Revival of Hue Cultural Heritages: From Emergency Rescue to Sustainable Development

9:50:39 AM | 11/11/2020

History placed Hue as a cultural - political center of Dang Trong (Cochinchine) during the reign of Nguyen Lords (1558-1777), Tay Son Dynasty (1778 - 1802) and the capital of the nation during the Nguyen Dynasty (1802- 1945). The inheritance of unique indigenous cultural values combined with the cultural quintessence of monarchy dynasties has crystallized an enormous legacy in the heart of the former imperial capital of Hue, including tangible heritages, intangible heritages and documentary heritages honored by UNESCO.

Among former capitals of Vietnam, Hue is the only one to keep the overall artistic architecture of the Royal Palace intact, which consists of citadels, palaces, temples and royal tombs. Hue is a harmonious combination of human factors, architecture and natural landscape - a typical landscape architecture, a type of architecture imbued with national identity and humanity. This characteristic poses a very strict requirement: Protecting the monument, consisting of architectural protection combined with protection of natural landscape and cultural heritages on the one hand, and protecting and promoting cultural and spiritual values on the other.

Urgency for the birth of heritage conservation agency

After the war, the Complex of Hue Monuments was seriously damaged, with some 400 works ruined or damaged by war (compared to 1,400 original works). Intangible heritages were also destroyed and disintegrated.

In 1981, in the call for saving Hue cultural heritages in Hanoi, the then UNESCO Director General Amadou-Mahtar M'Bow said that Hue heritages are in danger, on the edge of the abyss of doom and oblivion. Only “an emergency rescue”, attempted by the Government of Vietnam together with the international community, can help Hue get out of this reality.

Immediately after the appeal, an international campaign to support Hue was vigorously deployed. On June 10, 1982, Hue Cultural and Historical Relic Management Company was established. On May 30, 1992, the Thua Thien Hue Provincial People’s Committee issued a decision to rename the company to Hue Monuments Conservation Center. The center was assigned to directly manage, preserve and promote the value of royal cultural heritages of the Nguyen Dynasty, including tangible and intangible cultural heritages and the environmental landscape in heritage sites.

Revival of Hue cultural heritage

With its efforts and the very active and urgent participation of authorities from central to local levels, in 1992, the documentation on Hue's tangible heritages was compiled and submitted to UNESCO. On December 11, 1993, the Complex of Hue Monuments was recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

After the Complex of Hue Monuments was recognized as the World Heritage Site, there was a need for a national strategy for preserving these priceless heritages. In this context, the center focused on advising authorities at all levels and made the project of planning, preserving and promoting Hue monuments in 1996-2010. On February 12, 1996, the Prime Minister issued Decision 105/TTg to officially approve the project. Decision 105/TTg served as the most important legal basis for Hue, the former capital of Vietnam, to carry out the strategy for preserving and promoting cultural values in the early years after Hue was certified as a World Heritage Site and the basis for the Government to promulgate Decision 818/QD-TTg approving the project to adjust the Project of planning, conserving and promoting the value of Hue monuments in 2010-2020.

10 years after the Complex of Hue Monuments was recognized, on November 7, 2010, Nha Nhac, the Vietnamese Royal Court Music, was named by UNESCO on the Representative List of Intangible Heritage of Humanity. Since Nha Nhac was honored, the center has made great efforts to make this music affirm its value and popularity.

The initial striking successes of Hue heritage preservation opened up the premise to advance the renaissance of Hue heritages to a higher, broader level.

In 2009, the Nguyen Dynasty woodblocks were recognized as a World Documentary Heritage and two other documentary legacies of the Nguyen Dynasty were also recognized by the Memory of the World Committee for Asia and the Pacific of UNESCO as the World Documentary Heritages: Imperial Record of Nguyen Dynasty (2014) and Museum of Poetry on Hue Imperial Architecture (2016). Thus, Hue has five world heritages of all three types: Intangible Cultural Heritage, Intangible Heritage and Documentary Heritage, and three of them are the first heritages of Vietnam to be honored in three categories.

The nearly 40-year effort of preserving, reviving and promoting typical cultural values of Hue has gained a lot of valuable experiences and lessons with many outstanding achievements. To date, Hue has been rated by domestic and international individuals and organizations, especially UNESCO, as a leading locality in Vietnam in heritage conservation, capable of building into a standard center for conservation technology transfer in Asia and the Pacific.

Preserving and promoting Hue cultural heritages in the new period

Entering a new period, despite many difficulties, the cause of preserving Hue heritages has received special attention from the Party and State along with specific support policies shown through Conclusion 48 and Conclusion 175 of the Politburo, Decision 818/QD-TTg and Decision 1880/QD-TTg of the Prime Minister.

Most recently, on December 10, 2019, the Politburo issued Resolution 54-NQ/TW on Thua Thien Hue construction and development to 2030, with a vision to 2045, which clearly states “Building and developing Thua Thien Hue into a centrally governed city on the basis of preserving and promoting the values of Hue heritages and cultural identity with cultural, heritage, ecological and landscape characteristics, and environment-friendliness.” For that reason, Thua Thien Hue province is always deeply aware that the values of Hue heritages and cultural identity are the foundation for making a key economic development strategy for socioeconomic growth, for the rapid and sustainable development of Hue, based on its own strengths and characteristics. The Party Committee and the Management Board of the Hue Monuments Conservation Center built program actions to execute the Politburo's Resolution 54-NQ/TW, with specific tasks:

Further reforming the Center's organizational apparatus for more streamlined and efficient operations; improving employee quality; investing in major conservation and restoration; formulating a focused public investment plan in 2021 - 2025; making plans for preserving and promoting the values of Hue monuments to 2030 and further to 2045; enhancing infrastructure development quality to support socioeconomic development.

Further upholding the values of intangible cultural heritage: Making plans to promote the intangible value; researching and building tourism products together with typical art programs; studying and restoring songs of Court Music and Court Dance; carrying out valuable scientific topics concerning conservation and promotion of Court Music.

A few recommendations

To well perform its tasks of preserving and promoting well the values of Hue cultural heritages in the new context, in the coming time, the Center hopes to receive further support from central and local agencies: Soon adopting the policy on donation and auction of valuable antiques for research, display and sightseeing; for tourism development, strengthening cooperation with relevant bodies and branches to build joint key economic development strategy to play a greater part in socioeconomic growth; for investment capital, prioritizing resources for preservation and promotion of heritage values, especially seriously degraded items; directing and supporting specific procedures, mechanisms and policies for socialized promotion of heritage values.

The center also hopes that residents and tourists, when visiting Hue monuments, comply with sightseeing rules. At the same time, the center is always ready to receive shared opinions and suggestions from all people and domestic and foreign tourists to make heritages cleaner and more beautiful.

Source: Vietnam Business Forum

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