Ho Quyen, Tiger Fighting Arena
One of the most interesting sites in Hue
What we say:
This is probably the most interesting site in Hue, and it is all too often overlooked by visitors. It was built in 1830 during the reign of Emporer Minh Mang to stage yearly battles between an elephant and a tiger. Okay, not very PC from an animal rights perspective, but thankfully the last one took place in 1904, and tigers fighting elephants has since gone the way of bear baiting in Europe.
The arena is not of Roman proportions, but impressively solid, still intact, and a rarity in the history of Asian architecture. It consists of two thick, circular walls around an earthen rampart, with stairs leading to the top of the wall, one set reserved for the Emporer and his family, and another for the rest of the court and commoners. Opposite the royal rostrum (as far as possible from the Royal family) there are five tiger cages where there are still claw marks visible in the plaster walls. We know, poor tigers, but it gets worse. The fights were fixed -- just like professional wrestling. Before the fight, the tiger was drugged and had its claws and fangs removed. If the elephant sent into fight it couldn't do the job, another elephant was sent in to help. The elephants always won. Why? The tiger symbolised rebellion. The elephant symbolised the monarchy.
Gruesome, yes, but one of the most vivid object lessons in Vietnamese history available in Hue.
More details3km out of Hue
How to get there: Head west on Le Loi towards the train station, and take a right after crossing the small bridge onto Bui Thi Xuan. Continue 2.5 km, keep an eye out for Nguyen Tran Cong Chua on the left. Once you find it, pass it, and continue 300 metres down to an alley called Kiet 373 on the left. The arena is 200 metres down the alley.
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