2013 marks a double anniversary for Hué: twenty years since the inscription of this ancient feudal capital of Viet Nam on the World Heritage List; and ten years since the royal court music of Nha Nhac was recognized as an intangible cultural heritage of humanity.
The Director-General had the occasion to view both on 23 June, the last day of her official visit to Viet Nam. Welcomed by a parade of performers in the traditional orange and yellow silk costumes of the Hué court, Mrs Bokova was escorted across several palaces, pavilions, pagodas and ceremonial halls of this former capital of unified Viet Nam from 1802 to 1845, under the Nguyen dynasty. Planned in accordance with ancient oriental philosophy with respect to natural elements, colours and cardinal points, the Imperial City suffered considerable destruction as a result of military operations in 1947 and 1968. Restoration and preservation work is ongoing, under the management of the Hué Monuments Conservation Centre. Over 100 buildings have been restored since 1993. Mrs Bokova also visited the Hue Museum of Royal Antiquities, which presents treasures of the Vietnamese Nguyen dynasty.
“We attach great importance to raising the awareness of people about their heritage so that they can participate in its preservation and promotion, and share its values,” said Mr Nguyen Van Cao, Chairman of the People’s Committee of Thua Thien-Hue province.
The site welcomes some 1.5 million domestic and foreign visitors every year. Expressing gratitude to UNESCO for its assistance, he indicated that the Management Plan for 2014 was being prepared for submission, also drawing attention to new threats to the Complex, including climate change.
It was in the Royal Theatre of the City that a performance of Nha Nhac, Vietnamese court music once played on the occasion of birthdays, religious holidays and other special occasions, was staged. String and percussion instruments accompany songs and dances featuring performers disguised as giant tigers, dragons, turtles and phoenixes. Threatened from disappearance after decades of war, this art form has been revived, and is now performed daily for visitors. With support from UNESCO, a new generation has been trained to perform and pass on this tradition. “We have trained 20 young instrumentalists and recruited seven of them to be artists in the troupe,” explained one of the presenters.
The Director-General commended authorities for their deep commitment to protecting the tangible and intangible heritage of Hué, which holds deep significance to the Vietnamese people.
“Anniversaries are occasions for local communities to celebrate and participate in the protection and preservation of sites, and to appreciate their contribution to world culture,” said Mrs Bokova. “I know you face new challenges and wish to assure you that UNESCO will continue to support the protection, preservation and promotion of this wonderful expression of your long history and living arts and culture.”
Before departing from Viet Nam, the Director-General met with the Vice-Minister of Culture, Ms Dang Thi Bich Lien, and reiterated UNESCO’s commitment to accompanying authorities in addressing emerging safeguarding challenges and promoting culture as an enabler of sustainable development.