There are many people who collect ancient pottery or antique furniture, but few like Phuc Nguyen restrict themselves to the prized belongings of Vietnam’s old monarchs.
The former hair designer now boasts a sizeable collection that includes five objects from the residences of King Thanh Thai (1879-1954) and King Tu Duc (1829-1883).
King Tu Duc’s gilded peach-shaped censer
Thanh Thai’s erstwhile belongings are a large armchair, an ornate cabinet and a wooden box with a nacre-inlaid lid, while Tu Duc unwittingly contributed a gilded peach-shaped censer and a Lien Tho.
A censer is any vessel for burning incense and comes in all shapes and sizes; a Lien Tho is a flat piece of wood on which poems are carved.
“It’s hard to assess the value of my collection because those things came from royal palaces. When I bought them, they cost some 300-350 taels of gold,” said Phuc.
His biggest outlay was 100 taels of gold (1tael = US$1,300) and went to buy an incense burner once owned by King Minh Mang (1791-1841).
Phuc said he bought most of his antiques from a 105-year-old woman named Ton Nu Kha Ai, who told him about their origin and subsequent history, and asked that he not profit by trading them.
“So, if I sell something in my collection, I have to give the money to charity,” Phuc said.
Phuc Nguyen’s collection, which also includes tables used by French royalty and a couple of green vases, is on public display at his NaDam Spa, 12/29/1 National Road No. 12, Thu Duc District, Ho Chi Minh City.
Reported by Da Ly