| The ‘Emperor’s Treasure’ golden seal being handed by representatives of Millon Price Company, France to Mr. Nguyen The Hong, Director of Hoang Gia Nam Hong Museum Co., Ltd. on the November 16th, 2023 at the Vietnamese Embassy in France. Photo by: Thu Ha/Reporter of Vietnam News Agency in France
This event marked the result of more than one year of negotiation and implementation of relevant legal procedures to halt the public auction of the ‘Emperor’s Treasure’ golden seal in Paris, France in November 2022, together with the agreement to transfer the golden seal to Vietnam following the proposals of the inter-sectoral working delegation from the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Public Security and the special support of the Vietnam Embassy in France.
The Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism has chosen Hoang Gia Nam Hong Museum Co. Ltd. in Bac Ninh province as the representative unit to carry out relevant financial procedures in accordance with French law. At the same time, this company will preserve, showcase and coordinate with the National Museum of History to protect and promote the values of the golden seal under the regulations of the Cultural Heritage Law.
In November 2022, despite efforts to find support sources to promptly negotiate to halt the auction and request the transfer of the golden seal to Vietnam, only Mr. Nguyen The Hong, Director of the Hoang Gia Nam Hong Museum Co., Ltd., participates with an aim to add this relic to his personal collections, expected to exhibit at Hoang Gia Nam Hong Museum, Bac Ninh.
On December 11th, 2022, the Department of Cultural Heritage signed a consensus on negotiating the purchase of the “Emperor’s Treasure’ golden seal to bring it from France back to Vietnam as well as the transfer of golden seal to the State from Hoang Gia Nam Hong Museum Co., Ltd.. This was conducted with a commitment: “Party A and Mr. Nguyen The Hong personally commit and guarantee that the golden seal will only be transferred to the State through the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, on the basis of compliance with the provisions of Article 43 of the Cultural Heritage Law after an appropriate period of time when Party A no longer needs to possess, showcase, and promote its values at Hoang Gia Nam Hong Museum, Bac Ninh, Vietnam. Transfer costs include lawyer fees for negotiation, the cost of purchasing the golden seal from Millon auction house, France (including related taxes and fees), the cost of bringing the golden seal back to the country (customs and international shipping costs).
| The ‘Emperor’s Treasure’ golden seal in the transfer ceremony to be brought back to Vietnam. Photo by: Nguyen Thu Ha/Reporter of Vietnam News Agency in France
With the determination to collect and bring the golden seal back to Vietnam not only to complete and perfect the collections of antiques, treasures, lost or smuggled cultural heritage, but also to affirm the position and influence of the nation, the Party and the State that has properly placed the priority on protecting, preserving and promoting the values of cultural heritage, meeting the people’s increasing need for cultural nourishment and enhancing national self-respect, building and developing an advanced Vietnamese culture with a bold national identity, and contributing to the world’s cultural heritage treasure. This work also helps ensure the integrity of cultural heritage - a content considered very important in preserving cultural heritage by UNESCO, which can serve specific functions when making international connections in international conventions that Vietnam participates in.
The success in bringing the golden seal back to Vietnam requires the close attention and guidance of leaders and authorities, the smooth coordination of relevant units, organizations and individuals participating in the negotiation process, the cooperation of grassroots functional agencies, partners, friends, and communities in France. In the coming time, the Department of Cultural Heritage will advise the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism to research and coordinate with relevant ministries and branches to build a list of smuggled Vietnamese antiquities, as well as consult with the UNESCO’s Secretariat of the 1970 Convention about the list to serve as a basis for finding solutions to bring smuggled Vietnamese antiquities back to their home country.
According to the Department of Cultural Heritage, besides its historical, cultural, artistic values, the ‘Emperor’s Treasure’ golden seal is an important cultural heritage, symbolizing the political power of a reign in the course of Vietnam’s history and marking transition from monarchy to people's democracy in the era of Ho Chi Minh.
On August 30th, 1945, when announcing his abdication, Emperor Bao Dai chose the most beautiful and precious seal – the ‘Emperor’s Treasure’ – as a symbol of the Nguyen monarchy, and the royal treasure that Emperor Khai Dinh (1916 - 1925) handed over to him to hand over to the revolutionary government. Mr. Tran Huy Lieu, the representative of the revolutionary government, received this set of sword and seal, and transferred them to Hanoi right before President Ho Chi Minh read the Declaration of Independence at Ba Dinh Square on February 9th, 1945.
After the National Resistance Day (December 1946), it was unclear where this set of sword and seal was stored. In 1952, these two antiques fell into the hands of the French. On March 8th, 1952, the French handed over this set of sword and seal to the former Emperor Bao Dai, then Head of State, which was then brought to France in 1953. Before his death (in 1997), Bao Dai made a will to leave all his assets in France, including the golden seal, to his wife, Monique Baudot, who is French. She passed away in 2021, and the above assets fall into the hand of her heirs and would be auctioned in November 2022.
During 13 reigns, the Nguyen Dynasty crafted and put into use more than 100 seals, often cast in gold and silver (called kim bao), and crafted from precious jewels (called ngoc ty). Currently, in the collection of “Seals and Jewels” of the Emperor and Queen of the Nguyen Dynasty, the National Museum of History stores and preserves 85 Seals and Jewels (including 2 in the reign of Lord Nguyen Phuc, and the rest are precious jewels in the reign of the nine emperors and queens of the Nguyen Dynasty. This collection of seals and jewels makes up of a bigger collection of royal treasures of the Nguyen Dynasty, handed over to the revolutionary government in 1945 (kept by the inter-region IV, then handed over to the Ministry of Finance). After that, the Ministry of Finance assigned the Ministry of Culture and Information (now the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism) to keep it at the Vietnam History Museum (now the National Museum of History) since 1959. These heritages were kept at the State Bank of Vietnam, and in 2007, they were handed over to the Vietnam Museum of History to keep, preserve and promote their values until now.