Local experts and scientists are stepping up efforts to preserve Vietnam’s first and on UNESCO-recognized documentary heritage.
The United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has published another 35 documentary heritages in its Memory of the World Register – a program which has aimed to preserve and disseminate valuable archive holdings and library collections worldwide since 1997.
Vietnam’s Woodblocks of the Nguyen Dynasty, the country’s last monarchy, were named together with the Royal Archives of Thailand and Madagascar.
The woodblocks consist of plates of wood with Chinese-transcribed Vietnamese characters, along with carved pictures and maps, used to print into sets of books.
“The 34,555 plates of woodblocks of the Nguyen Dynasty (1802-1945) helped to record official literature and history as well as classic and historical books,” the UN agency said on its website.
“Their value is at once documentary and artistic,” it added.
“Their technique furthermore represents a landmark in the development of woodblock carving and printing in Vietnam.”
Local heritage experts and officials say the recognition is an exciting one, and will inspire them to work even harder to protect the nation’s latest world heritage from being destroyed over time.
Pham Thi Hue, director of the National Archives Center No. 4, said the woodblocks are now preserved in a VND57 billion (US$3.2 million) repository equipped with air conditioning and fire-safety measures.
With more than 5,000 meters of specialized shelving, the storage area will help prolong the woodblocks’ life expectancy, she added.
The facility is located on 2 Yet Kieu Street in the Central Highlands town of Da Lat and displays replicas of the blocks, open to the public.
The center has also compiled over 152 book titles from the woodblocks on subjects including history, geography, and social affairs in a recently published book titled Moc Ban Trieu Nguyen – de muc tong quan (Woodblocks of Nguyen Dynasty – General Headings).
According to Hue, the entire contents of the woodblocks, including rubbings of the carved characters, have also been digitized to make studying the blocks easier.
“We are planning to make a film introducing the whole history of the Woodblocks of Nguyen Dynasty,” Hue said.
“Furthermore, we are thinking about setting up an area to display copy records in Hanoi so interested local people and international friends can learn about the precious heritage,” she added.
The woodblocks were born from the need to popularize social standards, articles of law and historical events among others during the Nguyen Dynasty. The Imperial Court thus ordered the Historiographer’s Office to research, edit and carve various book titles on wood to print books from it.
In addition to those related to the dynasty’s history and society, the woodblocks also included classic and historical books collected from the Temple of Literature of Imperial College with valuable, rare ones such as Dai Nam nhat thong chi (History of the Unification of Great Vietnam), said Phan Thuan An, who has spent over 30 years studying the woodblocks.
The woodblocks were considered a national treasure during the feudal period, and only authorized individuals and those from the Historiography Office were allowed to handle the blocks, according to experts.
Source: Thanh Nien, Agencies