Culture Culture

01/09/2020 - 06:40

Building a city of heritage & breakthrough expectations - Part 1: "Awakening" the heritage

In the Implementation of the Resolution 54 of the Politburo on Constructing and Developing Thua Thien Hue province to 2030, with a vision to 2045 (Resolution 54), the first heritage city of Vietnam will be formed with specific characteristics, on the basis of promoting the values of Hue culture as well as those of the ancient capital heritage. Thua Thien Hue promises to become a municipality under the central government with its own set of criteria; nevertheless, the process of realizing the "Hue Dream" will certainly face many challenges.

In the world, many cities are known as heritage ones even though they do not have any policy of building heritage cities. In Vietnam, whenever being talked about, Hue is considered the ancient capital with many historical values.

The Perfume River – the heritage river flowing into Hue city. Photo: Dang Tuyen

Polishing the hidden gem

In the history of urban development in Vietnam, Hue is a special phenomenon, the last ancient capital remains almost intact not only within Vietnam but also in Southeast Asia.

In 1981, when surveying Hue ancient capital, Mr. Amadou Matar M'Blow, General Director of UNESCO at that time said that Hue was a masterpiece of urban architectural. Hue is not just a model of architecture but also a peak in spirit and a vibrant cultural center”. That proves that Hue has been recognized as a heritage city, so, some people think that whether building the title “Heritage City” for Hue can become “redundant”!

A Hue cultural researcher, Mr. Nguyen Xuan Hoa, said: "That opinion is not unreasonable. At one time, many people considered Hanoi the political center, Saigon, the economic center, and Hue, the cultural center of Vietnam. The movement of the times makes Hue not promote its strength when it has both cultural and heritage resources.

“Hue keeps developing slowly because its values are hidden. The problem is to re-recognize the values and cultural resources of Hue, so that the shining jewel covered with “the dust of time” will be revealed. Polishing the gem means defining Hue is a heritage city in order to recognize and return its inherent position,” said the researcher Nguyen Xuan Hoa.

“After the war, Hue did not have a specific development strategy. Therefore, it is necessary to awaken the legacy," Mr. Hoa acknowledged.

The Imperial Citadel is the most visited spot when visitors come to the ancient capital. Photo: Le Tho

In the process of urban construction according to Resolution 54 of the Politburo, conservation needs to create a blend of the new things and the old memories. “A city is like a living organism; it is changing day by day, hour by hour to adapt to the development of society. So is Thua Thien Hue. We should not "museumize" Hue in an extreme way or "fossilize" the inherent values, but should pay attention to the need to develop, modernize, upgrade both its scale and urban quality,” said Dr. Phan Thanh Hai, Director of the Department of Culture and Sports.

According to Dr. Hai, a modern, civilized and caste urban area must behave with respect to cultural heritage values. Therefore, Thua Thien Hue must pay special attention to preserving the heritage urban architecture and landscape. Building a national-scale heritage city is the right path.

Affirming its position by culture and heritage

To Hue, according to many cultural researchers, the natural landscape environment and the cultural heritage of Hue are one of the important nuclei of the country's development strategy in general and of the province in particular.

Thua Thien Hue has nearly 1,000 inventoried relics, of which 166 are recognized at all levels, not to mention unique natural heritages. Cultural heritage conservation must attach to and serve sustainable goals; at the same time, create a harmony and "dynamic balance" between Hue urban heritage conservation and tourism development.

“Cultural heritage is the core factor to affirm the position of Thua Thien Hue. Therefore, it is necessary to clearly identify the values of objects belonging to the heritage area of Hue ancient capital that need to be preserved and promoted for sustainable development. In terms of economy, Hue with its sustainable cultural heritage conservation will create a great source of income for tourism. Therefore, the province needs to establish effective management mechanisms to make the original elements constitute it a world heritage site - Hue Monuments Complex penetrates deep into the fields of human creativity,” Associate Professor, Dr. Dang Van Bai, Vice Chairman of Vietnam Cultural Heritage Association, said.

The Citadel viewed from above. Photo: Nong Thanh Toan

In the structure of the economic sectors of Thua Thien Hue, tourism services always play a key role, basing on a unique heritage system. In 2019, the social revenue from tourism is estimated at more than 12,000 billion VND, a number that is not small compared to the GRDP of the whole province.

In particular, the Hue Heritage Area achieved 387 billion VND in ticket sales with the number of tourists reaching more than 3.5 million arrivals, higher than that in 2018, greatly contributing to the revenue of Hue tourism industry in general. That proves that the values of the heritage determine the success or failure of the province, however, those figures are still too modest.

According to the researcher Nguyen Dac Xuan, for a long time, the province has exploited the resources of relics, but Hue ancient capital is a heritage worth many times more than relics. Once being developed, the heritage could be  developed to its full values.

“We need to create new things out of the heritage, not to pay too much attention to the monuments. We have to wonder why with such a massive cultural and heritage background, the exploitation lags behind other provinces. Hue is not attractive enough to attract tourists because we do not create new products,” said the researcher Nguyen Dac Xuan.

A simple life by the mossy ancient features. Photo: Dang Tuyen

Heritage and culture are the core values of Hue, but creating a new and solid direction on this foundation requires a clear strategy and shaping. Assoc. Prof. Dr. Dang Van Bai commented: “In terms of economy, sustainable heritage conservation has the potential to create a great source of revenue for Hue, while stimulating the growth of revenue for the province's GRDP in general and the tourism industry in particular. Hue needs to advertise and promote the value of cultural heritages in the community through the forms of community-based tourism to bring long-term livelihoods and material benefits to communities around cultural heritage, to promote socio-economic development, and to create material resources to re-invest in preserving cultural heritage…”.

At the meeting with the key officials of Thua Thien Hue province on a number of important issues, including directing the implementation of Resolution 54 of the Politburo on constructing and developing Thua Thien Hue until 2030, with a vision to the year 2045, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc said that Hue is a locality not only with stable economic development but also with cultural reservation, especially relics and tangible and intangible cultural heritages have been restored, embellished and paid special attention. This is an important foundation in the long-term, sustainable development of the province in the tourism sector.

By Le Tho

Part 2: Exploiting the heritage from a specific mechanism

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