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Empress Dowager Tu Du (or Tu Du) whose name is Pham Thi Hang, self-titled Nguyet, Thuong or Hao, was born on May 9, Canh Ngo year (1810) in Giong Son Quy (Go Turtle), Go Cong village, Tan Hoa district, Gia Dinh province (later Go Cong district, Tien Giang province). She is the eldest daughter of the ceremony of the Minister of Honor of the State of Germany Pham Dang Hung and Ms. Pham Thi Vi.

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When she was young, she was famous for being filial, intelligent, well-versed in history, gentle, and very beautiful. At the age of 14, she was summoned to the palace by Queen Thuan Thien Cao Queen Tran Thi Dang, step-wife of King Gia Long, mother of King Minh Mang to serve Nguyen Phuc Mien Tong (later King Thieu Tri) – the son of King Minh Mang. and grandson of Empress Cao.

At the age of 15, she gave birth to her first daughter, Princess Dien Phuc, Princess Nguyen Phuc Tinh. The following year, she gave birth to the second Queen, Nguyen Phuc Uyen Y. Princess Uyen Y was born in the 7th year of Minh Mang, but at the age of 3, she was stillborn. On August 25, Ky Ox year (September 22, 1829), she gave birth to her third son, a boy, named Nguyen Phuc Thi, later renamed Nguyen Phuc Hong Nham, (later King Tu Duc).

In 1841, when King Minh Mang died, Mien Tong ascended to the throne, took the reign of Thieu Tri and appointed her as a concubine. In the 2nd year of Thieu Tri (1842), on the occasion of a diplomatic affair, the Emperor reigned in the North week, she was allowed to accompany her. At that time, the palace court followed very little, she served day and night by her side, all the precious seals and pledges, they were all given to keep. She is a dignified, leisurely, serious, and generous person, often admonishing the palace servants to take care of their work, so they should be promoted to Thuong Nghi, and at the same time take care of Luc Thuong.

In April of the 3rd year of Thieu Tri (1843), she was conferred the second rank of Thanh consort, leading the Phi titles of the second rank. In January of the 6th year of Thieu Tri (1846), she was conferred the title of First Class Consort, the head of the Consort titles of the first rank. Although she has great authority, her character is virtuous, ethereal, simple, and benevolent, making everyone in the palace love and respect her.

Every night, King Thieu Tri stayed up late reading books, she stayed awake without being tired and exchanged and discussed everything with the king. She often advised the king: “As a human being, one must learn, of course, to know good and evil. Good should be promoted, evil should be avoided so as not to fall into evil. An old book has a saying: Uneducated people do not know the Way (unlearned people do not know morality). She often advised concubines to be dedicated to their work. She is a fair rewarder. Whoever committed a mistake, she sought to teach and protect rather than use punishment.

In early 1847, Thieu Tri was seriously ill. She worked day and night to take medicine without rest. When he was about to die, everything later was secretly entrusted to her, he once again lured the mandarins that: “Girl consort is my former spouse, a person of clear virtue, helping me to consider the work in the forbidden palace for 7 years. year. Now, I want to make the queen right in the palace, sorry for not being able to do it in time.”

On October 4, 1847, King Trieu Tri passed away, her son Hong Nham was chosen to succeed the throne, taking the reign of Tu Duc and conferring her the title of Empress Dowager Tu Du. She should have gladly accepted this rare honor, but she refused. Such a refusal is not for everyone to do.


Portrait of King Tu Duc.

Perhaps in the history of the country, Mrs. Tu Du is the most famous Empress Dowager for bearing and leaving many valuable lessons in raising children to be human. It is these details that make later people admire her. Thanks to her upbringing, King Tu Duc became a filial son who was not corrupted by a life of luxury and debauchery like some kings in the past. And he was also a lover of literature, or of words, and wrote a lot of poetry, perhaps more or less precisely because he obeyed his mother and gave up trivial pleasures to cultivate more history. Later, on the occasion of his mother’s 60th birthday, he made 330 verses – which commented as follows:

Dress only for casual use

So it should be enough

The princess worked hard

There is tolerance again

Speak in moderation

Happy and angry do not show

Strict, but not cruel

Nice, but not sloppy.

Once, King Tu Duc was too busy having fun at Thuan An gate, so he missed the court meeting. She was very angry. When he returned, he came to apologize to his mother, but she sent someone to close the door of Dien Tho Palace and not let him in. The king had to wait for an hour, then she called in and taught: The country is in a lot of trouble, the emperor is not worried but can still have fun? Knowing the fault with us is only secondary, knowing the fault with the people is the main. Well, let’s hurry back to the court with the officials to discuss the national plan.

Like many other Vietnamese women, Ms. Tu Du is a very frugal person. Although she has the conditions to enjoy luxurious material things, she is still aware that all these things belong to the people, provided by the people, since the needle and thread are also the blood and fat of the people, so she does not spend it. waste. All her brocade clothes were neatly folded in the trunk, only worn on festive occasions, and she was still dressed normally like everyone else. Eating and drinking, she does not like delicious foods, but is a vegetarian. She often advised the courtiers: “A thread of silk, a grain of rice is also the blood and fat, the sweat and tears of the people, so it’s not useful to waste it, but it’s a pity, it’s better to keep it in storage to use for other purposes. water”. Because of his filial piety to his mother, King Tu Duc often held birthday celebrations and honored her with beautiful brands, but she refused. For example, in 1860, the royal court planned to celebrate a beautiful name, but she told the king: “I enjoy the service of people, so I have to take care of the things people are worried about. This year, there is no crop, people are worried that they cannot be happy. So you have to deal with the worries of the people. Besides, we are inherently thrifty and do not like vanity. My son, enjoying the wealth today, I often fear, cultivate the mind and virtue, but you still want to give me a vain name for what? To still carry the guilt of being unethical? Then this and that festival should be abolished, I only wish that the public and the courtiers and children would take care of politics and education so that the nation and the people would be safe and happy.

She was very strict with her relatives, harshly criticizing those who relied on the power of her family to seek glory and position. In folklore, there is a saying “One person is the official, they are asked”. But this concept is not necessarily true in the case of Ms. Tu Du. From Go Cong, in her Pham family, someone went to the capital, relying on the love of the family, begging her to ask King Tu Duc to take care of him as a bodyguard. But before that request, she calmly said: “People in my family, don’t worry about not being a mandarin, just afraid of being incompetent. Without talent, we can help with a little salary to study and improve later. But without any merit in contributing to the country, but suddenly becoming a bodyguard, being granted a title like that, does it mean that people from the same family have to be all mandarins?”.

Before such words of understanding and understanding, this person still persisted. She frankly refused and told King Tu Duc: “If someone in my family has no merit, they can’t be given a title. Anyone who breaks the law will be severely punished as usual to keep the rules and regulations of the country.” With such a clear view, later on, her loved ones stopped praying next to her.

Empress Dowager Tu Du is always conscious of improving her cultural and social knowledge by reading books. Thanks to her studies, she was able to talk to the king while mother and daughter discussed history. Almost when reading a good history, Mrs. Tu Du has a suitable discussion. She discussed the political affairs of Chinese kings such as Qin Shi Huang, Emperor Wu, and Emperor Qin Hui or analyzed characters such as Han Tin, Yuan Shao, Khong Minh, La Hau, and Jia Yi with many in-depth comments. sharp. These comments are not without help for King Tu Duc when thinking about the way of governing the country. In 1850, when he first ascended to the throne, King Tu Duc was greedy for play and was late in domestic affairs, and the mandarin Pham Phu Thu offered to intervene. After reading this, the king became angry and immediately handed it over to the court to discuss the crime. Some courtiers took advantage of this opportunity to please the king, convicted him of blasphemy and suggested that Pham Phu Thu be sent to a post in Thua Nong. Mrs. Tu Du knew about it and asked:

Mr. Pham offered his son advice, what did he get?

Yes! He got nothing. But I find it blasphemous to be a servant to blame the king like that.

She continued:

So since he was demoted as a soldier, has he expressed any resentment?

I didn’t hear that. But know that, every afternoon, he often sets sail on the river to admire the scenery, writing poetry and reciting the bay.

Thinking for a moment, Mrs. Tu Du nodded.

This man is so precious! Offering such blame because of love for the king, because he wanted the king to take care of the country better. Loving the king, helping the king to suffer again without a word of complaint, having to endure it, he showed his loyalty. That is the man who is not happy in the title of being respected or despised, but is happy in doing the right thing. You should think again!

King Tu Duc heard about it, quickly cleared Pham Phu Thu’s sentence and invited him to return to the court to take back his old responsibility. Just as Mrs. Tu Du commented, Pham Phu Thu later became a figure of the Nguyen Dynasty. It can be said that Mrs. Tu Du is a very delicate person.

Every day, in conversations with the king, she always reminded her children of the essential thing that we often say in modern language, “cleansing the cadres”. For example: In the past, mandarins could not remove a single word “greed”. Damage to the country and people is just like that. How much blood and blood of the people also scavenged to fill the pockets. But unrighteous possessions don’t last long, don’t need a few lives, but they’re all gone. The poor and needy children laugh at them. Mandarins must be taught to be benevolent, to do benevolent things to enjoy long-term favor.

All the teachings of the mother and the king were recorded in the book “Tu coachlu”. Although, history still severely judges the king in governing the country, but everyone recognizes that Tu Duc is a king who worships his filial mother. Since ascending the throne, Tu Duc repeatedly offered to honor his mother, but she refused or delayed for fear of the cost. It was not until April 15 of the 2nd year of Tu Duc (ie, May 7, 1849), on the occasion of the inauguration of Gia Tho Palace, that she accepted the Kim Bao and the title of Empress Dowager.

On June 16, the year of the Goat (July 19, 1883), King Tu Duc passed away, in order to honor her as the Empress Dowager Tu Du. But because of the turmoil in the country, it was not until 1885, when Emperor Ham Nghi succeeded, that the king could perform an enthronement ceremony for her according to the will.

In 1887, in the second year of Dong Khanh, the king gave her the title of Tu Du Bo Hue, the empress dowager.

In 1889, Thanh Thai was born, on the occasion of her 80th birthday, she was conferred the title of Tu Du Bo Hue Khang, Thai empress Dowager.


Tomb of Empress Dowager Tu Du in Hue.

She died on the 5th of April in the year of the Tiger (ie, May 12, 1902), at the age of 92, and was given the posthumous name of Nghi Thien Tan Thanh Tu Du Uncle Hue Trai Tue Tue Dat Tho Duc Nhan Cong Chuong Empress, for short. Empress Tu Du Nghi Thien Chuong.

On May 20 of the same year, the court held a grand funeral ceremony behind Xuong Lang’s left side, and named it Xuong Tho Lang. Currently, the entire mausoleum is located at the foot of the mountain in Cu Chanh village, Thuy Bang commune, Huong Thuy district, Thua Thien Hue province.


Statue of Empress Dowager Tu Du at Tu Du Hospital, Ho Chi Minh City

In the history of the Vietnamese nation, Empress Dowager Tu Du has always been praised and admired by everyone. During 78 years at the throne as an advisor, she participated in political discussions, wholeheartedly devoted to the people for the country, played an important role in the Nguyen court in the first half of the century. XIX. She has raised a great example of the virtues and virtues of Vietnamese women. Ms. Tu Du is the exemplary image of Vietnamese mothers in parenting. Her name lives forever with her homeland and is recorded in history books forever. And also because of her good qualities, people chose her name to name a hospital: Tu Du Hospital at 284 Cong Quynh, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City.

Phuong Anh (composite)

The source:

– Le Minh Quoc, “Tu Du – A strict mother who teaches her children with kindness”, Famous Vietnamese women, City. Ho Chi Minh: Youth Publishing House, 2009, p. 86-96.

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