Mausoleum of nanny

Group 9, Ninh Hiep Ward, Ninh Hoa Town, Khanh Hoa Province

  • Certification: 230826164558
  • National monuments

Mausoleum of Nanny (also known as Mausoleum of Wet Nurse), is located at Group 9, Ninh Hiep Ward, Ninh Hoa Town, Khanh Hoa Province.

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Mausoleum of Nanny is the place to bury the woman who helped Lord Nguyen Phuc Anh (later King Gia Long) through his tribulation during the war against the Tay Son Dynasty. The work was directed by the King to be built according to the mausoleum architecture to repay the favor, so the folk called it a mausoleum.

Upstream of history, from 1775 onwards, Khanh Hoa was a land of frequent disputes between the Tay Son army and the Nguyen Lord’s army. The book Dai Nam Thuc Luc [1]  of the National History of the Nguyen Dynasty records: Nguyen Anh has sent troops to invade Binh Khang (present day Khanh Hoa) 5 times.

When fighting against the Tay Son Dynasty, Nguyen Anh failed many times and let the remnants of his army flee. Once when he ran to My Hiep village, the food was exhausted and he was sick; the soldiers were both hungry and exhausted.…the situation was dire. In the dark of night, Nguyen Anh and his entourage knocked on a resident’s door to ask for a bowl of rice to help their stomachs. The owner of the house (it was said she was Mrs. Truong Thi Tiem) was moved with compassion, so she invited Nguyen Anh and his entourage to rest in the house. After that, she asked her maids kill pigs for meat and cook rice for everyone as well as provide extra food for the journey. As for Nguyen Anh, in addition to giving medication, she also gave him some milk to drink to recover quickly. Thanks to that dedicated care and kind treatment, Nguyen Anh soon recovered from his illness, the generals and soldiers gradually recovered their health to continue pulling troops to the South.

After Nguyen Anh unified the country, he ascended the throne and named the title Gia Long. Remembering the grace of the people who helped him in the past, the King sent someone to My Hiep village to take the old woman to the capital to take care of her. However, when the messenger arrived, the old woman was already dead. To show his gratitude, King Gia Long posthumously conferred upon her the title of “Wet Nurse” (the nanny). At the same time, the King ordered the Ministry of Public Works to appoint some good craftsmen who were building the king’s palace in the capital at that time to My Hiep, to coordinate with local workers to build a mausoleum for the Nanny with specifications of mausoleums for the royal family. The tomb area was built for two years, from 1802 to 1804. The inauguration ceremony was held in a very sizable manner and was directly presided over by the head of the province.

Besides, because she did not have descendants to smoke incense and sacrifice, the King granted land to people in the region without paying tax so that they could hold her death anniversary (orally on 16th day of 12th lunar month). Every year, on the anniversary of her death, dignitaries and villagers gather to celebrate the death anniversary with great solemnity. Since then, the lighting incense and offerings at Mausoleum of Nanny are still performed by Khanh Hoa’s mandarins according to the spring and autumn two-period custom. Today, the Relic Management Board, along with the local authorities and people, still organizes the anniversary of the Nanny’s death on the 16th day of 12th lunar month  every year.

Mausoleum of Nanny is located on an area of 1,766 m2, the mausoleum has an area of 291m2. In front of the mausoleum is a large open space used to plant flowers and ornamental plants; the farthest forward is a rectangular lake. According to the old concept, the relic with a beautiful location must has a lake in front which is a place of gathering water as an element of enlightenment. And behind Nanny’s Mausoleum is a fake mountain covered with soil as a post-occipital element, but for many reasons now the fake mountain no longer exists.

The mausoleum facing the East has a structure of 3 layers of walls:    

- La Thanh: It is surrounded by a rectangular shape. On the tops of both sides of the gate are 2 lying unicorns made from lime and mortar and painted with very vivid and sharp colors. The outside is plastered with stucco, the inside is decorated with scenes. On the two corners of the front wall, the couplets were originally embossed, but now most of the words have faded; under the two unicorns are embossed with two words “Phuc” (Good luck).

- Buu Thanh: It is rectangular in shape. On the gate on both sides, there are also 2 unicorns in the position of putting one foot on the ball. The entire interior and exterior are decorated with boxes, covered with patterns and scenes with colored mortar.

- Uynh Thanh: It is the innermost wall that surrounds the grave. It is in oval shape. The top of the wall is undulating like a saddle. The wall is shaped like two unicorns with their tails wrapped around each other, the two heads lying on the gate. The body of the wall is divided into boxes and covered with landscape patterns.

From the outside to the inside, in addition to the three walls mentioned above, there is also a feng shui wall, a stele, a grave and an incense altar. The unique features that make up the value of Mausoleum of Nanny are construction materials and decorative patterns.

- Materials: The mausoleum is built with traditional mortar according to the technique of the Nguyen Dynasty, known locally as “ancient concrete” or three-mix mortar. The researchers believe that this compound is made by mixing materials including: coarse sand, crushed oyster lime, pulp, molasses, Litsea tree sap (or slime from crushed Bodhi leaf). The materials are mixed together in a certain ratio and whether the structure is sustainable or not depends on the mixing ratio of the artist.

- Decorative patterns: The box system is spread throughout the space of each wall surrounding the Tomb. The theme of the scenes is adapted from ancient scenes such as: Twenty four filial piety, Tang Dynasty monk and students’ trip for sutras, Mountain and Water, Eight Fairies, Cedrus trees, Willow, Two Phoenixes, etc. These scenes represent the ethereal and pure lifestyle of a gentleman, the moral sense of being a human being…to express the principle of “Drinking water, remember the source”.

The large boxes are decorated with swastikas or stylized vines. Especially in the incense altar area, the decorative motifs are shown in quite detail. This is considered as the throne of worship, which is also the main point of the Mausoleum area. In addition to decorative motifs, there is also a stele in Chinese Nom with the content praising the virtue of the Nanny.

The decorative art in Mausoleum of Nanny has reached perfection, from the overall to the textures and patterns. The system of lines and block arrays shows unity, tight layout in a narrow space, with main arrays, sub-arrays, creating a harmonious and well-matched overall. The artisans skillfully used introspective shapes and lines in each box detail, as well as the arrangement of adoring unicorns in La Thanh, Buu Thanh or two dragons in Uynh Thanh... This creates aesthetic effect, bringing a cozy feeling to the Tomb area.

Mausoleum of Nanny was classified as a national historical-cultural relic in 1999.  The relic not only has the moral meaning “Drinking water, remember the source” but also has great architectural and artistic value reflecting the talent of the artists under the Nguyen Dynasty.

[1] National History of Nguyen Dynasty (2007), Dai Nam Thuc Luc, Education Press, Ha Noi.