Aug 1, 2010

Preserving this cultural site in our responsibility

VGP – A letter from the Honorary President of the Việt Nam Association of Historical Sciences, General Võ Nguyên Giáp, to Party and State Leaders.

General Võ Nguyên Giáp

Recently, I heard an archaeological report on the excavations at a site intended for building the National Assembly House. After that, I myself went to the site, looking at the historical vestiges and talking with the historians and archaeologists. I greatly appreciated the results of the archaeological excavations and the significance of the discovered site.

This is the first time Vietnamese archaeologists have had the opportunity and conditions to excavate sites from the ancient Royal Citadel of Thăng Long. By the end of September 2003 they excavated about 14,000 square meters of land, and recently another thousands of square meters. This is the largest archaeological excavation ever in Việt Nam and among the largest in Southeast Asia. At the site, remains of the western part of the citadel were exposed. This uncovered an architectural foundation larger than the royal palace in Huế, a drainage system, and wells. It helps us understand the magnitude and appearance of the royal citadel. Among the artifacts included tiles, bricks, column foundations, stone column bases, iron wood columns and terracotta decorations, royal daily life utensils, pottery (Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese and Middle East), gold decorations, and various weapons. The discovered items manifest the unique values and skill of traditional Vietnamese workmanship.

I would like to stress the significance of the site and the long history that it entails. This specific piece of land dates back to the pre-Thăng Long period beginning with the Đại La citadel in 7th-9th centuries and lasting until the Đinh and Anterior-Lê dynasties in the 10th century, the Thăng Long citadel existed on the site from the Lý and Trần Dynasties until the Early Lê, Mạc, and Restored Lê dynasties in the 11th-18th centuries. After this time period, the Hà Nội citadel stood through the early Nguyễn dynasty in the 19th century. The site is also connected with the revolutionary and resistance war sites during the Hồ Chí Minh era. For example, Hồ Chí Minh’s house-on-stilts, the Hồ Chí Minh Mausoleum, Ba Đình Square, the command headquarters of the Vietnamese People’s Army during the anti-Vietnamese war, and the Ba Đình Meeting Hall are all on this land. This has created an invaluable complex of cultural sites lasting from the 7th to the 20th century. This is a special and rare feature that is of great historical value to Hà Nội. This land remained the capital city of the country for almost 13 successive centuries except for some intervals in the Tây Sơn and Nguyễn periods.

I appreciate the government’s policy allowing the archaeologists to carry out excavations before a construction project is started and delaying construction. Given the results of the excavations, I suggest an in-depth exploration of the entire area and the designing of a master plan for the preservation of this priceless cultural site, including the present Ba Đình Meeting Hall. I suggest choosing another larger site for the construction of the National Assembly House and the new Ba Đình Meeting Hall.

I know it is difficult and costly to preserve such an outdoor cultural and historical site while our country lacks relevant expertise and experience. Nonetheless, I believe when the Party, National Assembly, and State have introduced a correct policy, we will receive support from the population and the rest of the world to devise a proper solution to preserve this site. It is necessary to consider this task a long-term project and carefully plan stages for it. Beside the relevant administrative and scientific bodies in the country, we should seek cooperation with and assistance from international organizations such as the UNESCO and countries that have rich experience in this field. Preserving this cultural site is a responsibility of the Party, National Assembly, and State for our people and culture.

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