An unclassified peak inside Nguyen Dynasty library

By Vo Thanh   January 26, 2020 | 04:00 am PT
Under the Nguyen Dynasty, Vietnam's last royals, a library built on a lake in Hue Imperial Citadel safeguarded classified documents.

The imperial library stands in the middle of Ngoc Hai Lake in Hue's Thuan Loc Ward.

According to official records, it was constructed in 1825 under King Minh Mang who ruled from 1791 to 1841, the second emperor of the Nguyen Dynasty (1802-1945).


The only way to reach the library is via a stone bridge.

The king picked this location to prevent the library from catching fire or attracting termites and for its great ventilation.


King Minh Mang mobilized over 1,000 people to construct the two-level building using bricks and stones.

The upper floor has 70 compartments and two wings with many doors and balustrades to avoid humidity caused by Hue's rainy weather. All important documents are stored on this floor.

The ground floor has 11 compartments and is coated with sulfur to eliminate ants, cockroaches and termites.


Due to wars, the structure was severely damaged and many important documents have long been lost.

In 2015, Hue Monuments Conservation Center spent VND24.8 billion (over $1 million) to restore the library, placing the reference documents on display.


During the Nguyen Dynasty, the library stored documents of different ministries, treaties signed with France on land and right to rule different regions of the nation, and diplomatic documents with China. It also kept many woodblocks manuscripts and nation's historic documents.

Before 1945, this place already stored 12,000 volumes of land records from the reign of King Gia Long (first emperor of the Nguyen Dynasty) and King Minh Mang alone.


The stone staircase connecting the first and second floor.

With the Nguyen Dynasty overthrown, the library ceased operations.


Bookshelves line the walls of the royal library.


Nguyen Dynasty encyclopaedias on display.


The reading room after restoration.

go to top