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Artefacts unearthed in Thang Long citadel yield civilised past (April 10, 2004)

Wonders about the foundation of historical periods were answered by Prof. Pham Van Huong, an overseas Vietnamese working at Bordeaux 1 University in France. Dr. Huong explained and valued more than four million artefacts excavated at the Ba Dinh Conference Hall. He described the artefacts as symbols of different dynasties, reflecting Dai Viet culture.

Mr. Huong returned home for the traditional New Year festival 2004, and made some assessment of the archaeological site, Hoang Thanh Thang Long (royal city of the ascending dragon).

The discovery has revealed an abundance of artefacts and structures built atop each other from the Ly, Tran, Le and Nguyen dynasties dating from the 7th to the 19th centuries. More than four million artefacts unearthed at the Hall represented different historical periods that many people called "cultural layers". All the treasures reflected a cultural civilisation often called Dai Viet culture, as they looked like artefacts found in other regions in Asia.

Among the artefacts were ceramic and terracotta pieces and building materials, including massive pillars, used during the Ly, Tran and Le dynasties, and skeletal remains from the Le Dynasty.

However, many of the bricks, tiles, swords, cosmetics and ceramics had never previously been seen. Many bricks carried Han inscriptions showing they had been used during the Ly, Tran and Le dynasties. Other finds included marble dragon and unicorn heads, terracotta dragons, statues of the phoenix, cosmetics and utensils made of precious stones and bronze, ceramic urns, gold jewellery, decorated swords, a cannon and earthenware used in the 7th to 18th century feudal dynasties. All were meticulously made and show the prosperity of the three dynasties.

There are four typical features representing Dai Viet culture and civilisation, namely the dragon motif, coin casting foundations of historic structures and preservation of the valuable treasures.

Dragon motif

Dragon motif from Thang Long citadel
The dragon motif, also popular in China as representative of the emperor, may reflect the ancient capital’s name. The motif existed in Vietnamese people’s spiritual life and was reflected in decorative arts. It can be seen in architecture of religious constructions, such as pagodas and temples, as well as royal tombs. At the site of Ba Dinh, archaeologists also found several ceramics carved with loan phung image in a heart symbol (loan phung are mythical bird always as a couple, symbolising love, happiness and elegance). The ceramics were dug up with some jewellery reflecting the respect of women and love of the forebears in the past, aside from swords and spears representing the strength and power of men.

Coin casting

Vietnamese people under Ly Thai To regime used coins named the reign's year of Thuan Thien dai bao. "Dai bao" was also called "nguyen bao" or "thong bao", the original Chinese words. Thuan Thien Dai Bao show pride of creating a new currency for the Ly dynasty. Previously, under Dinh and Le dynasties, the coin was named Thai Binh hung bao and Thien Phuc tran bao.

Many international experts who studied ancient coins under feudal dynasties said that Vietnam could proud of having most beautiful coins in the Southeast Asia. Most beautiful coins were minted at the post-Le dynasty, especially from Le Thai Tong (1434) to Le Tuong Duc (1517), with reign’s years of Dai Bao, Dai Hoa, Dien Ninh, Thien Hung, Quang Thuan, Hong Duc, Canh Thong, Doan Khanh and Hong Thuan. These coins were carved with various exquisite designs that recalled of those beautiful designs on Dong Son and Ngoc Lu bronze drums.

Foundations of historic structures

Vietnamese people used to build their house and pagodas mainly by wood. When war or fire happened, their houses would be burnt to ashes. After such disasters, they would rebuild in the same place, again and again after each fire or war. The process proved the foundation of historical structures through artefact layers at Ba Dinh Hall archaeologist site. Each layer at the archaeological site was enclosed with dust and ashes separating one layer from the next. Dust and ashes are convincing evidence of the foundation of historical periods.

Preservation of valuable treasures

Historic relics must be preserved carefully. The new National Conference Hall can be moved to another place, but it is essential to restore the historic site for younger generations. Following generations can have the chance to visit and further understand about their origin.

The excavation yields valuable information about the nation’s glorious history and civilisation. It has brought great pride to Vietnamese people through opening a new page of national history with undeniable evidence that was previously known only through history books.

Reprinted from VOV News


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