THỪA THIÊN - HUẾ — A grand renovation of the Thái Hòa Palace in the imperial city of Huế has just began, to the tune of millions of dollars.
Financed by both State and provincial budgets, as well as other sources, the VNĐ128.7 billion (nearly US$5.7 million) project, which was approved by the Thừa Thiên-Huế Provincial People’s Committee, is expected to be completed by August 2025.
The main entrance to the Thái Hòa Palace. — Photo courtesy of the Huế Monuments Conservation Centre
The palace, the seat of the Nguyễn Dynasty emperors, is one of the most outstanding ancient buildings in the former royal city. The palace preserves a significant number of ancient poems, presented in unique decorative paintings called “nhất thi nhất họa”. Each poem is carved into wooden panels and is accompanied by a matching painting. These distinctive decorations are listed as part of the documentary heritage of Asia and the Pacific, under the UNESCO's Memory of the World Documentary Heritage programme.
First built in 1805 by Emperor Gia Long (1762-1820) in the Đại Cung Môn (Royal Grand Entrance) area, the Thái Hòa Palace was rebuilt in 1833 by Emperor Minh Mạng (1791-1841). It has existed for more than 200 years, surviving the passing of time, war and savage weather, though the palace is now in need of more attention than has been provided by renovations in the past.
According to a survey conducted prior to the renovation project, the palace’s current state has deteriorated; the floor is no longer flat but rugged; the wooden pillars are moisture-laden leading to weakened load-bearing capacity; and the clay-tiled roof is heavily damaged due to rainwater soakage.
In addition, the gold-inlaid paint in the palace’s main and back halls has sloughed off and is fading due to dampness in the wooden frame.
The stone-inlaid two-level courtyards have broken parts. The pathways paved with Bát Tràng clay tiles from the north are cracked.
The interior, including the altar and throne canopy, has peeling paint and dampness.
Furthermore, a huge storm in May 2020 damaged the entire west wing of the main hall, causing a risk to the whole building, as well as making it unsafe for visitors.
The renovation project will strengthen the palace’s foundations, restore the tiled ground, the stone steps, and the brick surrounding walls. The wooden structural frames, including the roof frame, doors and screens, will also be restored.
The project will renovate the throne, the canopy and the gold-inlaid paint, as well as the imperial hoàng lưu ly roof tiles, the ceramic-inlaid holy animal statues and other furniture.
The refurbishment will also be applied to the royal garden and landscape.
Finally, the technical infrastructure system, including electricity, lighting, water drainage, and fire prevention, are also on the project’s agenda. — VNS