Nguyen Dynasty’s priceless golden books

15:30 | 28/04/2016 Society

(VEN) - Domestic and foreign tourists will have the opportunity to learn about 22 golden books and 10 golden accessories that were owned by the Nguyen Dynasty which ruled from 1802 to 1945, on show at the National History Museum until August.

Nguyen Dynasty’s priceless golden books

The books which were made from precious metals were mainly used to record the main political events and court ceremonies including coronations and the investiture of princes or queens. Words in the books were compiled by the Nguyen Kings themselves or lords and they were created by an affiliate of the Bo Le, an agency in charge of education, culture and royal ceremonies.

Phan Thanh Hai, Director of the Center for Conservation of Hue Monuments, said in terms of art, these golden books can compare with Chinese, Japanese and Korean counterparts as the Nguyen Kings have asked skilled craftsmen and artisans across the country to join the manufacturing of the books and seals to make them perfect art pieces. However, under the reign of King Dong Khanh, when the French colonialists totally dominated the country, the manufacturing of golden books and seals received less attention.

After Treaty of Saigon was signed on June 5, 1862 between representatives of the French Empire and the last pre-colonial emperor of the House of Nguyen, King Tu Duc must pay war reparations equivalent to 2,800,000 taels of silver. Due to lack of funds, he had to collect large amounts of gold and silver including golden books. Moreover, as the capital at Hue was captured in 1885, the French plundered large amounts of gold and silver jewels and golden books and seals. To date, there are just 94 golden books and 85 golden seals of the Nguyen Dynasty.

The collection of golden books at the National History Museum was rectangular, made of gold and gold-plated silver,  with covers decorated with dragons and phoenixes and had rings threading the pages. What was written in the books was also found in other books compiled during the Nguyen Dynasty. Some of the books had accessories cast at the same times of mentioned events. So, this collection is considered a valuable national treasure.

According to Director of the National History Museum Nguyen Van Cuong, the National History Museum have translated, proofread and printed the contents of each book for many years and has basically completed the work. However, it is necessary to add more historical records for complete reasons before publishing the translation. “We have decided to show the golden books of the Nguyen Dynasty to provide an opportunity for visitors to learn more about this special collection especially in terms of their historical significance,” Nguyen Van Cuong said.

According to Nguyen Quoc Huu, Chief of the Exhibition Room at the National History Museum, the books are displayed based on contents, periods and subjects. For example, Vu Thi Duyen, the second wife of King Tu Duc, who was dishonored and then again was honored as queen and higher ranks. So, visitors will find it difficult to imagine this character if related contents are shown separately by themes.

The golden books of the Nguyen Dynasty are deserved to be recognized as national treasures considering their resources and cultural and historical value. In addition, the National History Museum is preparing dossiers requesting further 16 national treasures for recognition in the next round.  

Director of the National History Museum Nguyen Van Cuong said: “We have received a large volume of Nguyen Dynasty artifacts for preservation, including golden books and seals, which were once suggested to be sold to cover national budget deficit. However, they have still been kept intact until today for their great sociopolitical and cultural values.”


Hoa Quynh