Nguyen Kings historical records displayed hinh anh 1A wood block and its printing dating from the Nguyen Dynasty are on display. (Source: VNA)
Hanoi (VNA) – The moc ban (wood blocks) and chau ban (official administrative papers) Kings of the Nguyen Dynasty (1802-1945) used to record history are on display for the first time at an exhibition in Hanoi.

These kings understood the importance of recording history objectively and honestly.

"I want to establish an historic preservation office, recruit scholars to record history to be passed from generation to generation," King Minh Mang (1791-1841) wrote in an official paper in 1820.

The exhibition shows the organisation of the historic preservation office, how the kings recruited staff to the office and the process of collecting documents to compile and print records.

This is a rare chance for the public to see the once top-secret administrative documents carrying decisions and suggestions from the kings, said Lam Ba Nam, head of the Anthropology Department, University of Social Sciences and Humanities.

"It's an opportunity for the visitors to understand more about the Nguyen Dynasty and how they recorded history," he said.

"Through the rare, original manuscripts, the exhibition reflects the social, cultural and political situation during a period in the country's history."

Both moc ban and chau ban were recognised by the UN cultural agency UNESCO as the World Documentary Heritage in the Memory of the World Programme.

Wood blocks are part of a collection of nearly 35,000 dating from 1697 to 1945. They were used to print literary and historical documents. If the entire collection were printed, they would fill 152 books about history, geography, literature, legislation and education, according to the document submitted to UNESCO.

Apart from their historical value, the wood blocks are important in terms of their art and skill, as they mark the development of the wood block carving and printing profession in Vietnam. The carvings of Han Chinese or ancient Vietnamese Nom ideographic scripts were done in reverse so they would appear correctly when printed.

The collection is currently preserved in the State Records and Archives Department at the National Archives Centre IV in the Central Highlands city of Da Lat.

The exhibition of replicas of moc ban and chau ban will run until January 30 at the National Archives Centre I, 18 Vu Pham Ham street, Hanoi.-VNA