Culture Culture

07/12/2019 - 07:36

A Coffee-Table Discussion of ‘the City of Heritage’

Hue is always changing. Despite the old stories and documents mentioned, this talk with Nguyen Dac Xuan, a researcher, has been about the new goals for a model of the heritage city.

In particular, the heritage city of Hue will be a municipality, detaching from the provincial governance to develop and motivate the provincial growth, in response to the desire of Hue lovers.

Thanh Tung, the reporter (left), and Nguyen Dac Xuan, the researcher

According to you, why does Thua Thien Hue need a special mechanism in developing it into a municipality?

Hue deserves it. In addition to the internationally recognized Ancient Capital with its five heritages, both tangible and intangible ones, Thua Thien Hue has many more heritages that have not been applied for the recognition, not to mention the valuable people of Hue. The recognized heritages have not been well promoted, and those on the way to application for recognition are being threatened and degraded, or even wiped out.

All these heritages are under the management of a district-level institution-governed by the authorities of a province which has 70% of its population involves in agriculture. These are national concerns that provincial leaders as well as Hue locals and Hue lovers want a special mechanism to preserve and promote the values of a unique heritage area before it is too late.

Why do you advocate the expansion of the city five times larger than the current size to establish a central-governed heritage city?

For the past ten years, I have always raised my voice regarding the expansion of the city into a central-governed heritage city. I am happy to know that the idea has been agreed and supported.

I have not known much about the bases from which the expansion to five times larger than the current size is developed, so I would rather not make any comment on the size. But from my point of view, there is a necessary investigation of the locations of valuable heritages, including the heritages in the time of the Nguyen Dynasty, the Nguyen Lords, the Tay Son and the Champa.

Once the information is gathered, it will be the basis for the expansion plan. For those heritages that is so distant away, such as Hai Van Son (in the far south of Phu Loc district) and Hoa Chau Bastion (in Quang Dien district), that cannot be included, there must be special policies for appropriate preservation.

The expansion of Hue to respond to the need of a city with many heritage sites in Vietnam is an appropriate policy, but there will be mixed opinions. How should the issue be dealt with?

This has been the first consideration. People in Quang Nam and Da Nang are under two separate administrative systems, but they share a common tradition and spirit. Likewise, people in Thua Thien Hue and the locals of the city of Hue are (as) one.

Hue people and Thua Thien Hue people are a unity. People from Phong Dien or Phu Loc often claim themselves to be from Hue with pride when they go to other cities or provinces. The reason behind the disagreement over the establishment of the heritage city is that some people have not had the sense of honor in having their hometown as a heritage city, nor have they seen through the benefits that the heritage city brings to them.

The provincial leaders need to explain to the people. As I experienced the war and the war-time hardship for many years, I well understand the truth about the mass power: “the easiest can be unsuccessfully achieved without public support, but the hardest thing can be done easily with the help from the public.”

It is said that the establishment of the city of heritage aims to develop the tourism economy. Do you think so?

The heritage restoration is for tourism exploitation. Without exploiting it, there is no interest in the heritage, even the most valuable. Normally, when there is a hot trend in tourism, different products and services will be made to satisfy the demands.

The establishment of heritage city is associated with the development of tourism economy in Hue and Thua Thien Hue. But this is different from the building of big temples for spiritual tourism. The establishment of the heritage and the development of tourism in Hue and Thua Thien Hue are mutually beneficial one the one hand, but independent from each other on the other.

A heritage city has a mission to manage, preserve and promote the value of the great complex of heritages, which is spiritually valuable to a nation with a millennial culture and civilization.

All the heritage must be properly managed, preserved and promoted in accordance with the Heritage Law. It is an invaluable resource that the tourism industry can select appropriate value for their tourism products.

The value of Hue heritages is like a beautiful lady. If the lady wants to participate in a beauty contest, she must be taught more about the ethics, fashion, manners in public and even English, as well as taken good care of and promoted. Likewise, the “beautiful lady” of Hue heritages must be well promoted by the tourism industry.

Thank you very much!

Interviewed by Thanh Tung