Exceptional Tran Dynasty relic found in northern Vietnam

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An exceedingly rare gold artifact from the 14th century was unearthed at a road construction site near the Ngoa Van Pagoda on Yen Tu Mountain in the northern province of Quang Ninh on June 21.

The golden "lotus-flower-shaped box" consists of 11 embossed lotus petals in a style typical of the Tran Dynasty (1225-1400), according to scientists from the Thang Long Imperial Citadel Research Center, who made the announcement this week.

Each petal is engraved with the patterns of four-petal lemon flowers.

The 4.2 centimeter-high box consists of two parts: the body and lid, and weighs 56.42 grams, equal to 1.504 taels of gold.

The lid is decorated with four layers of lotus petal patterns. The outermost layer has 11 petals; the next contains 33; the third has 28; and the last one has 15. The lid's knob is shaped in the form of a lotus flower's sepal.

For now, it is being kept at the province's Dong Trieu District, homeland of the Tran family, where a complex of tombs of eight Tran Kings were built after 1320. Tran Nhan Tong (1258-1308), the third emperor of the Tran Dynasty, practiced Buddhist meditation on Yen Tu Mountain after ceding the throne to his son, Tran Anh Tong.

According to Dr. Bui Minh Tri, the center's director, the artifact was made by skilful artisans of the Thang Long Imperial Citadel and was used in at the royal court or perhaps, even by kings.

Prior to the discovery, very few gold and silver artifacts have been found in northern Vietnam's archeological sites. In the 1960s, five golden plates from the Ly Dynasty (1009-1225) were found in Hung Yen Province and some formless gold debris was excavated from the citadel in Hanoi between 2002-2004.

"The box is unique and precious not only because it is made from gold, but also thanks to its shape and designs, which were perfectly crafted to a high artistic level," added the director, "It deserves to be classified as a national precious object."

It has been suggested that the box be displayed at Anh Sinh Temple in the district for public viewing to promote the cultural and historical value of the Tran royal family.

As yet, no other relics from the Tran Dynasty are currently on display, even at the Vietnam History Museum in Hanoi, according to Vu Quoc Hien, the museum's deputy director.

The golden plates, which were classified as precious Vietnamese objects, have never been presented to the public and are being preserved at the Hung Yen State Treasury.

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