River in Hanoi was also originally named after him. Passy is easily reached from the Trocadero metro station or the hop-on, hop-off Big Bus stop to visit the nearby Eiffel Tower. If you stay in the Shangri-La Hotel Paris, Bao Dai’s tomb, the Guimet Museum, the Palais de Chailot and the Eiffel Tower are all within walking distance.
There is a small flower boutique at the entrance of the Passy Cemetery where I bought flowers to leave on Bao Dai’s tomb. I was fortunate enough to meet a very friendly cemetery keeper who showed me around and provided information about the history of this place, the celebrities of France and colonies who are buried here. We also discussed Emperor Bao Dai at length.
Small but famous, Passy Cemetery is located in the 16th arrondissement, near the Palais de Chaillot. It opened in 1820 on the site of a very old cemetery and houses around 2,000 graves of many aristocrats and some of the most successful people in France.
In the early 19th century, on the orders of Napoleon I, Emperor of France, all the cemeteries in Paris were replaced by several large new ones outside the precincts of the capital. Montmartre Cemetery was built in the north, Pere Lachaise Cemetery in the east, and Montparnasse Cemetery in the south.
Located on a hill above the Trocadero in a bower of chestnut trees, the cemetery is entered through a monuments gate, created by architect Berger. The monuments on the graves from the past two centuries were made using white local stone, but latterly are made of marble and granite. Almost every tombstone features a fine monument or intriguing sculpture.
As you wander around the cemetery you will find the resting place of the artist Manet, the composer Debussy, members of the Russian Tsars Romanov family and the Grimaldi royal family, and Maria Bashkirtseva, the Russian painter, who was buried here in 1884. Her tomb is in the middle of the cemetery, around which can be found the tombs of great political figures, tycoons and many high-profile historical characters. In contrast to the hustle and bustle of the Trocadero, the cemetery of Passy is peaceful, with just the sound of birdsong.
Entering Passy cemetery, turn left, and take a small alley bordered by old trees which will take you to the tomb of Emperor Bao Dai. The eternal resting place of the Emperor of Vietnam is in a quiet and simple place in the very heart of Paris. His memorial is just a simple marble tomb-stone, with the Eiffel Tower as a backdrop, adorned by flowers left by visitors.
The 13th Emperor of Nguyen Dynasty is believed to have been buried at 13:00 hours on 31 July 1997 according to Nguyen Dac Xuan. Throughout his life, Bao Dai was linked to the unlucky number 13. His marble tomb was built by his son Nguyen Phuoc Bao An, one of his 13 children, who is now living in the USA, his youngest son by his lover Le Phi Anh in Dalat.
Bao Dai, the last Emperor of Vietnam, shares his final resting place with celebrities, artist as well as other politicians. It is an emotional experience for me to visit his tomb as a Vietnamese who is researching and writing the last pages of this book about his life, which inspired me to create the Emperor Cruises brand (www.emperorcruises.com)
As I take my leave of his tomb, I wish him a peaceful rest in the place he now calls home, France. Historians will recall his name and give him his rightful position in Vietnamese history. Before he passed away in Paris he was interviewed by the journalist Frederic Mitterrand, the nephew of the former French president, François Mitterrand. His answer to the last question about the importance in Vietnamese history of his reign was “Let our people and history judge me.”