For the first time, 80 Chau ban documents (the king’s autographed documents in red ink) of Nguyen Dynasty and archived photos are introduced to the public at the Temple of Literature in Hanoi.

A King of Nguyen dynasty at work. Photos the courtesy of the exhibition’s organising board

Through the exhibition, the New Year of the royal court with its majestic ceremonies are vividly reproduced. In the past, life in the court of Nguyen dynasty in particular and other dynasties of Vietnam in general was always considered ‘secret’ and was rarely made public.

Under the Nguyen Dynasty, the Lunar New Year is considered one of the biggest ceremonies of the year and the court welcomes Tet with many solemn rituals.

The exhibition features three main themes. The first theme – “Tet Preparations” includes pictures and documents about preparing works for Tet in the palace. The Lunar New Year’s Eve preparation started very early, right from the first day of the 12th month in the lunar calendar. This ritual is called “Le Ban soc” or “Calendar distribution ceremony”.

The following ceremony was held to invite the proceeding emperors from heaven to turn back ‘home’ for having a Tet celebration with the whole court, also known as “Le Hop huong”.

The next ritual that is the indication of the suspension of court affairs, called “Le phong an”; and finally, the “Tien Xuan” ritual or “Welcome Spring” ceremony took place.

A Chau ban documents, the king’s autographed documents in red ink, of Nguyen Dynasty. 

The second theme of the exhibition is called “New Year’s Eve- farewell to the old year and welcome the new year”. There were several rituals held at the court on the last day of the 12th month in the Lunar calendar, such as “Disinfection ceremony”, “Ghost chasing ceremony” and “Neu tree erection ceremony”.

The third theme of the exhibition is named- “Welcome New Year- Tet Gift delivery & Praising filial piety”. On the first day of the New Year, the King paid visit to  Queen mother for the New Year blessing. After that, he turned back to his Palace, waiting   the court dignitaries to come and offer new year best wishes.

Then, the New Year’s  banquet  began with abundance of delicacies and royal specialties. The courtiers were also bestowed with gold and jewelries, meanwhile, people were also given gifts by the King for the occasion of the New Year.