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31/05/2021 - 14:59

The restoration of Thai Mieu: Rehabilitating the original elements of the monument

Hue Monuments Conservation Center will restore, rehabilitate and embellish the overall relic of Thai Mieu (Royal Temple of Nguyen Lords), also known as Thai To Mieu, to preserve a relic complex of unique architectural, artistic, historical and cultural values.

Thai Mieu is originally a beautiful architectural work which is typical of Hue architecture

Restoring the beautiful and typical architectural work

Thai Mieu, one of the five important temples of the Nguyen Dynasty, was built earliest in Hue Imperial City to worship the ancestors of the emperors, in other words, the Nguyen Lords. This relic is also the place to preserve the worshiping rituals of the whole relic complex of Thai Mieu - Trieu Mieu, which is valuable for studying and learning about the worshiping of the previous dynasties in Vietnam in general.

The overall relic of Thai Mieu is a rather large architectural complex, with more than 10 work items located in a precinct with a total area of ​​14,904 square meters, arranged in accordance with the general principles of Nguyen Dynasty architecture.

In particular, the main palace Thai Mieu is the largest wooden one among all palaces built under the Nguyen Dynasty. This wooden construction adopts the style of "Double-eaved roofs”.

In addition, there are also auxiliary works constructed in a symmetric arrangement such as: The Left & Right Temples (Ta, Huu Tong Tu), Quang Hy Gate, Dien Hy Gate, Tuy Thanh Pavilion, Cong Than Temple, Chieu Kinh Palace, Muc Tu Palace, Long Duc Palace, etc.

Looking back at the history, the relic complex of Thai Mieu has gone through many ups and downs. From the most important, majestic, and largest worshiping complex of works in Hue Imperial City under the Nguyen emperors, it almost became a "plain" area after 1947.

Only Thai Mieu, the main work of this relic complex, was restored in 1972 to serve the needs of the Nguyen Phuoc family to worship their ancestors. However, this work is also reduced in size, and now even degraded and partially collapsed. The ravages of war and extreme weather for a long time have cause serious degradation to this relic.

Up to now, Thai Mieu relic has only three main works: Thai Mieu (almost ruined), Long Duc Palace (already restored) and Chieu Kinh Palace (newly rehabilitated).

According to Mr. Vo Le Nhat, Director of Hue Monuments Conservation Center, Thai Mieu is a beautiful architectural work which is typical of Hue architecture and boldly imbrued with national architecture. Although most of the works in this relic complex have been destroyed, based on the written description and the existing foundation conditions, the restoration work will be carried out to rehabilitate the most important temple under the Nguyen Dynasty.

The overall restoration, rehabilitation and embellishment of this relic is necessary in order to bring back the worshiping space which is classified as the Great Temple. The completed relic of Thai Mieu will reenact the worshiping rituals, thus recreating parts of the intangible heritage that is worth handing down to future generations and will be the nucleus in the tourism exploitation of the Thai Mieu - Trieu Mieu complex, which has been left vacant for a long time due to the deterioration of the items.

Preserving the architectural vestiges under Emperor Gia Long's reign

According to the feasibility study report of phase 1 of the project of preserving, restoring, rehabilitating and embellishing the overall relic of Thai Mieu, Hue Monuments Conservation Center will restore and rehabilitate the following items: Thai Mieu, Thai Mieu Gate, the system of courtyard, walking paths, trees, lawns and technical infrastructure. The project is expected to be implemented in 4 years with a total cost of over 265 billion VND.

Thai Mieu will be restored and rehabilitated based on the viewpoint of keeping the original components of the relic intact, which means preserving architectural vestiges and landscapes under Emperor Gia Long’s reign, making changes and additions to decorations, colors and materials under the later emperors, downgrading wrongly positioned items, components and details during the previous repair and expansion projects; and prioritizing the use of traditional engineering materials and processes.

To make the restoration plan for Thai Mieu, Hue Monuments Conservation Center will base on the remains of the existing foundation of the Thai Mieu Gate and the current foundation of the Thai Mieu, combined with the research methodology for restoration on the basis of analyzing historical information, analyzing current status of works, documentary photos and similar works, etc.

In the process of designing, renovating and constructing, the original elements constituting the monument must be strictly respected. Parts and components must be restored only when there is enough scientific data. The replacement and restoration of architectural components must ensure the authenticity, aesthetics as well as processing technology of materials.

In order to complete phase 1 of the plan of preserving, restoring, rehabilitating and embellishing the overall relic of Thai Mieu, Hue Monuments Conservation Center held a conference to collect opinions from experts.

According to Dr. Phan Thanh Hai, Director of the Department of Culture and Sports, Thai Mieu is a complex of works built under Emperor Gia Long’s reign. Although it has undergone many renovations, the works in relic complex, especially Thai To Mieu, still retains the typical architectural and decorative style under Emperor Gia Long’s reign. The plan of restoring and rehabilitating the works must preserve these unique characteristics.

Regarding the project of Thai To Mieu, it is advisable to focus on researching and restoring the basic parts first, such as the foundation system, the wooden frame, and the roof system. Hue Monuments Conservation Center should organize an archeological excavation of the entire Thai Mieu relic to have a full and accurate assessment of the changes in the works in this relic complex. In addition, it is important to continue to invest in collecting written materials, photographic materials, drawings about Thai Mieu, in which special attention is paid to Chau Ban documents (royal dossiers) and photographic sources.

According to Dr. Phan Tien Dung, Chairman of the Provincial Historical Science Association, Thai Mieu is such a large-scale architectural work that it is necessary to study additional options on materials and technical issues. At the same time, priority should be given to the use of traditional materials and manual methods. During the implementing process, it is essential to ensure keeping the approved principles, and having accurate scientific data.

Story & photo: Minh Hien

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