“Errors in relic restoration: a pity!”

Published: 14/04/2009 05:00



Dr. Dang Van Bai.

Dr. Dang Van Bai, the chief of the Cultural Heritage Agency under the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, discussed problems in restoring relics.

Restoration: One hundred becomes one year

Alarm from historical relics

Antiques: Fried fish exposed to cats

The media has talked a great deal about restoration to renew ancient relics but which actually kills them. Are prevailing views about restoration in Vietnam incompetent?

Experiencing the ups and downs of history, long wars, floods and storms, harsh weather, many wooden relics have been seriously damaged. There are few architectural works in their original states because they have been repaired many times. Thus, we can’t mechanically use a common principle for all relics.

The target is maximally preserving original component factors of relics, in which the priority is keeping, preserving architectural relics with artistic reliefs. Another thing is the sustainability of relics after restoration. Finally, the wishes of the communities that look after the relics also need to be taken into account.

Briefly, the restoration of relics is a science requiring tremendous professional skills and knowledge, creativeness and special technical solutions for each specific case.

We have interviewed many artistic experts, painters and culturists of Vietnam. They all vehemently protest the method of restoration we are applying, in which relics are destroyed. Many restored relics have lost their historical, architectural and cultural values. What do you think about this?

There is a big difference between restoration of relics and the building of a new work or repairing normal construction works. The difference is in all stages, from surveying and assessing the situation of architectural works before restoration or repair, project-making, technical design, building, construction supervision, checking and taking over.

Mong Phu Temple, Duong Lam, Hanoi was in a state of mild disrepair but the restoration agency resolutely tore down the temple to build a new one.

Normally, after projects are drawn up and capital estimates are approved, construction is carried out. However, there are newly emerging issues in restoring relics so there needs to be a special mechanism, but we don’t have a special mechanism for restoring relics.

Another thing: Builders want to increase their workload (do more restoration work than necessary) to earn more money and they want the works they restore to stand firm for a long time.

The third reason is the local community doesn’t want their relics to be healed or partly repaired. They want completely new things so the builders have to please them.

In an article in Tuoi Tre Newspaper, painter Le Thiet Cuong concluded: “We lack an independent agency supervising relics that are restored by the state budget”. What is your opinion?

All relics have independent supervisors, who are not staffs of the construction company. We have also proposed establishing a strong supervision group. The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism should set up a working group to check relic restoration to minimise deplorable errors.

Painter-researcher Phan Cam Thuong and painter Le Thiet Cuong shared the idea of building a school to teach how to restore relics. What do you think?

It is true that we lack leading experts and qualified human resources in restoring historical and cultural relics.


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