Turns out I’m royalty

Last year, I visited family in Hue, Vietnam to discover my roots.

For the longest time, I asked my dad why my last name was different from his. Mine is Bao, his is Vinh. He said it was because, “we come from a royal dynasty where the last name changes from generation to generation.” I didn’t really believe it because if I came from royalty … wouldn’t I be rich?!

The last time I visited family in Vietnam, I only visited family in the South. So when I told my parents I was stopping by Vietnam last year, my dad said I had to visit his family in Hue, which is where he grew up.

After Q & I arrived to our hotel in Hue, my cousin (who I thought looked more like an uncle) picked me up on his motorbike … And away we go!

Riding_Hue

My cousin Thanh said he’d take us to the three main imperial emperor tombs in Hue. I guess I’m going to find out if I’m a descendant of any of these former kings.

First stop: Khai Dinh Tomb

Khai-Dinh-Stairs

This tomb perched 6 miles outside of Hue is surrounded by concrete dragons & warriors (quite similar looking to the Terra Cotta warriors).

Khai-Dinh-Soldiers2  Khai-Dinh-Soldiers

Khai Dinh was an emperor that ruled 1916-1925 and his tomb took 11 years to complete in 1931. Since this emperor was drunk with heavy French influences, his mausoleum blended both European and Asian designs.

Khai-Dinh_Outside

Khai-Dinh-Inside

This tomb is ornate and elaborately detailed. Very snazzy King, if I do say so myself. Sadly, I am not of a part of his lineage.

On to the next one …

Second stop: Tu Duc Tomb

Embedded in a lush pine forest is the tomb of Tu Duc.

Tu-Duc-Tomb

Fun fact: This place was a retreat haven for him and his many concubines whenever he wanted to getaway and write some poetry.

The grounds were so large, we walked around aimlessly for 45 minutes and couldn’t even find the main tomb. My cousin said, “it’s OK if you want to skip this place, you’re not related to him anyway.”

Moving on…

Third stop: Minh Mang Tomb, Hue

The tomb of Ming Mang is an architectural complex filled with gardens, ponds and temples.

Minh_Pavillion

As we make our way through the gardens, we noticed what appears to be a mound in the distance. There’s a gate protecting it and it was then we realized it’s not just a hill, it’s a very, very large tomb.

Minh-Mang-Tomb

This is where the last emperor of the Nguyen dynasty laid rest since 1843. His burial place is located inside the hill. Thanh says that this is the emperor my dad has been telling me about since I was a kid. This is one of my ancestors.

Minh_mang_Tomb

After climbing 33 stone steps, I get to pay my respects.

Minh-Mang-Door

Still a bit puzzled by my different last name, I did some research on the background on this King. A little Wikipedia search and I found the following about this practice of the royal name changing tradition.

“Minh Mang had many wives and children, he decided to name his descendants (Nguyen Phuoc or Nguyen Phúc: all members of the Nguyen Dynasty) by choosing the Middle name following the words of the Imperial succession poem to avoid confusion.”

Here is the poem:

De He Thi

Mien Huong Ung Buu Vinh
Bao Quy Dinh Long Truong
Hien Nang Kham Ke Thuat
The Thoai Quoc Gia Xuong

To this day, only the direct descendants of Emperor Minh Mang are allowed to bear such names from the Imperial poem. WOW. My dad’s last name is Vinh. I’m Bao. So according to this poem, it’s true – I’m royalty, B! And according to this, my future children should take on the last name Quy. Ugh…

Coming back to town I got to meet cousins and nephews that I never knew I had from my dad’s side of the family.

Hue-Family

Hue-passed

Then again, another cousin told me Emperor Minh Mang’s had many concubines, so there is a good chance I’m just one of many. Turns out it’s not such a big deal to most people still living in Hue.

Regardless whether it’s a big deal to others or not, it matters to my family, especially my dad. Which leads to the question – Given that I’m a first generation US immigrant, if and when I decide to have my own children, will they continue the tradition and bear a royal last name? Or does the line end with me?

How did I end up being a first generation immigrant in the US?  The story continues here.

 

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  • http://www.cubiclethrowdown.com/ Rika – Cubicle Throwdown

    Wow! That is awesome. Those places look so lush and lovely. So cool to find out you’re royalty!

  • http://www.cubiclethrowdown.com/ Rika – Cubicle Throwdown

    Wow! That is awesome. Those places look so lush and lovely. So cool to find out you’re royalty!

  • @mrsoaroundworld

    Can we still be friends? I knew I had been delaying my trip to Vietnam for a reason!!

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com Gerard ~ GQtrippin

      Of course! We’re still counting on you to connect us to the prince and princess when we visit London. 🙂

  • @mrsoaroundworld

    Can we still be friends? I knew I had been delaying my trip to Vietnam for a reason!!

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com Gerard ~ GQtrippin

      Of course! We’re still counting on you to connect us to the prince and princess when we visit London. 🙂

  • @olym_wanderings

    What a brilliant story! Apparently my family ‘has a castle’ in Ireland, but apparently so does every second person in the world who claims Irish descent 😛

  • http://www.olympicwanderings.com/ Caitlyn @ Olympic Wanderings

    What a brilliant story! Apparently my family ‘has a castle’ in Ireland, but apparently so does every second person in the world who claims Irish descent 😛

  • Lazy Travelers

    maaaaaan, some guys have all the luck. we’re still waiting for the royal family to realize we’ve been missing all these years.

  • Lazy Travelers

    maaaaaan, some guys have all the luck. we’re still waiting for the royal family to realize we’ve been missing all these years.

  • http://travelingted.com/ Traveling Ted

    Very cool post. I have visited these tombs, and these pictures bring back great memories of cruising up the Perfume River in a boat. I enjoyed the personal history aspect of this post as it differentiated it from the regular travel blog post and it also reminded me of the song Royals by Lorde.

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com Gerard ~ GQtrippin

      Great. You just got that song stuck in my head again Ted. Thanks!

  • http://travelingted.com/ Traveling Ted

    Very cool post. I have visited these tombs, and these pictures bring back great memories of cruising up the Perfume River in a boat. I enjoyed the personal history aspect of this post as it differentiated it from the regular travel blog post and it also reminded me of the song Royals by Lorde.

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com Gerard ~ GQtrippin

      Great. You just got that song stuck in my head again Ted. Thanks!

  • The World Wanderer

    This is awesome! My vote is to keep the tradition going. Why not? It’s such a cool story, one that can continue long after you’re gone. I love meeting family I never knew existed. This has happened to me in Croatia and Ireland, though now I am very close to my Irish relatives. I am also not royalty, so it doesn’t exactly compare 😉 Also, beautiful photos!

  • The World Wanderer

    This is awesome! My vote is to keep the tradition going. Why not? It’s such a cool story, one that can continue long after you’re gone. I love meeting family I never knew existed. This has happened to me in Croatia and Ireland, though now I am very close to my Irish relatives. I am also not royalty, so it doesn’t exactly compare 😉 Also, beautiful photos!

  • http://www.jettingaround.com/ Pola

    Dang!! Talk about family tree! What a trip this must have been for you…

    My mom has been researching family history for a while and I’m finding out some cool things too. Genealogy can be really fascinating.

  • http://www.jettingaround.com/ Pola

    Dang!! Talk about family tree! What a trip this must have been for you…

    My mom has been researching family history for a while and I’m finding out some cool things too. Genealogy can be really fascinating.

  • Raul (@ilivetotravel)

    Neat story! And those tombs are beautiful – I had never heard of them. So Quy for your children, huh?

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com Gerard ~ GQtrippin

      Yeah… Funny thing is that word also means gooseduck.

  • Raul (@ilivetotravel)

    Neat story! And those tombs are beautiful – I had never heard of them. So Quy for your children, huh?

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com Gerard ~ GQtrippin

      Yeah… Funny thing is that word also means gooseduck.

  • lola

    i so want to go to Vietnam. i agree with everyone that it’s really cool to know your “history”. i wish my family knew more about ours.

  • lola

    i so want to go to Vietnam. i agree with everyone that it’s really cool to know your “history”. i wish my family knew more about ours.

  • Steph (@ 20 Years Hence)

    This is such an incredible story! We both really LOVED Hue (all of Vietnam, really), but I can only imagine how much more incredible it would be knowing you had roots there and that you could lay claim to some of those epic tombs! Well done, G! 😉

  • Steph (@ 20 Years Hence)

    This is such an incredible story! We both really LOVED Hue (all of Vietnam, really), but I can only imagine how much more incredible it would be knowing you had roots there and that you could lay claim to some of those epic tombs! Well done, G! 😉

  • Maureen Mizrahi

    Really great photography!!! Can’t wait to visit this beautiful country..

  • http://indietravel.net/ Maureen Mizrahi

    Really great photography!!! Can’t wait to visit this beautiful country..

  • Mary Anne

    Vietnam is high on our list. We hear we need to get there soon… things are a changin”’

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com Gerard ~ GQtrippin

      Agreed. Get there sooner than later. The country especially Saigon has changed so much over the years it’s hard to believe!

  • Mary Anne

    Vietnam is high on our list. We hear we need to get there soon… things are a changin”’

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com Gerard ~ GQtrippin

      Agreed. Get there sooner than later. The country especially Saigon has changed so much over the years it’s hard to believe!

  • http://www.stayadventurous.com/ craig zabransky

    Wow, now I know who to call when I finally visit Viet Nam. Always great to chase your family roots and discover the past… even cooler when it’s royalty.
    Stay Kingly, Craig

  • http://www.stayadventurous.com/ craig zabransky

    Wow, now I know who to call when I finally visit Viet Nam. Always great to chase your family roots and discover the past… even cooler when it’s royalty.
    Stay Kingly, Craig

  • Pingback: Visiting the royal tombs in Hue – turns out I’m royalty! | Globe Trotting Winos Guide to World Travel

  • Lily Nguy?n

    Hello there. Just wanted to say that your blog is neat! I’ve been trying to find information about Hue and it’s current residence (and former inhabitants) as to get an idea of who my own ancestors were. It’s great that your father was able to impart some information about your family’s history. I find that there is a great reluctancy for older people to speak about the past, provided how tragic the 70’s were. Thank you for sharing your findings with us!

    • gqtrippin

      You’re so welcome! I use to think that too, that older people are reluctant to speak about the past. However, maybe enough time has gone by because Q said her parents are more open now to disclose how they immigrated to the States. Years ago, I doubt they’d be comfortable to share. So maybe try asking your parents now and see what they say. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by!

  • Lily Nguy?n

    Hello there. Just wanted to say that your blog is neat! I’ve been trying to find information about Hue and it’s current residence (and former inhabitants) as to get an idea of who my own ancestors were. It’s great that your father was able to impart some information about your family’s history. I find that there is a great reluctancy for older people to speak about the past, provided how tragic the 70’s were. Thank you for sharing your findings with us!

  • http://www.chasingthedonkey.com/ Mrs Chasing the Donkey

    That is so awesome that you were able to find all of this out – I’ve not yet been to this part of the world. But it looks great.

    • gqtrippin

      First off, your name is awesome, Mrs Chasing the Donkey! LOL. Second, we hope you make it out to this part of the world soon — it’s pretty incredible. 🙂

  • http://www.chasingthedonkey.com/ Mrs Chasing the Donkey

    That is so awesome that you were able to find all of this out – I’ve not yet been to this part of the world. But it looks great.

  • Nini buy

    This is crazy because I fall in the lineage too! My last name is Buu (my family dropped the whole name changing thing a while back so I’m unsure what my generation’s last name would truly be) and my family is from Hue as well. In American born, however my mom would tell me this story because I always wondered why I had such a unique last name unlike Nguyen, Tran, Bui etc

  • Nini buy

    This is crazy because I fall in the lineage too! My last name is Buu (my family dropped the whole name changing thing a while back so I’m unsure what my generation’s last name would truly be) and my family is from Hue as well. In American born, however my mom would tell me this story because I always wondered why I had such a unique last name unlike Nguyen, Tran, Bui etc

  • Trang K.

    Stop by your blog, interesting but my family is also connected the Minh Mang. 🙂 [Mien Tran Bien, Huong Thuyen, Ung Trao (my grandfather), Buu Thieu & Buu Sao (my uncles)…my name is Cong Tang Ton Nu Duan. I would really be interested in finding out your descendants names?

    • Trang K.

      Sorry, I meant ancestors…not descendant.

      • gqtrippin

        According to Duy’s comment below, your ancestor is a PRINCE OR PRINCESS!!! Congratulations! I’m Bao Loc Gerard and my dad is Vinh Phieu. I’m not too sure on the rest, I haven’t traced it that far. LOL. Does this mean we’re related in some ways?

    • Ton Nu Y Hong

      They we come from the same lineage XD

  • Trang K.

    Stop by your blog, interesting but my family is also connected the Minh Mang. 🙂 [Mien Tran Bien, Huong Thuyen, Ung Trao (my grandfather), Buu Thieu & Buu Sao (my uncles)…my name is Cong Tang Ton Nu Duan. I would really be interested in finding out your descendants names?

    • Trang K.

      Sorry, I meant ancestors…not descendant.

  • Duy Ngoc Nguyen

    There is a huge number to the vietnam imperial family. My grandad from Hue aswell his name is Ton That Vy. For my family the name just change from Ton That for male and Ton Nu for female. We are not the direct descendant of the Emperor more like cousin Lol and that all I know. Love to know more though.
    Oh and p.s Trang K the name Cong Tang Ton Nu suggest that you are direct descendant to the Emperor your ancestor would be a prince or princess.
    Any question my email is s.nguyen.7124@hotmail.co.uk

    • gqtrippin

      Oh, imagine a princess, Trang K. Having just a taste of our heritage, we’d really like to know more too — we know so little and it’s truly fascinating to know your roots, where you come from. Cheers to you, a cousin is still royalty in our books. LOL.

    • Ton Nu Y Hong

      Im also from that family line, did you know that we have a family name book.

      • Duy Ngoc Nguyen

        I have heard that there were a family name/ black book that keeps record. However I never manage to get any more info. I’ve only manage to do so much research as everything is limited. Also I’ve immigrated to the UK when I was 9. All that I’ve learnt is from either my mum and research. So you have anymore info on this family book??
        Definitely interested in my heritage especially my relations in Hue who I know so little about.

        • Ton Nu Y Hong

          I do in fact I was able to visit the family shrine last year if you want I could send you some photos through your email. The shrine is guarded by and old couple though so I’m not sure if you’ll be able to visit on your own.

          • Duy Ngoc Nguyen

            Oh yes please!! If it isn’t too much trouble!! ???????? I would be glad of any info.

  • Duy Ngoc Nguyen

    There is a huge number to the vietnam imperial family. My grandad from Hue aswell his name is Ton That Vy. For my family the name just change from Ton That for male and Ton Nu for female. We are not the direct descendant of the Emperor more like cousin Lol and that all I know. Love to know more though.
    Oh and p.s Trang K the name Cong Tang Ton Nu suggest that you are direct descendant to the Emperor your ancestor would be a prince or princess.
    Any question my email is s.nguyen.7124@hotmail.co.uk

  • David Nguyen

    You’re a descendant of the Nguyen Dynasty? That means we could be cousins. Of course though, my family’s name is Nguyen (My last name is Willbanks since my mother married a white man) so obviously, I’m not a direct descendant. But my mother tells me that my ancestors were the Nguyen Emperors so that means we could be related.

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com Gerard ~ GQtrippin

      Very cool. I hear it’s quite a common thing since the emperor had many concubines during his day. =P

  • Christine Buczek

    This is so awesome, I came from the same ancestry! My grandfather is Buu Hap, my uncles (his sons) are both Vinh’s, his daughters (my aunts and mom) are Cong Huyen Ton Nu + their first & middle name. My grandfather’s sister is Cong Tang Ton Nu + her first & middle name. My mom gave me Bao as last name initially, but when I got naturalized and married etc., I made it my middle name. She did not name my brothers Bao, (I think the royal poem applies to males only anyway) so they are a little envious that they are not Bao, lol. I decided to carry on with the poem, why the heck not? My son, Quy is part of his middle name, my daughter Quynh. (I’m not sure what the female counterpart would be.) So glad to find someone in my heritage! Take care!

  • http://quintessentialcollectionvietnam.com Quintessential Collection VN
  • Patrick Vinh

    Hi David I am also from the same ancestry which I find fascinating! My grandfather was named Buu Cuoc, father and uncles are all Vinh. Technically, I should be Patrick Bao, but since we immigrated to Canada it was difficult for my family to change our last names. I wonder if we are related in some way!

  • Ray Quy

    This is pretty cool. I’m also from the same family tree. My last name is Quy, my father’s is Bao, and my grandfather’s is Vinh. I wonder how many of us there are by now since a few generations have passed already.

  • Jenny

    That is so cool that we could all be related. My dad’s last name is Vinh, I’m his only daughter so mine is Ton Nu. My male cousins last name is Bao because my uncle is Vinh.

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com Gerard ~ GQtrippin

      It’s interesting to see more people that who share this same connection with me through the internet! Where are you guys from?

  • Harry Vinh

    My last name is Vinh because the Communists preferred my dad to stick with his last name, Vinh. My dad’s dad or my grandpa is Prince Buu Loc, and he was the uncle of Bao Dai. So Bao Dai is my dad’s cousin and he is my second cousin.

  • Ton Nu Y Hong

    Same my dad came from royal descent but he never really told us this in depth. Were not from the same family though my last and middle name is Ton Nu Y which is for females and for males is Ton That which is the surname given to members of the Nguy?n Dynasty royal family that were not direct first born descendants of the Emperor.

  • Striker

    I heard my surname is royal as well. The surname is Nguyen Cuu, does anyone knows anything about this?

  • Edward Thiravej Ploysongsang

    Really great story. I had a similar experience in China awhile back albeit with a renowned Confucian saint for an ancestor. However, AFAIK Vietnamese names follow the exact same format as Chinese names: Surname, Generation Name & Personal Name. Everyone claiming descent from the last Imperial Dynasty of Vietnam uses Nguyen Phuoc or Nguyen Phúc as their surname (comparable to a long, double barreled surname in the West) followed by their generational name such as Vinh or Bao and finally a personal name. So your “last name” isn’t changing with each generation, but your generation name does change. The Vietnamese like the Chinese love their surnames/clan names and will not change them unless absolutely forced to do so. What is true for normal families is even more true for imperial families.

  • Edward Thiravej Ploysongsang

    You should have your y-chromosome DNA tested. I recall another member of the Nguyen Phuoc Dynasty claiming descent from Minh Mang also got tested once.

  • Edward Thiravej Ploysongsang

    “Given that I’m a first generation US immigrant, if and when I decide to have my own children, will they continue the tradition and bear a royal last name? Or does the line end with me?”

    The Vietnamese emperors like their Chinese counterparts intended that the middle name (not the surname as I mentioned earlier, which always remains Nguyen Phuoc or Nguyen Phúc) changes with each generation in perpetuity. So IMO you should continue the tradition. In fact, it is your moral obligation to follow the edict of your imperial ancestor though of course you may decide otherwise. There is nothing stopping you from using whatever Vietnamese name you please as long as you are not doing so for fraudulent or illegal purposes. A middle name that alludes to to imperial lineage is no more unpatriotic than one of JFK’s descendants being called JFK the V.

  • Jennifer Do

    That’s so cool that you’re related to the Nguyen Dynasty! I just recently visited Hue in my tour of Vietnam with my family. After learning about all the emperors and visiting some of the tombs I was curious to learn more. I happened to stumble across your blog in the search. I don’t believe my family is related to the royalty in any way but who knows!

  • http://harindabama.com/ Bama

    I went to Hue a few months ago and I really loved the city, except for the heat. The citadel was impressive, although many structures were still in ruins. And the tombs, I have to say my favorite was also Minh Mang’s tomb for its expansive layout and tranquil setting. It’s incredible to think that he was your ancestor!

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