Vietnamese collector successfully purchases royal seal

February 14, 2023 - 09:46
Authorities are carrying out procedures for the repatriation of the seal to Việt Nam in accordance with the laws of both nations.


Nguyễn Thế Hồng is pictured with the Hoàng Đế Chi Bảo gold seal. He has purchased it from French auction house with €6,1 million (US$6,5 million). Photo courtesy of Nguyễn Thế Hồng

HÀ NỘI - A Vietnamese collector from the northern province of Bắc Ninh has spent €6.1 million (US$6.5 million) purchasing the Nguyễn Dynasty imperial seal from a French auction house.

According to the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, the purchaser of the gold seal is Nguyễn Thế Hồng, Chairman of Bắc Ninh Antiquities Association. He has covered all the expenses for negotiating with Millon Auction House with regard to the seal’s authenticity and repatriation, under the timely sponsorship of the Vietnamese Government and relevant ministries, branches and agencies.

The contract to purchase the seal was signed with Millon on January 13 in France. Authorities are carrying out procedures for the repatriation of the seal to Việt Nam in accordance with the laws of both nations. It is expected to return at the end of April.

Hồng is a real estate businessman. He also established the Nam Hồng Royal Museum in Từ Sơn District, Bắc Ninh Province, which displays the artifacts he has collected, from bronze antiques and ceramics to wooden furniture.

One item in his collection, the Đông Sơn Bronze Jar dating back between 2,200 and 2,300 years ago, was recognised as a national treasure in January.

In November last year, Việt Nam announced that the negotiation for the seal’s return had been successful "in the spirit of consensus and understanding between the two sides and the friendly cooperation relationship between Việt Nam and France".

On October 19, Millon announced its auction of 329 antiquities, including two dating back to the Nguyễn Dynasty – a golden seal made in 1823 and a golden bowl made under the reign of King Khải Định (1917 - 1925). The auction of the seal was deferred twice by the Paris-based auction house due to "the strong interest of the Vietnamese State", as they announced on their website.

According to the French auction house, the gold square seal is 10.4 centimetres high and weighs 10.78 kilograms. It was passed down from the second king of Nguyễn Dynasty, Minh Mạng (1791-1841) to its last, King Bảo Đại (1913-1997).

Its handle is in the form of a coiled dragon with a raised head.  The dragon's forehead is engraved with the word Vương (Emperor) which symbolises the emperor's supreme power, and each of its legs has five claws. The phrase Hoàng Đế Chi Bảo (Treasure of The Emperor) appears on the imperial seal.

Việt Nam’s Department of Cultural Heritage has confirmed that the seal is authentic.

According to Dr. Phan Thanh Hải, Director of the Department of Culture and Sports of Thừa Thiên-Huế Province, a member of the National Heritage Council, the Hoàng Đế Chi Bảo gold seal is extremely valuable in terms of culture and history.

"That a private collector has spent all the money to purchase and bring the artifact back home is really a good sign in the process of socialising heritage conservation and promotion activities," he told Thanh Niên (Youth) Newspaper. VNS