Ho Quyen (Tiger Arena in Hue)
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.
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.
The last one took place in 1904, and tigers fighting elephants has since gone the way of bear baiting in Europe.
The first staircase with 20 steps was exclusively reserved for the Emperor and royal family leading up to the rectangular tribune with the surface of 96m², the height of 1.5m. Looking down from the tribune, people can see the cavity with the coliseum. The second staircase, with 15 steps was used by the soldiers and the common people leading up to the earthen part. Between the two staircases is a big entrance 1.9m wide and 3.9m high for the elephants to enter the coliseum.
The way running around above this curved door is narrowed into a small bridge across the curved door. Under it is a big two-wing wooden door with stone hinges which still remain undamaged. Opposite to the tribune for the Emperor on the other side of the arena are five cages for tigers and leopards. Above the middle cage is a stone sign inscribed the two Chinese words “Ho Quyen“.
The arena is not of Roman proportions, but impressively solid, still intact, and a rarity in the history of Asian architecture.
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 for 2.5 kilometres and 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. Elephant Temple is 200 metres down from the tiger fighting arena.
Ho Quyen Tiger Arena in Hue Vietnam