Culture Culture

09/09/2018 - 09:25

Thua Thien-Hue will collect and digitize Han-Nom materials

Recently, in a meeting with the Department of Culture and Sports, Mr. Phan Ngọc Tho, Chairman of the provincial People's Committee, has agreed with the project of collecting, preserving and restoring materials in Han-Nom (Sino-Vietnamese characters), period 2019-2024, to conserve valuable historical and cultural materials.

Severely damaged materials

Thua Thien-Hue is home to many precious materials in Han-Nom dating from the Le Dynasty to the Nguyen Dynasty. Most of them are preserved in villages, clans, and Nguyen royal families. Besides lost and damaged materials due to wars and natural disasters, there are documents ruined by termites due to poor preservation.

With many years of collecting and digitizing materials in Han-Nom, Mr. Pham Xuan Phuong, Secretary of the scientific committee at the provincial General Library said “Of the 200,000 pages of materials in Han-Nom, including more than 10,000 sac phong, che phong (King’s honouses) and chieu chi, lenh chi (King’s written orders), which have been collected and digitized, up to 40% of them are damaged. Especially the wooden box containing documents of Da Le Chanh Village (Thuy Van Commune, Huong Thuy Town) are completely ruined.”

Collected and digitized Han-Nom materials on display

According to Mr. Do Huu Ha, Director of the provincial General Library, the cause is the influence of natural disasters and humidity. People often roll and wrap these documents in closed plastic bags which leads to get damp and moldy, or laminate all the materials. Most of the materials were severely damaged. It took lots of effort and time to repair and flatten them before taking photo and restoring.

It should be noted that many family annals and honouses have been stolen or lost such as those of the Le family in Phu Mong, Kim Long, the 10 honouses at Luong Quan Communal House, Thuy Bieu Ward, some precious materials in Han-Nom at the communal house in Thanh Thuy Thuong, Thuy Duong Ward, etc.

For 10 years up to now (2009-2018), the General Library has collaborated with the General Science Library in Ho Chi Minh City to collect and digitize the documents in Han-Nom in 14 phu de (prince’s and princess’ houses), 100 villages, temples and garden houses with 492 clans. The total number is 229,202 pages among which are the precious documents such as the whole law book in King Gia Long’s time (Hoang Viet Luan Le), the bronze book at Ham Thuan Cong’ Residence, the wooden box with many precious documents of Phu Bai Village concerning metallurgy, the land book in King Gia Long’s time, the administrative documents in Le Dynasty’s time, Quang Trung’s time, Nguyen Dynasty’s time, etc.

Continuing to collect and digitize

According to Mr. Bui Xuan Duc, Director of the General Science Library in Ho Chi Minh City, the number of ancient Han-Nom documents kept by the populace is high. If we plan to digitize in just one month a year, it will be too late. Many old and rare documents are at risk of disappearing forever. Some too torn and deformed documents require to be handled with care and need a long time to restore, which affects the digitization progress. In fact, we have to work against the clock.

King Tu Duc's handwritings about his feeling of Nam Giao Ceremony have been digitized completely

The process of collecting and digitizing materials in Han-Nom also encounters many difficulties. The fact that not many people can understand Han-Nom affects the process of sorting to get priorities right. At present, the number of people who can understand Han-Nom is small. The conservation and promotion of this heritage will be even more difficult because few young people are interested in studying this source of material. It is necessary to set aside some budget for training human resources specializing in Han-Nom, for researching, collecting and translating Han-Nom materials.

There have not yet been new and breakthrough solutions for the digitization of materials in Han-Nom to speed up the process. The tight budget does not allow to digitize all the materials as requested by the villages and clans. We just focus on some precious family annals, honouses and materials.

Recently, in a meeting with the Department of Culture and Sports, Chairman of the provincial People's Committee Mr. Phan Ngoc Tho emphasized the importance and urgency to continue to collect and digitize materials in Han-Nom. He agreed with the project of collecting, preserving and restoring materials in Han-Nom in the period 2019-2024, to conserve valuable cultural and historical materials in the province.

The provincial General Library also proposed that the Department of Culture and Sports provide financial support and technological facilities so that the library could co-ordinate with the provincial Archives to develop a project to preserve on site materials in Han-Nom in villages and private homes, to instruct ways to annually preserve the materials with the aim of prolonging their ages, to register the sources of Han-Nom materials in villages and clans and to schedule periodic inspections. In the immediate future, the focus will be on some villages with many valuable Han-Nom materials.

Story and photos: MINH HIEN