BAO DAI, THE LAST EMPEROR OF VIET NAM
 

H. M. Bao-Dai, the last Vietnamese Emperor of the Nguyen Dynasty, whose nickname was Vinh-Thuy, was born at Hue in 1913. He was the 13th emperor since Gia-Long (1802-1819), the founder of the Nguyen Dynasty, which ruled the Vietnamese people during the 19th and first half of the 20th century (1802-1945). Bao-Dai was the son of Khai-Dinh and succeeded to his father's throne in 1925.

On March 24, 1934, he married a Catholic South Vietnamese girl named Jeanette Nguyen-Huu-Hao, the later Empress Nam-Phuong. She gave birth to two princes, Bao-Long, the crown prince and Bao-Thang, and three princesses: Phuong-Mai, Phuong-Lien, and Phuong-Dung. Empress Nam-Phuong died in France on September 19, 1963.

On August 25, 1945, Bao-Dai abdicated when the communist Viet-Minh seized power. He then lived in exile in Hong Kong until 1949 when, with the support of the French, he returned as Chief of State.

On October 23, 1955, more than a year after the French defeat at Dien-Bien-Phu (on May 7, 1954) Bao-Dai was over thrown by a referendum and his Prime Minister Ngo-Dinh-Diem declared South Vietnam a Republic on October 26, 1955. Diem became its first president.

I. Indo-China

Portraits of Bao-Dai appear on many stamps on Indochina. A set of eleven, Scott #171-181, was issued in 1936 for use in Annam (Central Viet Nam). Two more stamps were issued in September and November 1942, Scott #233-234. One stamp portraying his wife, Empress Nam-Phuong, was issued September 1, 1942, Scott #216.

The last triennial Festival of Nam-Giao was held March 29, 1942. It was solemnly celebrated at Hue by Bao-Dai himself. Scott #213-214 depict a harnessed elephant on parade in front of Dan-Nam-Giao (Central podium of the festival celebration).

 

II. Viet Nam

Bao-Dai also appears on stamps of Viet Nam. On June 6, 1951, the feast of the reunification of Viet Nam (Hung-Quoc-Khanh-Niem), the first stamp of the newly formed Viet Nam Independent State was released, bearing the portrait of Emperor Bao-Dai in western dress (Scott #9). Two other stamps of the same design, but with a dragon beneath the portrait, were issued on his 39th birthday, October 23, 1951 (Scott #7 and #13).

There is also a non-postal vignette, which depicted a portrait of Bao-Dai with the map of Viet Nam in the background. This commemorated the Emperor's return to power on April 29, 1949. Another stamp marking his 40th birthday, showing his portrait on the left and the Temple of Literature at Hanoi on the right, was put on sale November 10, 1952 (Scott #19).

Empress Nam-Phuong is shown on a three stamp set issued August 15, 1952, Scott #14-16, and on a semi-postal stamp with a surtax for the Vietnamese Red Cross (Scott #B1).

A seven-stamp set depicting Crown Prince Bao-Long was issued June 15, 1954. Four of these stamps show the prince in Vietnamese costume and three in a western style ilitary uniform (Scott #20-26).

 

III. Hue, the Imperial City

Vietnamese stamps also commemorate many aspects of the Imperial City of Hue. The main gateway to the Imperial Palace, or Ngo-Mon (Noon Gate), is surmounted by the ornate platform where the Emperor's throne was placed for celebrations. Built in 1833, 13th year of the Minh-Mang reign, and repaired in 1921, 15th year of the Khai-Dinh reign, the gate had five openings (Scott #2, 8, 11).

The tomb of Emperor Minh-Mang (1820-1840) is the most remarkable of Southeast Asian imperial sepulchres. Begun in 1841, it was finished in 1843. Situated on the left bank of the Perfume River, it is set in a pine forest.

From the river the scene is hidden by a row of enormous Banyan trees. A high brick wall, 3m high and 5m thick, encircles the tomb. On the east side is a three-door portico, on either side of the courtyard are two lions cast in gilt bronze. Many stone mandarins of different rank, and two elephants guard the necropolis.Three granite stairs with dragon-shaped banisters lead to two terraced floors. There a square pavilion shelters a marble stele that tells the feats and virtues of the emperor (Scott #247 and a coil stamp, #250A issued January 2, 1970).

The famous Soul Porch (Hien-Lam-Cac) is where the souls of all emperors of the Nguyen Dynasty are venerated (Scott #501).

The Throne Hall (Dien-Thai-Hoa) is the spacious room for enthronement of a new emperor. A lone golden throne served as the emperor's seat during solemn ritual ceremonies. Built in 1805 by Emperor Gia-Long, four years after his accession to the Crown, it was repaired in 1834 under the Emperor Minh-Mang and restored again by Emperor Khai-Dinh in 1924 (Scott #502).

The tomb of Emperor Tu-Duc (1847-1883) was begun in February 1864 and finished in March 1867. A great stone wall decorated with porcelain splinters encircles it. The entrance, a monumental door, faces northwest. A few steps up is access to the main hall. The scene immediately captivates a visitor: a large expanse of water, on the bank of, which is a dock built on piles. A bridge leads to the bathing place. To the right a green islet, covered by tall Banyan trees, is a haunt of many water birds (Scott #503).

The Pavilion on the Water (Nha Thuy-Ta) of the tomb of Emperor Tu-Duc is a beautiful scenery. While Emperor Tu-Duc was still living, the Pavilion was used as a rest place for fresh air and recreation after working time.

Bao Tung Nguyen