Vietnam Redo: Emperors and Gods

(Hue, Vietnam, part 2)

Emperors and gods are sometimes (usually!) indistinguishable. In Asia, and especially looming China, central authority assumes the mantle of power that speaks of earth and heaven at the same time. People outside the palaces and forts in past political cycles hustled like serfs to fulfill the divine goals, but little was publicly disclosed about how the ruler(s) objectives are developed or executed. Vietnam’s governments before colonization and into the 20th Century, including the Nguyen Dynasty, adopted this model of social and practical leadership — emanating from richly robed sovereigns ensconced in elaborate enclaves clustered around the city of Hue, in central Vietnam.

Their mausoleums and tombs, preserved today in the forests scattered around the city, are as elaborate as the original households — the servants, soldiers and administrators memorialized in larger-than-life stone monuments.