The Hue Monuments Conservation Centre on April 22 opened a new section inside the former Imperial Citadel to display the ambience of the queen mothers under the Nguyen dynasty (1802-1945).

The area was used as a waiting lounge for guests who paid visits to the queen mothers in Dien Tho Palace, part of a harem designated for queen mothers.

The items on display include a wooden rickshaw that the centre bought at an auction in France for 100,000 USD.

The rickshaw was used by Queen Mother Tu Minh, who was given it as a gift by her son, King Thanh Thai, (1879-1954) for the queen to move around inside the vast palace.

According to the centre's deputy director Nguyen Phuoc Hai Trung, the rickshaw is inlaid with mother-of-pearl. It was made by artisans at a workshop in Hanoi, he said.

The rickshaw was sold to a French man in 1907, together with a royal bed.

Fund for the repurchase came from a local budget, donations from royal family members, local businesses and residents, and oversea Vietnamese living in France. National flag carrier Vietnam Airlines and the Bao Viet Insurance Company donated part of the flight and insurance costs for the return of the vehicle.

The Ministries of Culture, Foreign Affairs, Finance and the Vietnamese Embassy in France worked closely together to buy the hand-pulled, two-wheeled transport.

The centre's Director Phan Thanh Hai said the presence of the rickshaw in the palace would help draw visitors.

Some experts consider the venture as the first time that an antique item has been successfully returned to Vietnam from abroad.

But others claim that the rickshaw is "unimportant to Vietnamese history".

"Bringing back an antique item of Vietnam from abroad is delightful, certainly," researcher Ho Tan Phan said. "But many important and precious Vietnamese items are still now in other countries”.-VNA