VietNamNet Bridge – A collection of Nguyen dynasty administrative documents was listed as a UNESCO world documentary heritage on May 14. The papers are not only a repertory of treasured documents about Nguyen dynasty but also convincing evidence of Vietnam’s sovereignty over its sea and islands, said the Nhan Dan (People) online newspaper.
The acknowledgement was announced at the sixth working session of the Asia Pacific Regional Committee for the Memory of the World Programme held in Guangzhou, China.
According to Deputy Secretary-General of Vietnam National Commission for UNESCO Nguyen Manh Thang, the heritage won the UNESCO vote thanks to its accuracy and uniqueness, as well as its role in Vietnam’s relations with foreign countries.
The documents, which were formulated as part of the State management under the Nguyen dynasty (1802 -1945) - the country’s last monarchy, comprised more than 700 original collections of papers circulated in 11 out of 13 reigns of the dynasty.
They were categorised into documents submitted by central and local agencies for the King’s approval, those promulgated by the King, and diplomatic documents.
The papers contain rich and trustworthy information which fully reflects all aspects in Vietnam’s social life from early 19th century to the middle of the 20th century, from politics, economy, diplomacy, public security and defence, to culture, education and health.
Notably, the heritage is among rare documents stored all over the world that had autographs of the Kings, providing viewers with a closer approach to the literary styles, thoughts and opinions of the Kings about specific issues.
The collection is also a treasured source of reference for further research on the domestic and foreign policies of the Nguyen dynasty.
Furthermore, the documents gathered much information on diplomacy, agreements and trade agreements signed between the Nguyen dynasty and foreign countries, such as China, Laos, Thailand, France and Spain. They were also made of reports presented to the Kings by envoys after their visits abroad.
A strong evidence of Vietnam’s sovereignty over its sea and islands
The dossier of the collection was submitted to the UNESCO on October 31, 2013, by the National Archives Centre. However, the documents had drawn much attention from historical researchers decades ago.
The researchers have found a source of information written in the documents reflecting the Nguyen dynasty’s exercise of sovereignty over its sea and islands, particularly over the Hoang Sa (Paracel) and Truong Sa (Spratly) archipelagos.
These documents were a link to a historical fact that since 1816, King Gia Long – the founder of the Nguyen dynasty, assigned naval forces to carry out surveys in the Hoang Sa archipelago.
The surveys in the archipelago became a general rule in the following reigns, as a number of the documents revealed the measurement, mapping, tree planting, temple construction, and coral exploitation conducted by the soldiers.
Most of the papers referring to the Hoang Sa archipelago were seen under King Minh Mang’s reign (1820 -1841), including the paper dated June 27, 1830, on the rescue of a French merchant ship sunk in the archipelago, one dated on April 2, 1838, on weather forecasting in preparation for an upcoming survey, and another dated July 19, 1838, to ask for tax exemption for ships on missions to Hoang Sa.
Under King Bao Dai’s reign (1925 -1945) – the last King of the Nguyen dynasty – the issue was also mentioned in some of the documents, such as the paper dated December 15, 1939, on bestowing a medal to Liuis Pontan, a French officer who died while performing his duty in Hoang Sa, and the paper dated February 10, 1939 on the King’s approval to honour a troop for their contributions to establishing a military post in Hoang Sa.
Therefore, the King Nguyen approved papers not only took effect in the country’s administration but are also legal instruments asserting the undeniable sovereignty of Vietnam over its sea and islands.
UNESCO’s recognition for the heritage is a significant step representing the world’s appreciation for the fact that Vietnam has exercised its sovereignty over its sea and island throughout the country’s history.