"Let the Imperial Throne reign forever! Its virtue matches the vastness of Heaven and Earth. It lifts its already high-born family higher still towards Heaven. Its name shines on through history. The limpid water and deserving soil exist in perfect harmony. Heaven recognizes its virtue and grants its protection. The luck of the Dragon has been won and the vault well-situated. It is blessed with a hundred virtues."
       -A poem by Tu Duc, 4th Emperor of the Nguyen Dynasty
      Viet Nam: the land of the ascending Dragon, where once reigned the Dynasty of poet-kings called the Nguyen-Phuc, from the Forbidden Purple City, in the Yellow Enclosure, within the Holy Citadel of Hue. The first was Nguyen Phuc Anh, who united Vietnam and reigned as Emperor Gia Long from 1802-1819. Then came the great Emperor Minh Mang, who built up the country, venerated knowledge and conformity with the movement of Heaven, then the pious and proud Emperor Thieu Tri and finally the tragic poet - philosopher, Emperor Tu Duc.
       Then, to the sorrow of everyone, there came the French. The Emperor died in 1883, cursing the invaders with his dying breath. In the crisis that followed, three emperors were enthroned and murdered in a single year. Then, in 1884, came the reign of the revolutionary child warrior
Ham Nghi.
When the French tried to keep him isolated in the palace, he would disguise himself as a common beggar and sneak away to talk to his people in secret, finding out their true feelings.
Emperor Thanh Thai refused to sign documents prepared by the French and secretly began organizing an army of women warriors. To escape the scrutiny of the French, he pretended to be insane but was arrested in 1907 on his way to join the revolutionary movement of Prince Cuong De in China. He was deposed and exiled from Hue.
    He was replaced by his 7-year-old son who became Emperor Duy Tan, "Friend of Reform". Emperor Duy Tan was compassionate, giving half of his salary to the poor when France imposed heavy taxes. He demanded respect for the Vietnamese and when it did not come he began planning for a revolution.
      Emperor Ham Nghi was only a boy, but he left the palace and issued the famous "Can Vuong" edict (Save the King) calling on the people to join him in revolt to drive the French invaders out of Viet Nam and restore the sacred king to the Golden Dragon Throne. Peasants and scholars rushed to his side and the war went on.
    The war was to begin in 1916, but as soon as he left the palace, a collaborator betrayed him. All of his companions were beheaded and Emperor Duy Tan was exiled to Reunion Island with his father.
    After him came the son of Dong Khanh, who was enthroned as Emperor Khai Dinh, the "Auger of Peace and Stability". He tried to keep peace with the French and use ways of friendship to plead with them to stop the harsh treatment of the Vietnamese without
      His people had few modern weapons and little food or supplies. The French had rifles while the army of Emperor Ham Nghi fought with bamboo spears. Still, the guerilla war went on from 1884 until 1888 when the heroic Emperor Ham Nghi, only eighteen years old, was captured and exiled to Algeria for the rest of his life, never to see his fatherland again.
      When Ham Nghi left the Forbidden City law demanded that he be replaced, so, in 1886 the French allowed the enthrone- ment of Emperor Dong Khanh. The tragic figure tried to live in peace with the French and cause no trouble between the two countries.
success. He even travelled to France to urge for more freedom in his country, but his good nature was taken for granted. Emperor Khai Dinh tried to leave the throne, but France would not allow it. He died sick with grief and bitterness in 1925.
      For his devotion to tranquility and acceptance of the colonizers, he would be attacked and ridiculed by later generations and writers who forget his goodness. The French showed him greater respect and pretended to make concessions while at the same time taking away more of his actual authority. Emperor Dong Khanh suffered from visions and halucinations before finally riding the dragon into the Heavens in 1888.
      The last ruler of the Nguyen Dynasty and the old Vietnam of dragons and legends was Emperor Bao Dai, "Guardian of Greatness". He made many reforms for his country in education and justice, as well as abolishing the kowtow and ending forced labor. Yet, the French still refused to allow him total independence. In 1945 the Communist revolution engulfed Viet Nam and Bao Dai was forced to give up his throne. He said, "I would prefer to be a citizen in an independent country than king of an enslaved one"
     He stayed in Hanoi until he became disgusted with the Communist regime and moved to Hong Kong. When France agreed to give him independence for Viet Nam he was restored to the throne in 1949 in Saigon. He formed the first nationalist government but France was still uncooperative. In 1955 he was deposed by his US-backed Prime Minister and forced to live the rest of his life in exile in France.
      The next monarch was Emperor Thanh Thai, son of the "3-day king" Duc Duc. Emperor Thanh Thai was the first modern ruler, who took a great interest in the lives and problems of his people.
Cry for the loss of the Son of Heaven, the Emperor of Viet Nam. Mourn those who live in oppression still today.