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Hue’s five UNESCO Heritage listings are in three different categories: Hue Monumental Complex (1993 – Tangible Heritage), Elegant court music – royal music of Vietnam (2009 – Intangible Heritage); Woodblocks of Nguyen Dynasty (2009 – Documentary Heritage), Royal ordinances of the Nguyen Dynasty (2014 – Documentary Heritage) and Poetry on royal architecture of Hue (2016 – Documentary Heritage). All five trace their roots to the Nguyen Dynasty, the last feudal regime of Vietnam.
During its 400 years of existence (1558-1945), the Nguyen Dynasty bequeathed our nation with rich and diverse cultural practices and historic sites. As the former capital of this dynasty, Hue has benefited from this priceless heritage.
The Hue Monumental Complex is a compound of royal buildings, including fortresses, palaces, mausoleums, sacrificial sites, pagodas, urban streets and gardens that reflect an ancient Asian capital at the height of its development. Despite the ravages of war, natural disasters and time, this monumental complex remains fairly intact and has been well-preserved thanks to the efforts of the entire Vietnamese community and support from our friends overseas.
Elegant court music, the royal music of Vietnam, is another unique heritage that Hue has worked hard to preserve. In the late 1990s this art form was in danger of dying out due to a lack of skilled musicians and performing spaces. Thanks to the efforts of those charged with preserving the Hue Citadel, the dedication of remaining artists and the support of UNESCO, elegant court music has been revived. This academic and noble performing genre has not only been renewed and performed in its place of origin, but it is also promoted worldwide. It has been one of Vietnam’s major performing arts during recent Hue Festivals.
As the capital of a dynasty that held education and knowledge in high regard, Hue is home to a treasury of knowledge. According to the late professor Tran Van Giau, compiled and printed publications from the Nguyen Dynasty outnumbered those of all preceding dynasties combined. Woodblocks (woodcuts used to print the dynasties’ publications), royal ordinances (official dynastic letters reviewed and approved by emperors and signed with vermillion ink) and carved or enamel-coated verses on royal buildings in Hue are all magnificent documentary treasures. Despite the upheavals of history, over 34,600 Nguyen Dynasty woodblocks are stored and preserved in Dalat. Tens of thousands of sheets of royal ordinances are stored in Hanoi. Remaining in Hue are the verses carved onto royal buildings.
In recent years, the public and visitors in Hue have been made aware of the value of Nguyen Dynasty royal ordinances and woodblocks through large-scale exhibitions hosted in the inner palaces. These events foster a deeper understanding of the diverse and unique cultural treasures that originated in the Hue Citadel.
In mid-September 2016, an international seminar titled “Preserving and promoting imperial cultural values of the Nguyen Dynasty” will be hosted in Hue, drawing many top domestic and international scholars. This event is another opportunity for this former citadel city to demonstrate its special place on the global heritage map.