In Vietnamese, lang and tam usually go together. The lang (mausoleum) is where the king's corpse is buried and the tam (shrine) is located next to the mausoleum.
In the Ly dynasty (11th - 12th centuries) and earlier, kings' mausoleums were very simple and they left almost no trace. It was different for mausoleums in the Tran dynasty (13th century). In An Sinh Commune, Quang Ninh Province and Lam Son Ward, Thanh Hoa Province, each king of the Le or Tran dynasty had a private mausoleum but shared a common shrine. It was not until the Nguyen dynasty (1802-1945) that there were a big mausoleum and a shrine for each king. The term lang tam has appeared ever since.
Most kings of the Nguyen dynasty had their mausoleums built when they were still reigning. These constructions are in the south-west of Hue City, on both sides of the Huong River, in an area of hills and mountains. Each mausoleum has mountains nearby, a stream or a brook passing it. The mausoleum and shrine are in a large park. The architecture and scenery of a mausoleum-shrine complex speaks about a king's sense of aesthetics and his character. A mausoleum-shrine complex has many stages of construction. The king's tomb is in the center, sometimes being beside the queen's tomb, with a surrounding wall. In the next stage, the stele house has a stele with complimentary words about the king's contribution to the welfare of all. The next one is a large brick-paved yard with many statues of elephants, horses, and mandarins of literature or martial arts standing to attend to the king. In front of and around the shrine is a pond of lotuses. At this pond there are an entertainment house, bridges and islets. On both sides of the pond are rare and beautiful plants and flowers and fruit trees. The outermost stage is a high wall to surround the whole complex.
Gia Long's Mausoleum is an imposing construction in a large park with more than 3,000 high-rising pines, which are outstanding in a desolate and still forest. Minh Mang's Mausoleum is a large-scale complex with 30 constructions of different sizes. All constructions are arranged symmetrically via a vertical axis. The mausoleum shows a set social order and reflects an autocracy which was the mark of his regime. Passing the service yard with its two lines of rock statues and stele houses, people see three steps of the yard raised one after another according to the terrain, and the shrine on the highest step. Tu Duc's Mausoleum is considered a Vietnamese architectural work of high value. This mausoleum was first named Khiem Cung, where the king lived. Later, its name was changed to Khiem Lang because it was where the king was buried. The mausoleum has fresh air, beautiful scenery, and a quiet park in a green and still area of mountains and forests.
Hue's mausoleum-shrine complexes deserve a place among Vietnam's wonders and indeed among the world's wonders.