Emperor Khai Dinh (1885-1925) ruled the country for 9 years from 1916 to 1925. His tomb, however, was built within 11 years, from 1920 to 1931, much longer than his reign.
Under Khai Dinh, Western culture vigorously infiltrated into Vietnam. Khai Dinh himself made a tour to France in 1922. As a result, in his tomb, several elements of the western architecture have been intermingled with the nation’s traditional art, particularly the use of concrete in place of wood, ardoise slates for roofing, iron gates, lightning rods, electric lamps, etc.
Mountains, hills and rivulets round the tomb are exploited to fulfill the geomantic requirements thus offer the tomb a majestic environment.
Unique value of art of the tomb lies with the decoration skill obviously seen in the Thien Dinh Palace. Its interior decoration features colourful mosaics made of millions of ceramic chip.
With diligence and expert hands, artisans of Khai Dinh times have created hundreds of mosaic bas – relief, all elaborate and attractive with graphic designs and arabesques despite the hardness of the materials.
The palace interior resembles a museum of fine arts with pleasing designs in bas – relief which express joy, decorative characters “Tho” (Longevity) and “Phuc” (Happiness), life-size sculpture of the Emperor, showcases for the Royal robes, etc.
Khai Dinh tomb has been classified as a work of “neo – classicism” in Vietnam’s history of fine arts and really a place where “mourning smile”.