The “Hoàng đế chi bảo” (the Emperor’s treasure) seal auctioned by Millon Auction House has grabbed the attention of Vietnamese antique researchers and collectors
Socialization resources for Hue Heritage Conservation Fund mobilized for repatriation
On the morning of November 7, Mr. Phan Thanh Hai, Director of the Department of Culture and Sports, said that Chairman of the Provincial People's Committee Nguyen Van Phuong signed the document to send to the Prime Minister. According to the document, the Provincial People's Committee proposed to allow socialization to repatriate the “Hoàng đế chi bảo” seal in two ways.
The first way is to mobilize socialization resources for the Hue Heritage Conservation Fund and use the resources from this fund to negotiate with the Millon Auction House in order to promptly repurchase and repatriate the gold seal.
The second way is to involve the sponsors - organizations or individuals - cherish the heritage and repurchase the “Hoàng đế chi bảo” seal to bring back to the country, contributing to the protection, preservation, and promotion of the National heritage values.
The province also requested the Prime Minister to agree to the policy and assign the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to coordinate and support the province, organizations, and individuals in negotiating with Millon Auction House to repurchase the “Hoàng đế chi bảo” gold seal to bring back home.
According to Mr. Hai, under the current circumstances, it is tough to allocate the State budget for repurchasing the “Hoàng đế chi bảo” seal while the Hue Heritage Conservation Fund just permitted to establish by the Government has a flexible and highly effective operational mechanism in mobilizing socialized resources for the protection, preservation, and promotion of the value of Hue Ancient Capital.
The Hue Heritage Conservation Fund is one of the funds that has just been established under the Government's decree last October. This fund is responsible for receiving, managing, and using the fund's financial resources according to the regulation. Also, it finances projects, invests in the restoration, preservation, and development of Hue heritage values , and invests in works and items that have gotten no or insufficient investment from the state budget …
Regarding the Millon Auction House in France, which declared to auction the “Hoàng đế chi bảo” seal on October 31, Paris time, Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism Nguyen Van Hung sent a letter to Minister of Culture of the French Republic Rima Abdul Malak (October 28, 2022), and Deputy Foreign Minister Ha Kim Ngoc also sent a letter to the Director General of UNESCO (October 28, 2022). The letters requested the Ministry of Culture of the French Republic and the Director General of UNESCO to intervene for the Millon Auction House to remove the “Hoàng đế chi bảo” seal from the antique auction list and create conditions for the Vietnamese side to negotiate and repatriate the “Hoàng đế chi bảo” seal."
Subsequently, the Millon Auction House decided to postpone the auction and planned to move it to November 10. This seal is offered by the Auction House with a starting price of 2 - 3 million EUR (about 49-73 billion VND).
Antiques with special values
According to the information provided by the Auction House, the handle is molded in the shape of a meandering dragon, with its head raised, eyes looking forward, and in a steady posture. The dragon's forehead is engraved with the word 王 (vương : king); the dorsal fin and the dragon's tail are erect; the caudal fin is bent forward, and the four legs are clearly molded with five claws.
The top side of the seal and both sides of the seal handles are engraved with two lines of Chinese characters 明命肆年貳月初肆日吉時 鑄造 (roughly translated as “Minh Mạng tứ niên, nhị nguyệt, sơ tứ nhật, cát thời chú tạo” - that is to say, cast at an auspicious time on February 4 in the 4th year of the Minh Mang dynasty), and 拾成黃金重貳佰捌拾兩玖錢貳分 (roughly translated as “Thập thành hoàng kim, trọng nhị bách bát thập lạng, cửu tiền nhị phân” - that is to say, made of pure gold, weighing 280 taels, 9 tien, and 2 phan, equivalent to 10.7 kg).
The underside of the seal is embossed with four characters 皇帝之寶 (roughly translated as Hoàng đế chi bảo: The Emperor’s treasure).
The “Hoàng đế chi bảo” seal was cast by King Minh Mang in 1823 in ten-year-old gold, weighing 10.78 kg with a vital function associated with public and political activities of the Nguyen Dynasty (on occasions of festivities, bestowing favor, granting amnesty, king’s tour of inspection to provinces, issuing decrees to foreign countries….)
Mr. Phan Thanh Hai said this is not only the biggest and most beautiful gold seal of the Nguyen Dynasty but also an antique of special value in terms of Vietnam's culture and history in the pre-modern and modern period
Thua Thien Hue - the capital of the Nguyen Dynasty – was also the place where the event on August 30, 1945, took place. The last emperor of the Nguyen Dynasty, King Bao Dai, handed over the seal and sword to the representative of the Vietnamese Revolutionary Government, putting an end to the existence of the Vietnamese feudal monarchy. As a consequence of unexpected incidents, the above seal and sword fell into the hands of the French colonialists, and on March 8, 1952, the French side handed it over to the "Head of State" Bao Dai, and then it was sent to Paris. "Therefore, there is a pressing need to mobilize all possible resources to negotiate, repurchase, and repatriate this special seal," emphasized Mr. Hai.
According to our research, thus far, the information on the “Hoàng đế chi bảo” seal, starting price, and time of the auction on the Millon Auction House’s website has no longer appeared.
Story and photo: Nhat Minh