HOI AN ANCIENT TOWN
Lying on the banks of the Thu Bon River, Quảng Nam province ( in the South Central Coast of Vietnam), Hoi An Ancient Town is an exceptionally well-preserved example of a South-East Asian trading port dating from the 15th to the 19th century.
Over the last few years, Hoi An has become a very popular tourist destination in Vietnam. Its buildings and its street plan reflect the influences, both indigenous and foreign, that have combined to produce this unique heritage site. In 1999, the old town was declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO.
Hoi An has long been a cultural crossroad. More than five centuries ago the Vietnamese nation of Dai Viet expanded its territory southwards, encroaching on the Indianized Kingdom of Champa, which covered much of what is now central Vietnam. Hoi An, located on the Hoai River, emerged when Japanese and Chinese traders built a commercial district there in the 16th century.
These diverse cultural influences remain visible today. Visitors will find Hoi An’s Old Quarter lined with two-story Chinese shops, their elaborately carved wooden facades and moss-covered tile roofs having withstood the ravages of more than 300 years of weather and warfare. These proud old buildings, which back onto the river, remind visitors of another era, when Hoi An’s market was filled with wares from as far afield as India and Europe. Colorful guildhalls, founded by ethnic Chinese from Guangdong and Fujian provinces, stand quietly, a testament to the town’s trading roots.
While Hoi An’s old-fashioned charm is always visible, on the 15th of every lunar month modernity takes another step back. On these evenings the town turns off its street lamps and fluorescent lights, leaving the Old Quarter bathed in the warm glow of colored silk, glass and paper lanterns. In ancient times, Vietnamese people made lamps out of shallow bowls filled with oil. Later, foreign traders introduced lanterns, ranging from round and hexagonal designs from China to diamond and star shaped ones from Japan.
When developing plans to preserve their town’s ancient character, Hoi An residents decided to revive the practice of using coloured lanterns. Starting in the fall of 1998, one night each month is declared a “lantern festival”. On the 15th day of each lunar month, residents on Tran Phu, Nguyen Thai Hoc, Le Loi and Bach Dang streets switch off their lights and hang cloth and paper lanterns on their porches and windows. Television sets, radios, street lights and neon lights are turned off. In the ensuing quiet the streets of Hoi An are at their most romantic, the darkness broken only by jeweltoned lanterns in all manner of shapes and sizes.
Situated in the North-East region of Vietnam, Halong Bay is a bay in the Gulf of Tonkin comprised of regions of Halong City, the township of Cam Pha, and a part of the island district of Van Don. Halong Bay borders Cat Ba Island in the southwest, the East Sea in the east, and the mainland, creating a 120 km coastline.
Halong Bay is made up of 1, 969 islands of various sizes, 989 of which have been given names. There are two kinds of islands, limestone and schist, which are concentrated in two main zones: the southeast (belonging to Bai Tu Long Bay), and the southwest (belonging to Halong Bay). This densely concentrated zone of stone islands, world famous for its spectacular scenery of grottoes and caves, forms the central zone of Halong Bay, which has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The bay itself has an area of 43, 400 ha, consists of 775 islands, and forms a triangle with the island of Dau Go (Driftwood Grotto) to the west, the lake of Ba Ham (Three Shelter Lake) to the south, and the island of Cong Tay to the east. Viewed from above, Halong Bay resembles a geographic work of art. While exploring the bay, you feel lost in a legendary world of stone islands. There is Man’s Head Island, which resembles a man standing and looking towards the mainland. Dragon Island looks like a dragon hovering above the turquoise water. La Vong Island resembles an old man fishing. There are also the islands of the Sail, the Pair of Roosters, and the Incense Burner, which all astonishingly resemble their namesakes. The forms of the islands change depending on the angle of the light and from where the islands are viewed. At the core of the islands, there are wonderful caves and grottoes, such as Thien Cung (Heavenly Residence Grotto), Dau Go (Driftwood Grotto), Sung Sot (Surprise Grotto), and Tam Cung (Three Palace Grotto).
Halong Bay has many links to the history of Vietnam. For example, there are such famous geographical sites as Van Don (site of an ancient commercial port), Poem Mountain (with engravings of many poems about emperors and other famous historical figures), and Bach Dang River (the location of two fierce naval battles fought against foreign aggressors).
It has been proven by scientists that Halong was one of the first cradles of human existence in the area at such archeological sites as Dong Mang, Xich Tho, Soi Nhu, and Thoi Gieng. It is also a region of highly-concentrated biological diversity with many ecosystems of salt water-flooded forests, coral reefs, and tropical forests featuring thousands of species of animal and plant life. With all this in mind, the 18th meeting of the Committee of the World Heritages of UNESCO (in Thailand on December 17th, 1994), officially recognized Halong Bay as a natural heritage site of worldwide importance.
PHONG NHA-KE BANG NATIONAL PARK
Viet Nam’s Phong Nha-Ke Bang national park has been recognized as a world natural heritage site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) at its 27th general assembly session being held in Paris from June 30-July 5.
In general, there are two groups of landforms in the Phong Nha – Kẻ Bàng area, namely non-karstic and karstic landforms. Non-karstic landforms includes three types: The middle and low dome-block mountains developed in intrusive magmatic massifs; The middle denudation-structural mountain belts developed in terrigenous rocks of Cretaceous age; and The low block-denudational mountain belts developed in other terrigenous rocks.
Karstic landforms in this area are of typical tropical karst which are divided into two groups of forms: The karstic forms on the surface including cone and tower karst, karrens, valleys and dolines, border polje, etc; The underground karst consisting of caves.
Phong Nha – Ke Bang also contains two dozens of mountain peaks with over 1,000 meters height. Noteworthy peaks are the Peak Co Rilata with ta height of 1,128 m and the Peak Co Preu with a height of 1,213 m.
Phong Nha-Ke Bang covers 300 different grottoes and caves.Phong Nha cave is assesed by BCRA as the top cave in the world due to its 4 top records: the longest underground river, the highest and longest cave, broadest and most beautiful fine sand beaches inside the caves, the most spectacular stalagmites and stalactites. According to the assessment of UNESCO, The karst formation of Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park has evolved since the Palaeozoic (some 400 million years ago) and so is the oldest major karst area in Asia and Phong Nha displays an impressive amount of evidence of earth’s history. It is a site of very great importance for increasing our understanding of the geologic, geomorphic and geo-chronological history of the region.
The number of tourists has increased dramatically since the park was listed in UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites. Tourism activities in the area are the responsibility of the Trading and Tourism Department of Quang Binh province, with 280 international standard rooms in the province and 8 vehicles with capacities of 4 to 15 seats for tourist transportation. The forest guards of Son Trach commune in Bo Trach district are placed on tourist security duty.
Quang Binh Province has invested into upgrading the Phong Nha-Ke Bang visitor site to turn it into one of Vietnam’s major tourist destinations. Multiple eco-tourist projects have been licensed for development and the area is being heavily developed by the province to turn it into a major tourist site in Vietnam. Phong Nha Ke Bang is part of a tourism promotion program called: “Middle World Heritage Road” which includes the ancient capital of Hue, the Champa relics of My Son, the city of Hoi An, nha nhac and the Space of Gong Culture in the Central Highlands of Vietnam.
Phong Nha-Ke Bang, together with Ha Long Bay and Fanxipan of Vietnam, is listed as a candidate for 7 new world natural wonders vote. As of February 12, 2008 it ranked 10th in the voting list
MY SON SANCTUARY
Located in a narrow valley in Duy Tan Commune, Duy Xuyen District, Quang Nam Province. 70km southwest of Danang City, 20km away from the Tra Kieu Citadel, and 40km away from the Ancient Town of Hoi An. My Son site is a group of temple-towers of Cham people, an imperial city during the Champa kingdom, an example displaying the evolution and change in culture, a foremost evidence of Asian civilization which is now extinct. With its great value, in December 1999, the complex of My Son Cham Towers has been recognized as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
My Son site was an imperial city during the Cham kingdom, between the 4th and 12th century. The construction of My Son was likely to have been started in the 4th century. During many centuries, the temple complex had more buildings and stupas constructed of varying sizes and became the main cultural vestige of the Champa civilization in Vietnam. Aside from religious celebrations, which allowed the dynastic royals to spiritually connect with the gods, My Son was also a cultural and religious center and was the burial place of kings and religious leaders.
The Cham Kingdom had two sanctuaries belonging to two main opposing clans. My Son of the Dua Clan, ruled over the north of the kingdom and was the place for the worship of God Srisana Bhadresvara. The Cau Clan, who reigned over the south had Po Nagar Sanctuary, dedicated to Goddess Po Nagar. Nevertheless, My Son was considered as the sanctuary of the Cham Kingdom.
The first constructions date back to the 4th century under the reign of Bhadrav. The temples in My Son were built into groups that basically followed the same model. Each group was comprised of a main sanctuary (kalan), surrounded by towers and auxiliary monuments. The kalan, which is a symbol of Meru Mountain (center of the universe, where the gods live) is dedicated to Shiva. The small temples are devoted to the spirits of the eight compass points. In the towers, topped with tiled, curved roofs, were stocked the offerings and sacred objects of the pilgrims. Cham temples do not have windows, so they are very dark inside. Windows are only found on the towers.
Cham towers and temples are built of bricks associated with sandstone decorations. It is quite noteworthy that no adhesive can be seen in between the bricks, which is amazing since some of the works have survived thousands of years. The structures were built, and only then did the sculptors carve the decorations of floral patterns, human figures or animals. This technique is unique in Asia.
COMPLEX OF HUE MONUMENT
Established as the capital of unified Viet Nam in 1802, Hué was not only the political but also the cultural and religious center under the Nguyen dynasty until 1945. The Perfume River winds its way through the Capital City, the Imperial City, the Forbidden Purple City and the Inner City, giving this unique feudal capital a setting of great natural beauty.
Hué represents an outstanding demonstration of the power of the vanished Vietnamese feudal empire at its apogee in the early 19th century. The complex of monuments is an outstanding example of an eastern feudal capital and of the planning and construction of a complete defended capital city in a relatively short period. The integrity of town layout and building design make it an exceptional specimen of late feudal urban planning.
Hué served as the administrative center of southern Vietnam in the 17th and 18th centuries. Gia Long, first ruler of the Nguyen dynasty, made it the national capital of united Vietnam in 1802, a position that it held until 1945. It was selected because it is situated in the geographical center of the country and with easy access to the sea. The new capital was planned in accordance with ancient oriental philosophy in general and Vietnamese tradition in particular; it also respected the physical conditions of the site, especially the Perfume River and Ngu Binh Mountain (known as the Royal Screen). The relationship between the five cardinal points (center, west, east, north, south), five natural elements (earth, metal, wood, water, fire), and five basic colors (yellow, white, blue, black, red) underlies the conception of the city, and is reflected in the names of some important features. The Perfume River, the main axis, divides the capital in two.
CITADEL OF THE HO DYNASTY
The 14th -century Ho Dynasty citadel, built according to the feng shui principles, testifies to the flowering of neo-Confucianism in late 14th century Viet Nam and its spread to other parts of east Asia. According to these principles it was sited in a landscape of great scenic beauty on an axis joining the Tuong Son and Don Son mountains in a plain between the Ma and Buoi rivers. The citadel buildings represent an outstanding example of a new style of south-east Asian imperial city.
The Citadel of Ho Dynasty built in 1397, composed of the Inner Citadel, La Thanh Outer Wall and the Nam Giao Altar covers 155.5 ha, surrounded by a buffer zone of 5078.5 ha. It is located in accordance with geomantic principles in a landscape of great scenic beauty between the Ma and Buoi rivers in Vinh Loc district, Thanh Hoa province of Viet Nam.
The Inner Citadel constructed of large limestone blocks represents a new development of architectural technology and adaptation of geomantic city planning in an East Asian and South-east Asian context. It demonstrates the use of architectural elements in terms of space management and decoration designed for a centralized imperial city in order to show a concept of royal power, based on the adoption of the Confucian philosophy within a predominantly Buddhist culture. Being the capital of Viet Nam from 1398 to 1407 and also the political, economic and cultural centre of North Central Viet Nam from the 16th to the 18th century, it bears exceptional testimony to a critical period in Vietnamese and South-east Asian history when traditional kingship and Buddhist values were giving way to new trends in technology, commerce and centralized administration.
CENTRAL SECTOR OF THE IMPERIAL CITADEL OF THANG LONG – HANOI
The Thang Long Imperial Citadel was built in the 11th century by the Ly Viet Dynasty, marking the independence of the Dai Viet. It was constructed on the remains of a Chinese fortress dating from the 7th century, on drained land reclaimed from the Red River Delta in Hanoi. It was the center of regional political power for almost 13 centuries without interruption. The Imperial Citadel buildings and the remains in the 18 Hoang Dieu Archaeological Site reflect a unique South-East Asian culture specific to the lower Red River Valley, at the crossroads
The Central Sector of the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long — Hanoi, located in the heart of the capital of Viet Nam, is the most important and best-preserved part of the ancient Imperial Citadel of Thang Long.
The Thang Long Imperial Citadel was built in the 11th century by the Vietnamese Ly Dynasty, marking the independence of the Đại Việt. It was built on the remains of a Chinese fortress dating from the 7th century, on drained land reclaimed from the Red River Delta in Hanoi. It was the center of regional political power for almost thirteen centuries without interruption.
The buildings of the Imperial Citadel and the remains in the 18 Hoang Diêu Archaeological Site reflect a unique South-East Asian culture specific to the lower Red River Valley, at the crossroads of influences coming from China in the north and the ancient Kingdom of Champa in the south.
The Imperial Citadel of Thang Long is characterized by its longevity and continuity as a seat of power, evidenced by different archaeological levels and monuments.
NHA NHAC – THE ROYAL REFINED MUSIC OF HUE
On 7th, November 2003, the Royal Refined Vietnam has ever Music was proclaimed by UNESCO as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity, the first title of this kind received. The UNESCO Council appraised Vietnamese royal music in the following terms: “Vietnamese royal music represents an elegant and refined music. It deals with the music performed in the imperial courts and on different anniversaries, religious festivals, and on such particular occasions. Of the different categories developed in Vietnam, only the royal music was national.”
The Royal Refined Music was first introduced in the 13th century, but only reached its peak under the Nguyen Dynasty. The Royal Refined Music had long enjoyed a preference as an official form of royal music. It was recognized as the symbol of a powerful and long-lasting monarchy and as an indispensable part of all ceremonies. Each year, the Royal Refined Music was played in nearly 100 different ceremonies.
Varied in its themes, the Royal Refined Music is considered a means of communication to express the respect to gods and kings. Compared to other forms of art, the Royal Refined Music boasted high artistic value, first and foremost because the court had enough political power and finance to bring together talented composers and players from around the country. Given favorable conditions to practice and improve performance skills, they became professional artists in composing and performance.
After being recognized as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity, the Royal Refined Music performances have been held in France and Belgium, etc. and was highly valued by the audience and art-culture researchers.
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