Culture Culture

17/01/2022 - 08:50

Ensuring authenticity in restoration of Palace of Supreme Harmony

After many years of preparation, the restoration of Thai Hoa Palace (Palace of Supreme Harmony) has just begun by Hue Monuments Conservation Center. This has been so far the biggest restoration which succeeds the results of the previous restorations (from 1833 – 1945).

The Palace of Supreme Harmony is being restored. (The photo was taken before the pandemic by Duc Quang)

Overall repair

As the most important palace in the Imperial City, the Palace of Supreme Harmony is a typical construction which still exists today. After nearly 200 years of existence under the influence of time, harsh climate, and wars, the palace has been seriously degrading. 

In the past time, due to financial difficulties, the palace was only partially repaired such as rebuilding the dragon on the southwest roof, which had been damaged in the storm No. 5 in 1985, replacing the G6 pillar in December 1990, retiling the front roof with yellow enamel tiles in 1992-1993, lacquering and gilding the interior in 1997-1998, restoring Buu Tan (wooden canopy) and retiling the back roof after the storm in 1999, supporting pillars inside and outside the palace with iron posts and nets in 2018, etc. 

The storm No. 5 in 2020 ruined entirely the west wing of the main hall, seriously endangering the construction as well as the safety for visitors.

According to Mr. Hoang Viet Trung, Director of Hue Monuments Conservation Center, in order to prevent the risk of further collapse in the coming rainy season, the wooden frame and the roof of the palace were temporarily reinforced and supported. However, the risk of collapse can occur at any time. Therefore its overall repair and conservation becomes urgent.

Palace of Supreme Harmony was the place where many important rituals of the Nguyen dynasty took place

With the timely attention of the government, central ministries and branches, and the provincial People's Committee, the project of overall repair and conservation of the Palace of Supreme Harmony was approved by the provincial People's Committee with the fund of more than VND 128 billion from the state budget in 2021. The project began on Nov. 23rd, 2021 and is expected to be completed on August 23rd, 2025. 

The project of overall repair and conservation of the Palace of Supreme Harmony includes repairing and reinforcing the foundation, restoring the tiled floor, the steps with Thanh Hoa stone, the brick walls of the original color; repairing and restoring the wooden frame, the roofs, the wooden walls and doors, lacquering and gilding, retiling the roofs with yellow enamel tiles and yellow flat tiles, restoring decorative pottery mosaic and phap lam painted enamel decoratives, etc. 

The terrace, the railings, and the steps will be repaired and reinforced as well. The whole palace campus will be adjusted. The garden with trees, plants, and garden miniatures will be restored too. 

Ensuring authenticity

With the importance of the Palace of Supreme Harmony, Hue Monuments Conservation Center together with the construction unit will make every effort to attain the best quality. 

“With this restoration, we want to set up a typical model of heritage restoration and conservation, starting from data collection, scientific and archeological research, project planning, designing to constructing, supervising and promoting values. In particular, we will apply advanced technologies such as digitalizing, 3D scanning, 4.0 technology to build a complete accurate typical “digital data bank” for the Palace of Supreme Harmony. This is the first construction which is restored with the most modern technical equipment for supervision and data verification,” said Mr. Hoang Viet Trung.

The degrading palace is temporarily supported

The restoration follows a strict procedure. Given the importance of the construction, the construction unit has to regularly report to the scientific council. “We carefully studied the palace from its construction through previous restorations from under the reign of Emperor Minh Mang (1833) to the reigns of Emperors Thieu Tri, Tu Duc, Thanh Thai, Duy Tan, Bao Dai, especially the roofs in the Khai Dinh’s era, the floor paved with granite tiles in Emperor Thanh Thai’s era. This time we succeed all the previous restorations, removing the exotic components and materials that were employed in the urgent repair after 1968,” said Mr. Ho Huu Hanh, Director of Hue Monuments Renovation Joint Stock Company.

The whole palace will be marked before being dismantled. All the components will be evaluated by the scientific council to decide whether they will be reused or restored. The roofs will be restored to the original; that is the roofs with yellow enamel tiles which have been existed for 90 years since Minh Mang’s era in 1833. The decoratives on the roofs will be restored in the style of Khai Dinh’s era since the pottery mosaic is typical of the imperial Nguyen dynasty architectural style.

The original system of panels featuring images and poems, which have been recognized by UNESCO as documentary heritage under the Memory of the World Program in the Asia-Pacific region, is kept because it is still in good conditions. The phap lam painted enamel decoratives on the roofs are conserved too. The imperial throne will be moved temporarily to the Museum of Hue Royal Antiquities. When the palace is dismantled, the Buu Tan canopy will be supported and carefully preserved.

Before restoring the Palace of Supreme Harmony, Hue Monuments Conservation Center and the construction unit have researched official documents and historical data in different periods to come up with a solution that succeeds the previous restorations.

“To ensure authenticity, the repair is strictly supervised. Experts are invited to advise in the restoration process. As for the components that need to be replaced, we will remake them with high accuracy,” stressed Mr. Hanh.

Story and photos: Minh Hien