Hue struggles to restore garden homes

Despite local authorities' efforts for the last five years, many nha vuon or garden houses of Hue are facing the ravages of time.
Despite local authorities' efforts for the last five years, many nha vuon or garden houses of Hue are facing the ravages of time.

According to Tran Thanh, deputy head of the city's culture office, the Thua Thien - Hue provincial administration in 2006 offered a four-year project to preserve garden houses.

As part of the project, research was conducted on more than 7,100 garden houses, including 800 older houses of significant value that should be restored.

"We promoted a plan to restore 150 typical houses which are in danger of becoming lopsided," he said. "However, only 52 among the houses now have good quality".

In 2009, the provincial People's Committee decided that each garden house owner would receive financial support of 100 million VND (5,000 USD) to restore the house.

Residents who invest in building garden house will receive 5 million VND per house towards buying saplings or seeds for trees. They will also be granted five-year preferential loans.

In fact, many homeowners who cannot afford to restore their property from the ravages of time or sell parts to people from other localities did not receive any financial support to restore the houses as the local government had promised.

"We often open our houses to the public free of charge without support from local tourism firms," said Nguyen Ngoc Trinh, homeowner of Phu Mong-Kim Long tourist site located in Kim Long Commune.

Cultural researcher Nguyen Huu Thong, head of the Vietnam Culture and Arts Institute's branch in Hue, said that the business of preserving garden house is urgent.

"Authorities' new policies will prove to be a shot in the arm for preservation and revival efforts," he added.

A typical garden house in Hue has two main parts: nha ruong (house built with many beams (ruong) and pillars (cot) ) and the surrounding garden, designed according to geomancy (feng shui) stipulations and their owners' spiritual orientation.

Another very distinctive feature of nha ruong is that all beams and pillars are joined by mortise and tenons, not nails.

Roofed with brick tiles, the beams and pillars of “nha ruong” are made of precious, solid wood such as lim (iron wood), gu (sindora) or thong xanh (teranthera pine). The entire house stands on big pillars placed on a round or square stone base.

Traditionally, a garden house cannot be sold out of the family in order to maintain ancestral links. However, rocketing land values have encouraged some people to sell their land or dissemble their nha ruong.

If this trend continues, a unique feature of the central province will disappear into history and culture books. /.

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