The Thang Long Royal Citadel which was once Vietnam’s political and cultural center and embraces the cultural and historical identity of Vietnamese people in the Red River Delta.
For 13 centuries, the citadel was Vietnam’s capital city under the Ly, Tran and Le dynasties from the 11th to 18th century.
Though it was seriously damaged in the 19th century, traces of its main structures and architecture remain in the North Gate, Main Gate, stone dragon stairs, Kinh Thien Palace and the Hau Lau or Princess Palace.
In the complex of the Thang Long Royal Citadel, there are relic sites like House and Tunnel D67, revolutionary relics associated with anti-US war. In recent years, several more relics of interest to both scientists and tourists have been unearthed at the site.
Nguyen Van Son, former Director of the Thang Long Royal Citadel Center, said,“Since it was recognized as a World Cultural Heritage, the number of scientists and tourists visiting the site has increased dramatically, 50,000 to 100,000 visitors each year. Most foreign visitors are from Japan, the Republic of Korea and Europe. Many events have been held at the Thang Long Royal Citadel”.
More efforts are needed to preserve and promote the site. There are still many ancient structures and relics in and around the citadel which have not yet been unearthed.
Doctor Tong Trung Tin of the Vietnam Archeology Association says traces of overlapping layers of royal palaces of different dynasties and French administrative and military facilities are invaluable historical evidence which need further research.
“It will be a long process of preservation and protection because many relics have been discovered underground. We are on the right track of preservation. Japan’s Nara palace is an example. It has been preserved since the 19th century and took more than 60 years of research," Tin noted.
"Here at the Thang Long Royal Citadel, we began our preservation in 2002. The relic site was recognized as a World Cultural Heritage in 2010. Since the government approved the preservation plan, we have followed the roadmap of research, preservation and promotion of the heritage site,” he added.
One of the challenges in preserving the Thang Long Royal Citadel is the overlapping layers of relics of different periods. Under the ground of Thang Long Royal Citadel there are 3 or 4 layers of different cultures.
Above the ground are the Kinh Thien palace and Doan Mon (Main Gate). To researchers, the French architectural structures are also important relics. Doctor Nguyen Quang Ngoc says it’s important to identify the most typical features of the site to make appropriate preservation decision.
“Thang Long Royal Citadel is the most important relic. More modern relics represent typical and prominent features that we have to preserve as well. There are also less important relics. So we need to have clear conception of the relic to work out appropriate preservation solutions,” Ngoc shared.
Underground relics which are now just broken fragments help us understand our past. As a World Culture Heritage Site, the preservation of the Thang Long Royal Citadel, both above and under the ground, according to researchers, need to take into consideration the regulations stipulated in the World Heritage Convention.