American Express donation to historical site conservation

Ha Noi, Nov. 2 (VNA) -- American Express has pledged USD 50,000 for conservation of Bi Dinh (stele) pavilion in the Minh Mang tomb in the former imperial city of Hue.

The donation is an additional sum to the grant of USD 80,000 that American Express has made to restoration of the Minh Mang tomb three years ago.

Earlier in 1995, American Express gave USD 75,000 to a project on restoration of Van Mieu (Temple of Literature) in Ha Noi.

The royal mausoleum of Emperor Minh Mang (1820-1840) was built within 1840-1843, located about 12 km southwest of Hue city, near the bank of Huu Trach tributary of Huong (Perfume) river, just upstream the Tuan confluence. Minh Mang tomb was large in scale and had a great artistic value. It is often cited as the most perfect among the royal tombs, especially for the harmony of its architecture interlace with nature, in accordance with geomantic (Feng Shui) rules. All of its architectural structures were symmetrically arranged. The structures were smartly built, showing a harmonious combination of bronze casting, stone and wood carving of the Vietnamese artisans. Its planning deeply reflected the philosophy of the east and also the strict social organization and the centralized monarchy in Minh Mang times.

However, most of architectural structutures have been seriously damaged by the time and wars.

Bi Dinh pavilion is one of the main structures of the mausoleum complex, located on the main axis of the complex. Its shelters a stone stele engraved with an acount of 2,616 Chinese characters, composed by Emperor Thieu Tri to sing the praise of the meirit of his father, Emperor Minh Mang. The pavilion was probably built between 1841-1843 on a square platform of the size 10.2m x 10.2m and supported with a wooden frame.

Over 150 years of existence, the building has extensively deteriorated. The three terraced foundation has suffered damaged from subsidence and crack has opened up running across the floor, the corners and the steps which lead into the building. Thanh stone plinths supporting the columns have seriously tilted and subsided. Termite infestation occurs due to the roof leaking and high moisture. The wooden structure is extensively damaged. All columns suffer from decay at mortises, bases and heartwood. All principal rafters and ties as well as purlins are found deteriorated, resulting the poor bearing capacity of the wooden frame.

Restoration of Bi Dinh pavilion is estimated to cost about USD 136,000, according to Thai Cong Nguyen, Director of the Hue Monuments Conservation Centre.

Hue monument complex was recognized as a World Cultural Heritage by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization in December 1993. In February 1996, the Prime Minister approved a VND 720 billion (USD 65 million) project on conservation and development of the heritage until 2010.

Viet Nam is among the list of 20 countries receiving donations from the World Monuments Fund in 2000