Following the will of Emperor Tu Duc, Emperor Ham Nghi in 1889 inaugurated his grandmother Tu Dụ (or Tu Du) as Queen Grandmother. The gold book and seal marking this event are now on display at the National Museum of History.
Entitled “Imperial Treasures – Gold Books of the Nguyen Dynasty (1802-1945),” the exhibition for the first time puts on display 22 gold books, 10 gold stamps and other precious imperial objects.
It provides the public with an insight into the significance of these treasures as well as an historical, cultural and aesthetic appreciation of the Nguyen Dynasty, according to Nguyen Quoc Huu, an official from the museum.
Tu Du (1810-1902), whose real name was Pham Thi Hang, was Emperor Thieu Tri’s wife and Emperor Tu Duc’s mother. The woman whose name was given to a contemporary hospital in HCM City was famous in Vietnamese history for her tolerance and benevolence.
She was the first and only person conferred with the title of Queen Grandmother during the Nguyen Dynasty. When she was young, she was gentle, virtuous and good at educating her children.
The book includes seven sheets. Both covers were decorated with dragon and cloud patterns, and the content praising the Queen Grandmother appears on the five sheets inside.
The gold books of the Nguyen Dynasty are special ancient manuscripts made of precious materials. They were carved with five-claw dragon, phoenix, cloud and flower patterns. Many books come with seals carved in honour of the individuals they were made for, such as queens and princes.
They record important events of the Nguyen Dynasty state affairs and imperial ceremonies, such as emperors acceding the throne, the crowning of princes and queens, and the recording of the inauguration of imperial titles to members of the royal family. The golden books were compiled by emperors or high ranking mandarins. They were manufactured by book makers in the Ministry of Rituals.
The collection of gold books are stored at the Viet Nam National Museum of History. Before, they were preserved at the Viet Nam State Bank because they are so precious and no museum had a suitable environment to protect them.
“Each of them contain valuable information about imperial history, morality, official regulations and ceremonies,” Huu said. “The information portrays the lives and careers of the emperors and also of other high ranking officials.”
Officers at the museum have spent much time researching the historical books to discover the context and events taking place during the Nguyen Dynasty so that they can understand the contents of the books and why they were carved.
“During the research process, we realised that Nguyen Kings paid gratitude to their ancestors. They expressed their filial respect to parents and grandparents and praised their moral values.”
Almuth Meyer-Zollitsch, director of the Ha Noi Goethe Institute, was one among first visitors to the exhibition. She couldn’t hide her admiration for the craftsmen who created the golden books. “They’re high-ranking artisans,” she said.
“It’s a very impressive exhibition because for the first time, these precious books are being shown to the public,” she said. “They show the history, heritage and flourishing art of Viet Nam under the Nguyen Dynasty.”
She expected that in the near future, researchers will be able to translate the content of the books, written in Han scripts, to Vietnamese and other languages so that people can understand what the book says.
“The museum staff presented this exhibition in the clearest way so as to introduce and explain the historical context of the artifacts in both Vietnamese and English. However, I’m curious to know each word in the book.”
The exhibition will run until the end of July at the Viet Nam National Museum of History, 1 Pham Ngu Lao Street, Ha Noi.
Copyright: Asia News Network/ Viet Nam News
Many books come with seals carved in honour of individuals such as queens and princes.