Tiger-fighting arena in Hue city, a unique architecture

The tiger-fighting open-air arena in Hue City in the North Central Coastal Province of Thua Thien-Hue dates back to the Nguyen Dynasty of Vietnam.

A corner of the tiger-fighting arena

Built in 1830, during the reign of Emperor Minh Mang, it served as a place for holding sacrificial ceremonies and entertainment events for the king, his mandarins and the public.

The original tiger-fighting arena, a site of many gruesome battles between elephants and tigers, was a solid stone complex of ancient monuments, located in Truong Da hamlet of Thuy Bieu Commune in Hue City.

The arena comprises of two concentric round walls made up of wood, brick and mortar with a yard covered with grass.

The exterior wall is sloping, 4.5 meters in height and 45-meters in diameter, while its interior wall stands 6 meters high having a 35-meter diameter. Both the walls are positioned four meters apart at the base and three meters apart at the top. 

The rectangular grandstand for spectators is 96 square meters and built 1.5 meters higher than ground level and also higher than other stands. From this vantage point, people could get a clear view of the arena.
Two entrances lead to the stands. The first was for the king and royalty with 20 steps, the other for soldiers and commoners with 15 steps.

Between these two entrances was another gateway, 1.9 meters wide and 3.9 meters high, for elephants to enter the arena.

Opposite the royal grandstand were five tiger cages with trapdoors.

A stone plaque with the words “Hổ Quyền” (tiger-fighting) carved in the Han script is placed on the centre of the walls of these five cages.

Tiger and elephant battles were held annually. During the Nguyen Dynasty rule and particularly under the reign of Emperor Thanh Thai, much emphasis was placed on training elephants to fight. 

Elephants represented the goodness whilst tigers represented evil in all the battles.

While elephants were taken good care of, tigers were starved and had all their teeth and claws removed to incapacitate their strength. That’s why elephants were always the ones to win the battles. 

The tiger-fighting arena is a remarkable work of architecture, and although it cannot compare with the Colosseum in Rome, Italy, it cannot fail to impress visitors with its own uniqueness, as well as the atmosphere it exudes.

Source: vietnamtourism.com – Translated by Huu Duy

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