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UNESCO vows to save historic Hue (August 29, 2003)

Tourist hordes: Hue has been a must for tourists since it was included on the register of World Heritage sites. — VNA/VNS Photo Ngo Lich
In the 10 years since UNESCO listed the imperial complex in Hue as a World Cultural Heritage site, authorities have poured funds into the restoration and maintenance of the citadel and other nearby historic sites.

The historic city of Hue, a world cultural heritage site, will be preserved for all eternity, UNESCO representative Richard Engelhardt said.

Located in central Thua Thien-Hue Province, the imperial city was the capital of the last Vietnamese feudal regime.

Construction began on the historic capital in 1805 under the reign of King Gia Long, and was completed in 1832 under the reign of King Minh Mang.

The royal complex includes palaces, citadels, temples, shrines, pagodas and mausoleums.

The entire royal complex in Hue was recognised by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) as a world cultural heritage site on December 11, 1993.

During the resistance wars against the French and the Americans, Hue was seriously damaged.

On top of this, severe weather conditions in central Viet Nam have also caused erosion to the city’s constructions.

In an effort to preserve the historic capital, the Cultural Heritage Conservation Centre for the Historic Capital of Hue has focused its activities on preserving its culture and natural landscapes.

Since 1996, the centre has launched campaigns to collect documents on existing historic sites in the city, and worked out a comprehensive plan to preserve these sites.

The centre has also carried out projects to upgrade constructions in the world cultural heritage site.

The Government has approved a project aimed at protecting Hue’s historical sites and objects in the 1996-2010 period, with a total investment of VND720 billion (US$46 million). The project is also funded by revenue from tourism, aid and donations.

The Centre for the Protection of Hue Historic Sites has so far repaired and restored 60 sites at a cost of over VND110 billion ($7 million).

Many historic and architectural sites have been opened to visitors after restoration, such as the Thai Hoa (Supreme Harmony) Palace, the Hung Temple and the tombs of Tu Duc, Dong Khanh, Khai Dinh and Minh Mang.

Under the Hue restoration project, 35,000sq.m of tiles have been laid by skilled and experienced craftsmen.

Infrastructure and natural landscapes in the areas of historical sites have also been upgraded and restored.

In the second phase of a UNESCO campaign to raise funds for management and projection of Hue sites, many countries and international non-governmental organisations donated a total of $800,000.

The Japanese Government provided $100,000 for the Ngo Mon (Noon) Gate restoration; the Thai prime minister donated $20,000 to restore the Hung Temple; and the CODEV Viet Nam-France organisation gave over $64,000 to repair the Duyet Thi Duong opera house.

Also, 10 British companies funded the repairs of the altars of kings Ham Nghi, Thanh Thai, and Duy Tan.

To preserve the city’s culture, the Centre for the Upkeep of Hue has collaborated with the Hue Arts college to organise a university-level courses on ceremonial music and songs, tuong (classical drama) and royal dance.

The centre has a collection of 80 pieces of royal music, 15 royal dances, two tuong plays and 25 tuong extracts.

A recent seminar on Hue’s royal music attracted dozens of professors, including those from the Republic of Korea, China and Japan.

Participants proposed to UNESCO that it recognise Hue’s royal music as part of humankind’s cultural heritage.

Efforts to rehabilitate the former imperial city are paying off. The number of visitors was reported to increase from 730,000 in 1996 to 1.5 million in 2002 with their expenditures accordingly rising from VND15.6 billion to VND35 billion.

The centre spends between VND25 and 35 billion annually on upkeep and restoration work. — VNS

Reprinted with permission from Vietnam News Agency


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