2 “world Image” Statuses Should Be Seen In Vietnam

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UNESCO has granted “world Image” status to two types of ancient documents in Vietnam.

Since 1992 UNESCO has been granting “world image” status to ancient documents that is deems invaluable to human heritage. This program has been trying to find, preserve and catalog valuable documents scattered throughout Vietnam, where time, warfare and other social upheavals have taken their toll on important records


To date, UNESCO has designated two types of documents in Vietnam as worthy of “World Image” status. On July 30th 2009 Status UNESCO conveyed “world image” status upon wood block prints from the Nguyen dynasty. On March 9th 2009, “world Image” status was granted to doctoral steles from the Le Ma dynasty (1442-1779). These steles are found in Van Mieu Temple on Quoc Tu Giam Street in Hanoi.


Wooden Blocks

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Wooden Blocks from Nguyen Dynasty were carved into wood and bear two scripts: Chinese characters and Confucian Vietnamese script. They were used from the early 19th century until the middle of the 20th century. The block were carved from tropical hard woods that are resistant to damage by insects , time and the climate, the contents of these wood block prints are very diverse, reflecting a great range of activities during that era


The woodblock prints include records of events, instructions, decrees and orders from them emperor as well as books about topics like history law politics, education, the military language art and romance. In the second year of his reign (1849) Emperor Tu Duc order the construction of a library to store valuable document


The Nguyen Woodblocks comprise 34618 pieces. About 150 books were printed using these woodblocks including important titles such as” The Law of the Vietnam Empire” the greatness of Vietnamese rule unification” and Vietnam’s great regulations on editions.


Many woodblock prints relate to topics that remain relevant today such as Vietnam’s sovereignty of Paracel and Spratley (Hoang Sa) Islands. “The Great History of Vietnam” printed during the Nguyen Hoang and Nguyen Phuc Than dynasties ( 1558-1777) outlines Vietnam’s right to rule these islands, the islands ‘residents use of fresh water, and the harvesting of valuable sea creatures like turtles and snails in these regions. Old records show that the Nguyen Dynasty dispatched 70 Soldiers to Spratley Islands. These troops were responsible for fishing and harvesting medical plants for use by the imperial court

Today, original woodblocks and documents made with woodblocks during the Nguyen Dynasty are preserved, along with copies, un the former Le Xuan Village ( Now named the IV National )in Dalat. This center is devoted to the preservation of Vietnam’s ancient woodblock prints. At this center, visitors can see the great skill with which Nguyen-era carvers produced these blocks.




Doctoral steles

The second type of records in Vietnam to receive UNESCO “World Image” Classification is the doctoral steles found in Hanoi ‘temple of literature is the nation’s oldest university.  Eighty two stone steles stand in the temple’s grounds and record the names of 82 students who passed the civil service examinations of the Le Mac dynasty between 1442 and 1779. These steles give us insight into the most talented and educated people of this era. Indeed, in 1442 King Le Thanh Tong wrote” Talented people are a nation power”


The inscriptions on the steles provide valuable information about Vietnam traditional education system over a period of 300 years. The inscriptions give us insight into the views and philosophy of the Le-Mac dynasty in such areas as national construction and protection, cultural preservation, pedagogy, and nurturing and using talented people. The Chinese characters carved on the steles are evidence of the development of Chinese script in Vietnam. Each stele is an individual work of art carved by highly educated and cultured people.


We can be proud that two types of ancient documents from Vietnam have received” World Image” classification from UNESCO. These records add to our understanding of the history and development of mankind. In the future, let us hope that more of Vietnam’s culture heritage will be known, appreciated ad honored by the world.


This article is written by Lan Nguyen, from Vietnam Heritage Travel.

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