Emperor Tu Duc enjoyed the longest reign of any monarch of the Nguyen dynasty, ruling from 1848-83. Although he had over a hundred wives and concubines, he was unable to father a son (possibly he became sterile after contracting smallpox). Thus, it fell to him to write his own epitaph on the deeds of his reign. He felt this was a bad omen, but the epitaph can still be found inscribed on the stele in the pavilion just to the east of the Emperor's tomb. This stele is the largest of its type in Vietnam, and had to be brought here from a quarry over 500 kilometers away--a trip that took four years.

Tu Duc began planning his tomb long before his death in 1883. The major portions of the tomb complex were completed from 1864-67.

After the Emperor's death in 1883 his adopted son Kien Phuc took over as the Nguyen Emperor. Perhaps because he only ruled seven months before dying, a separate tomb was not established for him. Instead, he was laid to rest in a small corner on the grounds of Tu Duc's tomb. Between the tombs of Tu Duc and his son is the tomb of Empress Le Thien Anh, Tu Duc's primary wife.