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Hue begins restoration of mandarins' abode

Update: November, 24/2012 - 10:10


Living in luxury: The Ta Vu Building in the Forbidden City of the Hue Imperial Citadel. — VNS Photo Thai Hoa
THUA THIEN–HUE (VNS)— The Hue Monuments Conservation Centre (HMCC) and the German Conservation Restoration & Education Project (GCREP) yesterday started work on a project to conserve and restore the interior decor of the Ta Vu Building (Mandarins' House) in Hue Imperial Citadel.

Work on the restoration project includes retaining of original artwork; treatment for corrosion of the iron girders; filling the gaps in plaster with appropriate materials; and meticulous retouching of the paintings to recreate the authentic beauty of the interior decoration.

The restoration and conservation project aims to recreate an impression of the original aesthetic of the building, in keeping with its artistic importance yet without denying traces of its history, according to the Hue Centre for Monuments Conservation.

The GCREP restorers will also teach Vietnamese artists and artisans theories and practices of their profession. Each GCREP project has helped to raise public awareness of heritage preservation and cultural issues.

Funding for the project amounts to VND4.37 billion (US$210,000), including a grant of 139,660 euros from the German Federation Foreign Office and counter capital of VND513 million from the Conservation Centre's budget.

Restoration works will run from now until April 2014.

When it is finished, Ta Vu Building will also serve as an exhibition centre to display relics and artefacts from the Nguyen Dynasty (1802 – 1945).

This is fourth German-funded project to help preserve historical monuments in the former Imperial City.

Long history

According to Phan Thanh Hai, director of Hue's Monuments and Conservation Centre, Ta Vu is part of Can Chanh Palace, located inside the Forbidden City of Hue Imperial Citadel.

This building served as a place for civil mandarins to prepare themselves before an audience with the emperor, and a working office of the Royal Security Council as well as a place for national examinations and royal banquets.

Ta Vu was built in the 18th year of Emperor Gia Long's reign (1819), immediately after the completion of Can Chanh Palace.

In the 10th year of Emperor Thanh Thai's reign (1899), the building was renovated, but still followed the principles of royal architecture and art, with such traditional materials as rough bricks and lime mortar, blue-enamel tiled roofs, wooden-framed veranda and wooden pillars standing on Thanh rock blocks.

In 1923 on the occasion of the 40th birthday of Emperor Khai Dinh, the building was renovated again.

"During this period, Western values partly influenced the architecture and interior decor of the building. Although it was replaced with a concrete ceiling and a flower-enamelled tile floor, it still retained the original structure as well as the architectural shape and size as you see today," said Hai.

"The interior still has the timber structure covered with red lacquer and trimmed with gold. Parts of the wall and ceiling paintings and decorations have a European style, but the patterns still follow the Hue royal tradition."

Ta Vu suffered severe damage during the Indo-china War. The fire of 1947, which destroyed the Can Chanh Palace, also left a trail of destruction.

In 1987, the Conservation Centre launched its restoration with repairs to the roof and the facades.

In 1998, it restored the interior timber frame, and then with the aid of Polish colleagues, it was possible to make a preliminary survey of the condition of the decorative paintings in the main hall, according to Andrea Teufel, chief restorer of GCREP.

"The samples exposed at that time today present sobering facts. It appears that the fire and likewise the water that seeped through the roof damaged the original artwork severely, and some parts of it have vanished forever," she added.

The project is being carried out after successful conservation, restoration and technical training projects conducted at An Dinh Palace (2003-08); the tomb of the Emperor Tu Duc (2009-10), and the Toi Linh Tu Temple in the Royal Treasury in Hue Imperial City (2011-12). — VNS

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