Project to Preserve Nguyen Dynasty Woodblocks Funded by US Completed

At a ceremony held today, US Ambassador to Vietnam, John Smith, celebrated the successful completion of the Nguyen Dynasty Woodblocks Preservation Project.

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US Ambassador to Vietnam Marc Knapper attends the event. Photo:VNA
US Ambassador to Vietnam Marc Knapper attends the event. Photo: Lam Dong newspaper

On May 25, the State Archives and Records Administration held a ceremony to celebrate the successful completion of a project to preserve the woodblocks of the Nguyen Dynasty, a UNESCO-recognised documentary heritage item, at the National Archives Centre IV in the Central Highland province of Lam Dong, as reported by the Vietnam News Agency (VNA).

Dang Thanh Tung, Director of the State Records Management and Archives Department under the Vietnamese Ministry of Home Affairs, emphasized the importance of implementing major projects in order to preserve the woodblocks of the Nguyen Dynasty. Despite the efforts of the government, the woodblocks continue to be threatened by the natural aging process, tropical climate, and fungal and insect activity. As a result, there is a need for the social community to contribute and participate in order to extend the life of this important document.

In July 2020, the United States Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation (AFCP) granted a sum of over USD 88,000 to begin a project that aimed to preserve 500 degraded woodblock plates housed at the National Archives Centre IV.

US Ambassador to Vietnam Marc E. Knapper listens to the leader of the National Archives Centre IV presenting the preservation of degraded woodblocks. Photo: Lam Dong newspaper
US Ambassador to Vietnam Marc E. Knapper listens to the leader of the National Archives Centre IV presenting the preservation of degraded woodblocks. Photo: Lam Dong newspaper

Following the approval of the AFCP grant in July 2020, a technical team conducted an assessment of the level of damage to the deteriorated woodblocks. During the period from January to the end of August 2021, the conservation treatment of the decayed woodblocks was undertaken using the techniques employed in developed countries such as Japan, South Korea, and France.

A total of 34,555 plates of woodblocks engraved with Chinese characters are kept at the National Archives Centre IV. The content of the Nguyen Dynasty (1802-1945) woodblocks is rich and diverse, reflecting all aspects of Vietnamese society in the Nguyen Dynasty. They were used to print books in Vietnam during the 19th and early 20th centuries.

US Ambassador to Vietnam Marc Knapper speaks at the event.
US Ambassador to Vietnam Marc Knapper speaks at the event. Photo: Lam Dong newspaper

At the ceremony, US Ambassador to Vietnam Marc Knapper remarked that cultural heritage conservation is just one of many areas of cooperation between the two nations. He noted that since 2001, the US has provided funding for 16 projects in this field, totaling over USD 1.2 million.

Printing woodblocks are precious items with immense cultural and historical significance in Vietnam. Used during feudal times, the woodblocks of the Nguyen Dynasty were used to record official literature, history, classical, and historical books. This importance was officially recognized in 2009 when they were included in the Memory of the World Register.

Hannah Nguyen