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Nguyễn Dynasty’s reforms expressed through châu bản

Update: October, 15/2018 - 09:00
Châu bản (administrative papers) expressed the opinion and policies of Nguyễn Kings. — Photo thethaovanhoa.vn
Viet Nam News

HÀ NỘI — Administrative reforms are very important to the development of a nation, State managers and researchers agreed during a conference reviewing administrative reforms under the Nguyễn Dynasty (1802-1945), focusing on the dissemination of the reforms through châu bản (official administrative papers).

The conference took place on Friday in Hà Nội. The Ministry of Home Affairs hosted the event with the aim of acknowledging the value of administrative reforms under the Nguyễn Dynasty.

The panelists discussed what can be learnt from the Kings’ policies and how the reforms continue to influence the country today.

Deputy Minister of Home Affairs Nguyễn Trọng Thừa said "this is the good chance for us to acknowledge the great contributions of the ancestors in establishing and developing the country".

“By the way, we also have lessons learnt from administrative reforms in history, to apply to today’s society,” he said. “The conference is also a forum to research further and exchange knowledge about the regulations and remarkable achievements of administrative reforms in the history,” said Thừa.

Opening the conference, Đặng Thanh Tùng, head of the State Department for Records and Archives, said at least one administrative reform was organized during each dynasty.

Châu bản, including laws, decrees, edicts and instructions for resolving problems in various fields such as politics, military affairs, foreign affairs, economy, society and culture, received the certificate of the Asian-Pacific Region’s Memory of the World Programme in 2014. They also recorded details of the administrative reforms of the Nguyễn Kings.

When King Gia Long (1762-1820) started the Nguyễn Dynasty, he made new policies such as naming the country Việt Nam and introduce new seals and currency.

King Minh Mạng (1791-1841) released a royal proclamation that ensured students of Quốc Tử Giám (a royal college built in 1803 in the imperial city of Huế) would receive allowances to encourage them in their studies.

In addition, “thieves who confessed their guilt before being investigated would receive clemency”, wrote the king.

Phan Thanh Hải, director of the Huế Monuments Conservation Centre, remarked that some policies of King Minh Mạng still work in the modern society.

For example, he applied the law of hồi tỵ (a phrase that literarily means “keeping away”) in managing mandarins. Accordingly, people who share a blood line or have a close relationship won’t be appointed to the same office. In an exam, if the contestant and the mandarin working at the examination compound had a close relationship, one of them had to move to another place.

“The law is still up-to-date nowadays, it prevents corruption and collusion to unfairly benefit a single group,” said Hải.

Nguyễn Thu Hoài from the National Archives Centre 1 said King Bảo Đại tried to create administrative reforms though the country was colonized by the French.

He allowed to open a part of the Royal Citadel to visitors starting in 1938, to showcase a part of the châu bản for public exhibition in 1943, to name streets after Vietnamese famous people, and to allow Vietnamese workers to have a day off on May Day.  VNS

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