(No.2, Vol.8,Apr-May Vietnam Heritage Magazine)

Illustration provided by the Hue Monuments Conservation Centre

‘The Monarchic Saga of Hue’, a unique art performance that depicts the history and achievements of the Nguyen Dynasty (1802-1945), will be included in the coming biennial event Hue Festival.
The programme, which is known as ‘Van hien kinh ky’ in Vietnamese, will be the key show of this year’s event, according to Huynh Tien Dat, Deputy Director of Hue Festival Centre, the event’s organizers. The show takes place in the former Imperial Palace in April 28 and repeats April 30 at the same stage.
Hue Monuments Conservation Centre, a local government body managing all relics related to the dynasty in Hue, said the show was built up in the structure of a play.
‘The show tells a historical story of Vietnam in the 19th century through the royal art form as well as other traditional genres of Hue,’ said Phan Thanh Hai, the centre’s director.
Art performances in the 80-minute show will follow the historical chronology, but with highlights of the dynastic achievements that achieved five UNESCO statuses; the complex of royal monuments, royal court music, wood plates, royal records and royal literature on royal architecture.
Audiences of the first chapter will enjoy the scenes a kingdom reunited by the dynasty’s first king as well as efforts to expand the country to the south by royal military force and pioneer citizens.
The scenes will also detail the process that the dynasty’s first king Gia Long building up the kingdom in 1802 and naming the country Vietnam. Gia Long also formed and appointed marine military troops to investigate and measure the archipelagos of Hoang Sa (Paracels). Royal records related to this have been contributed to sources that prove the sovereignty of Vietnam over the archipelagos.
In the second chapter, audiences will continue to be entertained with light, music, and royal dance regarding stories about an era of secure defense, peace and bumper crops. A legend tells when a phoenix appeared on a wutong tree, the society would be ripe in harmony, wealth and peace. Scenes reminding of this legend will be included in this chapter to depict the heyday of the Nguyen Dynasty.
The last chapter will go with different themes, which aim to highlight the advanced education, developed art genres and outstanding cultural buildings considered as achievements by the dynasty. This is also to give audiences backgrounds of the intangible values left by the dynasty in Hue.
For almost a century, the Nguyen Dynasty has been blamed for losing the country into French hands, driving Vietnam into colonial period. This led to the overlooking of the dynasty in building up the country sovereignty and territory as well as their achievements.
Today historians and researchers have given a fair look at the colonial surge around the world in 19th century and helped the dynasty to regain their reputation.
Such art shows like ‘The Monarchic Saga of Hue’ are expected to clear the wrongful blame towards the country’s last monarchy, who played great role in protecting Vietnam sovereignty on sea and the growing of Vietnamese territories to the south.

Text by Ha Nguyen