Culture Culture

24/01/2022 - 09:21

Listening to the raindrops from Quan Tuong Dai

Not many people have noticed a special thing in this winter in Hue: For the first time ever, in the rainfall updates of the Provincial Commanding Committee for Disaster Prevention and Search & Rescue appears a very strange place, which is Quan Tuong Dai (the Imperial Observatory) in Hue Imperial City. The three words “Quan Tuong Dai” being read out on a rainy day sounds melancholy as if old friends saw each other once again after such a long time.

The preservation of Quan Tuong Dai

When my "old friend", researcher Ho Tan Phan, was still alive, and the Imperial Observatory was still in ruins, not being restored as beautifully as it is now, we used to be lost in contemplation a couple of times every year at this site in Thuong Thanh within the Nam Minh fortress (the Upper surface of the Wall to the southwest corner of Hue Citadel).

Once, while sitting on the ruined stone ground of Bat Phong Pavilion of Quan Tuong DaiHo Tan Phan said, “no matter what happens, this is the second observatory in the history of feudalism in Vietnam and is the only work with its traces remaining”.

Previously in Thang Long, during the Le Dynasty (1428 - 1788), there was an Imperial Observatory and Kham Thien Giam (Directorate of Imperial Observatory). However, these places have left no traces of their existence, but only a quarter named "Kham Thien" (now in Dong Da district, Hanoi).

And until the 1960s, Quan Tuong Dai in Hue Citadel was still relatively intact. After that, due to not being active, preserved and restored, Quan Tuong Dai was degraded, and Bat Phong Pavilion was damaged and collapsed.

Quan Tuong Dai was built in 1827 during the reign of Emperor Minh Mang with the purpose for astrologers of Kham Thien Giam to use telescopes to observe the sun, moon, and stars in order to determine geographical coordinates not only in Hue, but also in other provinces, cities and regions across the country.

And according to researcher Ho Tan Phan, there is a very interesting detail related to Quan Tuong Daiwhich is not noticed by many people. In 1837, the mandarins of Kham Thien Giam incorrectly calculated the geographical coordinates of the capital, Emperor Minh Mang allowed to use new method from the West to calculate and determine the middle point of Hue Citadel at 16 degrees, 22 minutes, 30 seconds North Latitude and 105 degrees East Longitude as today.

Researcher Ho Tan Phan was the witness of the completion of the restoration of Quan Tuong Dai by Hue Monuments Conservation Center in 2013. But he did not live to witness the Provincial Commanding Committee for Disaster Prevention and Search & Rescue setting up a rain gauge station with automatic rain gauge system in Quan Tuong Dai by the end of 2020.

This entire rain gauge system is sponsored by the Water Resources Development and Consulting Joint Stock Company (Watec). This system automatically measures rainfall instantaneously with 2 surveillance cameras and updates information on Hue-S Smart City application.

Just like he never witnessed and envisioned a day when Quan Tuong Dai is no longer just a relic but has a great connection with the past. That is when the three words “Quan Tuong Dai” appear on our phone for the purpose of forecasting the rainfall in the city.

According to Dr. Phan Thanh Hai, Director of the Department of Culture and Sports, former Director of Hue Monuments Conservation Center during the restoration period of Quan Tuong Dai, the presence of this site in Hue's current weather reports is very significant.

Quan Tuong Dai is the only ancient hydro-meteorological agency of the monarchy that we can still preserve and restore. The fact that we continue to place rainfall monitoring equipment here is the continuation of our ancestors doing hydro-meteorological forecasting. This continuation is very meaningful because we do not discard the past, but still inherit the beautiful and traditional values ​​of our ancestors," said Mr. Hai.

Recalling when he was still alive, researcher Ho Tan Phan's greatest wish was to complete the research project "Titles of the Emperors of the Nguyen Dynasty" and establish a private museum temporarily called “Perfume River Cultural Museum” to display tens of thousands of ceramic artifacts over the periods recovered from Hue riverbeds, in which he has invested a lot of passion, effort, and money.

“The Perfume River Cultural Museum is a moving dash between the present and the past. And it will tell us the beautiful stories of the past, which have been buried by alluvium for thousands of years and have not had the opportunity to speak up," he explained many times to me about the future museum in a house full of books and antiques on Cao Ba Quat Street.

But then everything became unfinished when he suddenly passed away on a rainy day in 2016. Tens of thousands of rare ceramic artifacts of his gradually decreased due to many different reasons.

But the other day, tears had filled my eyes when I happened to “see him again”, more precisely, the ceramic artifacts bearing his image in another museum with a similar name, "Museum of the Perfume River", which are also story-telling ceramic artifacts of Prof. Dr. Thai Kim Lan right in the middle of her ancestral house at 120 Nguyen Phuc Nguyen Street.

I said “I met him” because among 7,000 ceramic artifacts displayed in the museum, many of which Prof. Dr. Thai Kim Lan bought from researcher Ho Tan Phan and some from his relatives after his death.

Suddenly, I feel happy because Prof. Dr. Thai Kim Lan has been doing what researcher Ho Tan Phancould not do. Also, there are many antiques with his image in Hue, not only in the " Museum of the Perfume River " on Nguyen Phuc Nguyen Street. Therefore, maybe he is also opening a phone app to listen to the raindrops at Quan Tuong Dai just like me.