Culture Culture

10/03/2020 - 08:26

Theatricalizing the court meeting at Palace of Supreme Harmony in Hue Imperial City

In 2020 Hue Monuments Conservation Center will theatricalize the court meeting at Palace of Supreme Harmony. It will be a short but very significant show because it reminds people of the golden time of a monarchy and the agrarianism of the Nguyen kings.

Palace of Supreme Harmony viewed from Noon Gate

Palace of Supreme Harmony is the most solemn center in the Imperial City. Upon being finished, the hall with the front yard was chosen by emperor Gia Long to host court meetings and the most important meetings between the king and mandarins twice a month on the first and the fifteenth days of the lunar month.

Palace of Supreme Harmony was also the place where some special occasions, both regular and irregular, such as the coronation ceremony, the emperor’s birthday, the emperor’s longevity congratulation ceremony on the occasion of the lunar new year, the Hung quoc Khanh niem celebrating the recovery of independence for the country by emperor Gia Long, and the high-ranking diplomat welcoming ceremony occurred.

In the Nguyen’s era, the court meeting had to follow many rules. The organization and the content were different, depending on the significance of each occasion. As for the court meetings that Hue Monuments Conservation Center is reproducing, it will focus on praising the agrarianism through the story about how the Nguyen king resolved a problem caused by a natural disaster.

As recorded in historical documents, in the spring of Dinh Hoi year (987), King Le Dai Hanh, who took an interest in agriculture, and his mandarins ploughed the field in Doi Son at Tich Dien Festival, starting a good custom for the country. Tich Dien Festival was then continued by many successive kings.

In the Nguyen’s era, Tich Dien Festival was organized by Bo Le (‘Ministry of Rites’) with many detailed rules. The Nguyen kings had two big esplanades, which are Nam Giao and Xa Tac esplanades, built to pray for good weather and bumper crops. Many policies encouraging agriculture issued by the Nguyen Dynasty brought about good results for the people. 

Regarding the reproduced court meeting in the coming time, Hue Monuments Conservation Center will theatricalize a famine due to storms and floods. The show highlights the role of the imperial court in resolving the problem caused by the natural disaster with measures such as distributing rice, stabilizing the price and commanding mandarins not to abuse their power. The audience will be also able to learn how local mandarins reported to the king.

Those contents will be connected to make a show lasting about 20 minutes to help the audience figure out what a court meeting was like. 

The show will also introduce to the audience the poetry heritage inscribed on the royal structures in Hue, especially the poem Vi nong ngam by Emperor Minh Mang. 

Vi nong ngam was composed by Emperor Minh Mang in 1832. In 1942, when Paul Boudet, a French scholar, had the occasion to visit the Imperial City to study historical documents, he took a photo of the poem and had it published together with his writing on Bulletin des Amis du Vieux Hue, Vol. 3, July-Sept., 1942.

“The poem Vi nong ngam was inscribed on the Palace of Supreme Harmony. We want to mention the poem in the show to praise the humanity of the agrarianism of the Nguyen kings. To be exact, this is not reproducing, but to act out a court meeting to introduce to the audience the gorgeous beauty and the hierarchical system of the court meeting in the old days,” introduced Mr. Nguyen Phuoc Hai Trung, Vice-Director of Hue Monuments Conservation Center.

Story and photo: DONG VAN