Culture Culture

22/06/2021 - 08:53

Repairing and conserving Thái Hòa Palace

Built in 1805, Thai Hoa Palace (the Palace of Supreme Harmony) is one of the typical constructions of the royal architecture of Hue. This relic is now seriously degrading and Hue Monuments Conservation Center is taking steps to repair and restore the entire palace.

After being restored, the Palace of Supreme Harmony will host royal festivals and rituals for tourism

Dismantling and repairing the entire palace

The Palace of Supreme Harmony was built in 1805 in Emperor Gia Long’s era in the area where Dai Cung Mon was located later. In 1833, Emperor Minh Mang had it moved to the present site. The palace had been repaired many times during the Nguyen Kings’ eras. Currently, the Palace of Supreme Harmony is seriously degrading. Brick pillars and decorative patterns are broken and the mortar layers are weathered. The rotten wooden pillars fail to support the palace. The wooden frame is getting loose and weak. Triple panels, doors and the ceiling are seriously rotten. The roof is cracked and the tiles are dislocated. Especially the west wing of the palace collapsed in the storm No. 5 in 2020. The entire roof is leaking when it rains. The whole palace risks collapsing.

The analysis of historical data and engineering status shows the Palace of Supreme Harmony is now basically preserving the core values ​​during the period from 1833 to 1945.

Hue Monuments Conservation Center therefore proposes a plan to repair the Palace of Supreme Harmony on the basis of the current palace. As for roof tiles, in order to affirm the important position of the palace in the Imperial City and for the sustainability and technological requirements of the palace, yellow tiles, which were used during the period of 90 years from Emperor Minh Mang’s era to Emperor Duy Tan’s era, will be selected for the roofs of the main hall and the front hall. 

According to the plan, Hue Monuments Conservation Center will repair and conserve the surrounding foundation wall, the rail system, the steps, the yard and entrances and the yard of Dai Trieu Nghi. The foundation of the palace, its surrounding wall, its roof and decorative patterns and its wooden frame are also repaired. The palace will also be repainted and its interior will be rearranged based on documentary photos taken in Emperor Khai Dinh’s era.

Ensuring authenticity

According to Mr. Vo Le Nhat, Director of Hue Monuments Conservation Center, the repair and conservation of the Palace of Supreme Harmony is urgent. 140-150 billion dong is needed, 100 billion of which is invested by the government. The center will try to do this as sooner as possible and it will host festivals and activities for tourists. 

In order to complete the project dossier to submit to authorities for approval, Hue Monuments Conservation Center has held a conference to consult with historical researchers and experts in the field of conservation. At the same time a poll has been conducted to gather ideas from the community.

According to the researcher Nguyen Xuan Hoa, in addition to its historical, architectural and artistic value, the Palace of Supreme Harmony also contains part of royal poetry that has been recognized as word documentary heritage in Asia-Pacific. Therefore, it is necessary to include repairing and restoring the “one poem-one picture” or “one poem-one letter” systems in the palace. They need to be taken care of when the palace is dismantled and be photographed, filmed, digitalized and translated in the process.

According to Dr. Phan Tien Dung, former Director of the Department of Culture and Sports, since this palace belongs to the Complex of Hue Monuments recognized as world heritage, it is necessary to comply with international charters and conventions that Vietnam has agreed upon. In addition, it is necessary to analyze and clarify the repair methods and preferred materials and to focus on traditional manual methods.

Dr. Phan Thanh Hai, Director of the Department of Culture and Sports, agreed with the proposal to replace the current tile roof with yellow tube tiles and the plan to dismantle the whole relic to ensure accurate assessment of the damage and to choose appropriate repair solutions. 

However, it is necessary to make a 3D scan of the entire palace before dismantling. Another note is that the wooden structures of the Palace of Supreme Harmony are marked with a system of symbols of ancient people. It is hence necessary to record, research and conserve them.  

Some other people advise that Hue Monuments Conservation Center need to access additional documents including original photos, the restoration plan in Emperor Khai Dinh's era as well as consult with people who know much about this palace so that it will be properly repaired. 

Story and photo: Minh Hien 

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