A treasure of Han (Chinese scripts) inscriptions in verses and prose on architectural works in the Hue imperial citadel is a unique and invaluable documentary heritage of Vietnam, said Dr Phan Thanh Hai, Director of the Hue Monuments Conservation Centre.

The inscriptions reflect special historical, cultural and art messages of a certain period in the country’s history, he said.

Han works in verses and prose, including poems and celebratory eulogies, were carved on palaces, steles, mausoleums and other monuments built within 1802-1945 under the Nguyen Dynasty.

The inscriptions are typical for a decoration style combining fine art and poems, which became a rule in the decoration of royal architectural structures, said Hai.

Though a number of important relics carved with many inscriptions were ruined during wartime, there remain 2,742 gold-trimmed lacquered poem compartments in the citadel.

One of them carrying a poem considered as a declaration of independence of the Nguyen Dynasty, the country's last feudal regime, is placed in the central of the Thai Hoa Palace.
The poem reads: The country has a civilisation of thousands of years/ its territory stretches thousands of miles/ Ever since its establishment under the Hong Bang Family/ the country is prosperous and mighty.

Poems chosen for these inscriptions were works composed by Nguyen kings, royal family members and mandarins. They were arranged by top calligraphers and carved by most talented carpenters in wooden materials made of precious kinds of woods such as ironwood, said Hai.

All the inscriptions carved in wooden architecture are the only originals left in the Hue ancient imperial citadel. They had not yet undergone any changes, restorations or alterations during and after the Nguyen Dynasty, Hai said.

During the past decades, although restoration techniques have significantly evolved, all the Han works on the architectural system of the Hue imperial citadel remained untouched, explained Hai.

Currently, to minimise the excessive use of the originals, all the irreplaceable treasures have been filmed, photographed and digitalised, he said, informing that the Hue Monuments Conservation Centre will organise a number of conferences to introduce the materials to the public and researchers.

He pointed to difficulties in the preservation of the monument inscriptions, including the conservation of the host architectural works, since modern preservation technologies regulating temperature and humidity are yet suitable.

Hai revealed that the Hue Monuments Conservation Centre is working hard to compile a dossier on the inscriptions for submission to the UNESCO to seek its recognition under the World Document Heritage criteria.
The effort is expected to bring local preservationists a chance to access suitable conservation technologies, thus protecting the invaluable treasure efficiently.-VNA