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Ho Dynasty Citadel – unique stone structure

The Ho Dynasty Citadel which is located in Vinh Long and Vinh Tien communes of Vinh Loc district, Thanh Hoa province, is a unique stone structure built by the Vietnamese people. It is hoped that the Ho Dynasty Citadel will be recognised as a World Cultural Heritage Site at the 35th meeting of the World Heritage Committee in Bahrain in June.

Unique stone architecture

The construction of the Ho Dynasty Citadel was completed in only three months (from January 1397 to March 1397). The Citadel served as the capital of the Dai Viet nation in the final years of the Tran Dynasty, as well as the Dai Ngu nation for seven years (1400 – 1407), and was officially named ’Tay Do‘ (Western Capital) to distinguish it from the Thang Long – Dong Do Citadel (Eastern Capital). The only stone citadel in Vietnam built within such a short period of time, the citadel comprises of two layers: the inner layer ’Hoang Thanh‘ was built with stone and the outer layer “La Thanh” was built with soil.

The stone walls were arranged so that they could withstand earthquakes and had an average height of five metres. The stones were laid without cement and each stone weighed up to 20 tonnes. The citadel has four gates with a canal surrounding it as an extra layer of protection. After over six centuries some parts of the citadel still stand almost intact.

In February 2010, a filing for the recognition of the Ho Dynasty Citadel as a World Cultural Heritage site was sent to the UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre. The file states that the Citadel has a distinctly oriental citadel architecture, being both the centre of power as well as a military fortress. The citadel was also built to represent both royalty and divine powers and connects natural and human space. Thanks to the unique construction techniques all the major stone sections are intact and have not been affected by time and weather or by recent urban encroachment.

People’s consensus needed

The file submitted to UNESCO has been greatly appreciated by international and local experts for its comprehensive documentation, including maps and pictures. However, at an international workshop held last April in Thanh Hoa province, Dr. C. Young, from UK Heritage, whilst appreciating the comprehensiveness of the files warned that support from the people living in the citadel’s buffer zone was very important.

Over the years, the Thanh Hoa provincial People’s Committee has implemented various measures to preserve the unique stone structure, as it has been identified as an important site on the province’s tourist routes. The local authorities are planning the comprehensive preservation of the site.

During a recent field trip to the citadel by members of the UNESCO World Heritage Standing Committee, UNESCO’s representative to Vietnam, Katherine Muller Marin, Head of the UNESCO Vietnam Office expressed her admiration for the unique techniques used in the construction of the citadel. However, she hoped that whether the citadel is recognised by UNESCO or not, local authorities, scientists and others would continue to research into the citadel’s mysteries and invest in its preservation and maintenance for future generations.

Source: Nhan Dan

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