47. Con Dao Museum

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Nguyen Hue Street, Con Dao District, Ba Ria - Vung Tau Province, Vietnam ( Chỉ đường )
0254 3830 517
Con Dao Prison Relic is a special national-level relic site, which marks the tradition of the resilient and indomitable struggle of heroes, revolutionary soldiers and patriotic compatriots throughout 113 years of struggle against French colonialism and American imperialism. After the liberation day, Con Dao was loved and cared for by the Party, the State, and people all over the country. On December 6th, 2009, the People’s Committee of Hanoi City together with the People’s Committee of Ba Ria - Vung Tau Province invested to build the Con Dao Museum to celebrate the 1000th anniversary of Thang Long. On September 6th, 2013, the Con Dao Museum officially opened to serve domestic and foreign tourists to visit. This place holds more than 2000 valuable documents and artifacts about the history of the Con Dao prison, not only to show responsibility and gratitude to the generation of ancestors who sacrificed for the independence and freedom of the nation but also to educate future generations about our patriotic tradition. Con Dao Museum was built with the spirit of “Con Dao for the country - the country for Con Dao”. Con Dao Museum is a place to preserve the cultural heritage and the long-lived history of the Vietnamese nation to serve the sustainable development of the Con Dao district in particular and the whole country in general. Con Dao Museum displays include: 1 ceremonial hall and 4 themes 1. Con Dao nature - people 2. Con Dao, hell on earth 3. Con Dao battlefields and schools 4. Con Dao today The ceremonial hall is a cluster of 6-meter-high stainless steel statues showing the proud mettle of the Communists with the desire for freedom, and high-reaching arms to break the chains, associated with the image of a dove of peace. Behind the ceremonial hall is a belt of forming layers of Con Dao stones, interlaced with layers of black stones, with the surface engraved with the number of prisoners, symbolizing many generations of prisoners at Con Dao prison. Con Dao is known as a hell on earth, experiencing 113 years of struggle against French colonialism and American imperialism (92 years under the French and 21 years under the American puppet regime). Con Dao nature - people Con Dao is an archipelago, including 16 large and small islands, with a total floating area of 76.71 km2. Con Dao’s terrain is mostly hills and mountains, accounting for 88.4% of the total natural area. Con Dao has no rivers but only small streams. Groundwater is the main source of freshwater used in daily life as well as in the socio-economic activities of Con Dao. Con Dao has an oceanic climate, the average temperature is 26,90 C, suitable for tourism year-round, with two distinct seasons: Rainy season and dry season. The flora and fauna in Con Dao have a high level of biodiversity. Planned as a National Park, Con Dao belongs to the special-use forest system of Vietnam, of which there are 5,998 hectares on the islands, 14,000 hectares in the sea, and 20,500 hectares in the coastal buffer zone. It has 882 species of forest plants, 144 species of forest animals and, 1,300 species of marine life; with famous marine animals such as sea turtles, and Dugongs (Sea cows). Other unique species of animals found in Con Dao such as Finlayson squirrel, Ducula bicolor (which is a species of pigeon), etc. Con Dao has 200 km of coastline surrounding the islands with many beautiful beaches such as Vong Beach, Dam Trau Beach, etc. with pristine nature and fresh climate. Archaeological evidence in Con Dao is steeped in history and culture, strongly affirming our country’s territorial sovereignty in the Southeastern seas and islands. Archaeological research results show that the first class of inhabitants of Con Dao dates back to 2500 to 3000 years ago. The closest class of inhabitants still left traces in the villages of An Hai, An Hoi, Co Ong, Hon Cau and left descendants who are now residents of Dang Trong, settled in Con Dao from the time of Lord Nguyen Anh, more than 200 years ago. In 1861, the French occupied Con Dao, brought the people back to the mainland, and set up a prison (1862). Since then, Con Dao has become “hell on earth” for 113 years (1862-1975). On May 1st, 1975, Con Dao was completely liberated. Since then, sacred Con Dao has been gradually transforming itself into the “pearl” island of our country.

Following the liberation, Con Dao garnered attention and care from the Party, the State, and the entire nation. On December 6, 2009, the People’s Committee of Hanoi, in collaboration with the People’s Committee of Ba Ria – Vung Tau province, invested in constructing the Con Dao Museum to mark the 1000th anniversary of Thang Long. The museum officially opened its doors on September 6, 2013, welcoming domestic and international tourists. With over 2,000 valuable documents and artifacts, the museum preserves the history of Con Dao prison, paying tribute to the generations that sacrificed for the nation’s independence and freedom. It also aims to instill patriotic values in today’s and future generations.

The Con Dao Museum was built with the ethos of “Con Dao for the entire nation – the entire nation for Con Dao,” safeguarding the enduring cultural and historical heritage of the Vietnamese people to contribute to the sustainable development of Con Dao district and the country.

The Con Dao Museum exhibition consists of one main hall and four themes:

Con Dao: Nature and People

Con Dao: Hell on Earth

Con Dao’s battlefront and schools

Con Dao today.

* The main hall features a statue made of stainless steel, standing at 6 meters tall, depicting the indomitable spirit of the Communists with a longing for freedom. The outstretched arm breaking free from chains is closely linked to the image of a dove of peace.

Behind it is a belt made of Con Dao stone, sculpted with interwoven layers of black stones, with engraved numbers symbolizing the numerous political prisoners at Con Dao prison.

Con Dao is known as “Hell on Earth,” having endured 113 years of Anti-French Resistance War and the Americans (92 years under French colonial rule and 21 years during the American War).

  1. Con Dao: Nature and People

Con Dao, an archipelago comprising 16 islands with a total surface area of 76.71 square kilometers, showcases a predominantly hilly terrain, constituting 88.4% of its natural landscape.

Devoid of rivers, Con Dao features small streams, while groundwater serves as the primary freshwater source for daily life and various socio-economic activities on the islands.

Con Dao experiences an oceanic climate, with an average temperature of 26.90C, making it a year-round tourist destination with distinct seasons: the rainy season and the dry season.

The flora and fauna of Con Dao boast remarkable biodiversity, recognized as a National Park within Vietnam’s specialized forest system. This includes 5,998 hectares on the islands, 14,000 hectares in the sea, and 20,500 hectares of buffer zones in the sea, housing 882 species of forest plants, 144 species of forest animals, and 1,300 species of marine organisms. Iconic marine life includes sea turtles, Dugongs (sea cows), and unique species like the squirrel, Ducula bicolor, etc.

Con Dao’s 200-kilometer coastline surrounding the islands features picturesque beaches such as Vong Beach and Dam Trau Beach, maintaining a pristine natural environment and refreshing climate.

The archaeological findings in Con Dao carry profound historical and cultural significance, staunchly affirming our national sovereignty over the sea and islands in the Southeast region of the homeland. Archaeological studies reveal the earliest inhabitants arriving around 3000 to 2500 years ago. More recent inhabitants left traces in villages like An Hai, An Hoi, Co Ong, Hon Cau, with descendants settling on Con Dao over 200 years ago during the reign of Nguyen Anh.

In 1861, the French occupied Con Dao, relocating the population to the mainland and establishing a prison in 1862. Subsequently, Con Dao earned the reputation of “hell on earth” for 113 years (1862 – 1975).

On May 1, 1975, Con Dao was fully liberated, transforming into a sacred island and gradually evolving into the “pearl” of our homeland.

  1. Con Dao: Hell on Earth

For a span of 113 years (1862-1975), Con Dao evolved into the largest, most savage, and enduring prison in Indochina, vividly illustrating the merciless essence of the colonial and imperialist prison system, famously labeled as the “Hell on Earth” The prison bore witness to a myriad of torturous practices and the most atrocious forms of oppression.

The prison infrastructure was extensive and formidable. During the French colonial era, the prisoner population fluctuated around 2000 individuals. In the deceptive American period, the number of prisoners surged to 4000 in 1960, peaked at nearly 8,000 between 1967-1969, and reached approximately 10,000 in 1970-1972. Even up to the liberation of Con Dao, 7,448 prisoners remained incarcerated.

The prison wardens employed a variety of methods to torment and inflict suffering on the prisoners, making it a place where individuals were compelled to endure unspeakable agony and perish within the prison confines. During the American-puppet period, the prison authorities also coerced political prisoners into renouncing their allegiance to the Communist Party, employing brutal torture techniques and implementing sophisticated, deeply detrimental forms of punishment that wrought havoc on the physical and psychological well-being of the inmates, degrading them to a state worse than that of animals.

Reflecting on the brutality within Con Dao prison, Professor of History Tran Van Giau remarked, “…Compared to the cruelty in Con Dao prison during the American-puppet period, Hitler’s prisons seem like dry ponds compared to deep abysses.”

Twenty thousand remains rest in the Hang Keo and Hang Duong cemeteries, scattered across Con Dao, along with tens of thousands of others who were disabled, afflicted by incurable diseases, writhing in endless pain until death. This starkly stands as evidence of the crimes committed by colonialism and imperialism against our nation.


  1. Con Dao: Battlefront and Schools

Beginning in 1930, political prisoners, particularly those aligned with communist ideologies, initiated a new chapter in the history of prisons: an organized and strategic struggle against the enemy in all circumstances. They achieved significant victories during the August Revolution of 1945.

The generation of resistance fighters against French colonial rule (1946-1954) elevated the goals of their struggle to a new level: the prison became a battleground, and prisoners transformed into active soldiers engaging within the enemy’s territory. Their focus was on continuous attacks against the enemy, disseminating revolutionary ideology to enemy soldiers, and creating conditions for victories on various battlefronts.

During the American-puppet (1954-1975), Con Dao’s political prisoners assumed the mission of safeguarding discipline, defending communist ideals, protecting national independence, and unifying the country, prioritizing these over their own lives. The 1975 uprising permanently eradicated the “Hell on Earth” that had persisted on the island for 113 years.

Beyond their accomplishments in the struggle, Con Dao’s political prisoners created a remarkable story on a new battleground: transforming the imperial prison into a revolutionary school. Here, they trained and educated cadres who later assumed crucial roles in the nation’s leadership.

Figures such as Le Duan, Ton Duc Thang, Pham Hung, Tran Huy Lieu, Pham Van Dong, Nguyen Duy Trinh, Le Thanh Nghi, Nguyen Van Linh, and others emerged from this transformative experience. Given its significance, Con Dao was often referred to as the “Communist University.”

  1. Con Dao Today

On the night of April 30 and the morning of May 1, 1975, political prisoners initiated a self-liberation movement, breaking free from captivity and completely liberating Con Dao, marking a rebirth for the archipelago.

By May 4, 1975, naval forces had arrived to take control of Con Dao. The 3,780 former political prisoners, part of the “Victorious Soldiers Brigade,” were repatriated to the mainland, while 156 volunteered to remain, contributing to the island’s reconstruction. At that time, Con Dao had 374 families comprising soldiers, officials, and prison guards, totaling 2,467 individuals. They transitioned into new citizens on the recently liberated island.

In an effort to shape Con Dao into a splendid and aesthetically pleasing destination, befitting the trust and expectations of the entire nation, Party General Secretary Le Duan expressed on August 27, 1976: “…Con Dao stands as a heroic island, a significant historical relic, and a grand school for the generations to come.  Comrades, let us work diligently to develop Con Dao not only into a prosperous and economically robust island but also to preserve these historical relics as assets for the people, an invaluable legacy passed down through generations…”

On April 29, 1979, the Ministry of Culture issued Decision No. 54/VH.QD, officially recognizing the entire system of prisons and cemeteries, including Hang Duong Cemetery, Hang Keo Cemetery, historical Pier, and stone embankments around the beaches, as national revolutionary historical relics. Further, on May 10, 2012, the Con Dao Prison Historical Relic was designated as a special national historical relic according to Decision No. 548/QD-TTg by the Prime Minister.

The socio-economic development plan for Con Dao district until 2020, approved by the Prime Minister on October 25, 2005, focuses on transforming Con Dao into a high-quality tourism and service economic zone. This development plan is closely tied to the conservation and elevation of the special revolutionary historical relics, enhancing the value of Con Dao National Park, and contributing to the island’s integration into the international economy.

With a long-term vision emphasizing modernity, stability, sustainability, effectiveness, and ensuring national defense and security, Con Dao’s technical infrastructure has undergone significant investments, including the renovation and upgrading of roads, with new pathways contributing to the evolving urban landscape in the central area of Con Dao.

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