The Hoang Thanh Thang Long ( Thang Long Royal Citadel), Viet Nam's historic capital, was recognised as a World Heritage by UNESCO at the meeting of its World Heritage Committee in Brazil yesterday.
The citadel was among the 32 sites, including 24 cultural and two natural-cultural heritage sites, newly recognised by the committee.
"This is a valuable gift and a very significant event for the Vietnamese people and the capital city of Ha Noi before its 1,000th anniversary in October," said an official from the Ha Noi People's Committee.
A group of six French specialists in history, archaeology, museum studies, urban studies and architecture had reported to the UNESCO committee: "We examined archaeological sites at No 18 Hoang Dieu Street, and we have come to the conclusion that this site represents world heritage value of the highest significance."
In identifying the values of the Ba Dinh site and of the Thang Long Royal Citadel, they said preservation of the Royal Citadel would reflect the uniqueness of this city in the Vietnamese nation and history over more than 1,000 years.
The site, they said, allowed a tangible interpretation of the continuity and peculiar features of the State organisation of Viet Nam during that period and would provide original historical materials for defining the status of Ha Noi as the capital of the Dai Viet Kingdom.
Preservation of the site would also give Ha Noi a unique opportunity to ensure environmental values for its inhabitants in the future.
Archeological specialists from Japan, France, Australia, the US, South Korea, Norway and Italy were invited to visit the site and contribute their ideas.
The citadel has apparently been re-constructed many times over the course of the millennium, with each later construction grafted onto earlier ones. Archaeological artefacts have been well-preserved underground, making it the best-preserved palace sites in Asia.
"Famous ancient royal citadels such as the Fono Romano in Rome, Chang An in China and Heijokyo in Japan have been recognised as cultural heritage of mankind and inscribed on the List of World Heritage," commented a Japanese specialist.
"A site of equal or even greater significance has been revealed lying underground in Ha Noi. This shows that the area has been a political, economic and cultural centre of Viet Nam for over 1,000 years and demonstrates the level of development and strength of the Vietnamese in the past."
Viet Nam began taking measures for the preservation of the site back in 2006, said Professor Trinh Sinh from the Archaeological Institute.
The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism requested the Prime Minister to ratify a plan to preserve some of the excavated lots found to contain the most important, representative and original artefacts, Sinh said. These would be turned into an open museum to display artefacts and replicas.
The remaining lots would be systematically excavated, properly documented and then turned into an historical and cultural park within the complex of the historic Ba Dinh Square, he said.
Archaeological excavations were conducted on the 40,000sq.m site at No18 Hoang Dieu Street in 2002-03, revealing four distinct periods of activity: the Dai La or pre-Thang Long period from the 7th-10th centuries; the Ly-Tran period of the 11th-14th centuries, which included some vestiges of the pre Dinh-Le dynasty of the 10th century; the Le period of the 15th-18th centurie; and the Nguyen dynasty of the 19th century. The site demonstrated a continuous 1,300-year course of development of Vietnamese culture.
The site is located next to the Ha Noi Citadel built in 1805 and destroyed in 1897 and on the west of what used to be the axis of the Royal Citadel and the Forbidden City of Thang Long. — VNS