Don’t dig your own grave, build it yourself

By Quynh Tran   July 7, 2020 | 12:21 pm GMT+7
Truong Vinh Ky, a renowned polyglot and scholar of 19th century, designed his own tomb and oversaw its construction till he passed away.
Don’t dig your own grave, build it yourself

The tomb of Truong Vinh Ky (1837 - 1898) stands on a land lot of about 2,000 square meters at the intersection of Tran Hung Dao and Tran Binh Trong streets in Ho Chi Minh City.

Ky was a well known politician, writer, and social scientist of the 19th century in Vietnam. Also known as Petrus Ky, he spoke at least 10 languages and is survived by more than 100 works in literature, history, geography, dictionary and translation.

Don’t dig your own grave, build it yourself

The main gate to the tomb is on Tran Hung Dao Street, District 5. Although he was Christian, the gate and other aspects reveal a strong Buddhist influence. The gate has three roof layers and curved roof corners like pagodas and temples.

Don’t dig your own grave, build it yourself

The 50-square-meter tomb house was built in a French architectural style, while the details carry both Eastern and Western motifs.

Don’t dig your own grave, build it yourself

From the cross atop the tomb, fish-scale tiles with embossed dragon carvings flow down on all sides.

Don’t dig your own grave, build it yourself

The entrance of the tomb reads: "Fons Vitae Eruditio Possidentis" in Latin. It can be translated roughly as “Knowledge is a source of life for those who own it.”

Don’t dig your own grave, build it yourself

There are three doors and five walls with ventilation openings. Chinese writings can be found on either side of the doors.

Don’t dig your own grave, build it yourself

There are three tombs in the mausoleum. Truong Vinh Ky’s in the middle and the others are that of his wife Vuong Thi Tho and his son Truong Vinh The.

Don’t dig your own grave, build it yourself

Truong Vinh Ky’s tomb reads J.B. Petrus Truong Vinh Ky. It mentions the year of his death and adds a few lines about his family background. His French religious name was given to him as a child when he was born in the Mekong Delta province of Ben Tre.

Don’t dig your own grave, build it yourself

A bust of the scholar in front of an altar.

Don’t dig your own grave, build it yourself

The ceiling features a painting of a horse-dragon surrounded by clouds.

Don’t dig your own grave, build it yourself

The site of the tombs also hosts an old house built by Truong Vinh Ky in 1886. The house, which has undergone a minor renovation, is currently home to the scholar’s descendants.

 
 
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