The “water work” of unprecedented scale – the first evidence of Ly Dynasty (1009-1225) has been unearthed at the excavation pit at the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long in Hanoi.
Preliminary results of a recent archaeological excavation at the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long in Hanoi reveal the first evidence of the Ly Dynasty (1009-1225) at the site.
The excavation pit is 10 meters north of the foundation of Kinh Thien Temple built during the reign of the Le Dynasty (1428-1527).
Underneath the pit is a “thick layer” of Thang Long – Hanoi culture (0.5-4.2 meters deep) covering the period from the Ly Dynasty to the Nguyen Dynasty (1802-1945).
The excavation work has exposed a ngu dao (exclusive road for kings) of the Le Dynasty as well as many vestiges of the Tran Dynasty (1225-1400).
In addition, a few ceramic artifacts unearthed at the site is similar to what has been found previously at excavation sites at 18 Hoang Dieu Street and 62-64 Tran Phu Street.
According to Japanese Prof Ueno Yamanaka, ceramic artifacts are seldom found when royal palaces used for general court or national ceremonies are excavated.
Local researchers, therefore, assume that prior to the Le Dynasty’s Kinh Thien Temple, Thien An Palace of the Ly Dynasty and Can Nguyen of the Tran Dynasty were constructed where the excavation site is today.
The area, however, is only 500 square meters in comparison with the total area of 20,000 square meters of Kinh Thien’s chamber. The researchers surmise that, given the thick layer of Thang Long culture, the site could be the “the center of the center” of the Ly Dynasty palace. In other words, it is part of the palace’s foundation which was later renovated and used by Tran Dynasty.
Prof Tong Trung Tin, director of the Institute of Archaeology in the capital city, said: “We all have known that the citadel buries many mysteries underground, but we are still amazed at what we have just discovered here.”
Ly Dynasty’s ‘water work’
A "water work" of unprecedented scale has also been unearthed at the site. The structure is built entirely of typical square-shaped brick of Ly Dynasty and two rows of 2-meter-tall wooden pillars
There are at least four hypotheses about the water work‘s functions: (1) waterway for drainage service of an important area in the citadel during Ly Dynasty; (2) a spiritual sign related to feng shui; (3) a peculiar structure for Ly kings only; and (4) just a foundation for the Ly palace’s central area.
Based on the planning of the citadel whose typical structure includes a Long Tri (dragon pond), Prof. Nguyen Quang Ngoc thinks it was probably a big trench, whereas Ngoc’s colleague, Prof Tran Duc Cuong, believes it was an escape tunnel of the royal palace.
Others argue it is a type of water tank because before the excavation, no such water structure has been found in the site.
Whatever it is, Prof Tin says, “It is most important that it is the first time a structure dating back to Ly Dynasty has been unearthed in the citadel. Previously, Japanese experts doubted the presence of the dynasty here.”
"In addition, such discoveries encourage us to continue our study here to look for more evidence of Ly Dynasty’s existence as well as other previous dynasties,” said Tin.
But local scientists are also worried about the condition of the water works, especially of its bricks, which still look quite new after hundreds of years.
Dr. Vu Quoc Hien, deputy director of National Museum of History in Hanoi, says: “As it happened at the Lam Kinh Relic Site, after a few months, the bricks’ red color might turn to a moldy-green one if they are exposed to sun and wind.”
He is urging that a plan be prepared as soon as possible to protect the relic, and that locals are allowed to visit the heritage site during the coming Lunar New Year, which falls in February.
Agreeing with Hien, Prof Luu Tran Tieu, chairman of the National Heritage Council, suggests that a shelter is built to protect the site because “it is a good opportunity for the community to approach the heritage themselves right after it is unearthed to see the real condition of the heritage.
“Once it is restored to be displayed for tourism purpose and promoted through the media, the heritage’s “color” is no longer genuine,” said the archaeologist.
Dr. Nguyen Van Son, director of Thang Long Cultural Heritage Preservation Center, said the relic will be opened to the public for free until April.