Excavation work on the only royal prayer dais discovered intact in Vietnam thus far has led to more interesting findings about the generally reviled Ho Dynasty.
The discovery of a unique structure used by kings for rituals and prayers built in the 15th century has led to extensive excavations and the unearthing of more artifacts and information about the short-lived Ho Dynasty.
The Dai Viet Su Ky Toan Thu (the Complete Annals of Dai Viet) show that the three-storied Nam Giao dais was built in 1402 by the Ho Dynasty (1400-1407).
The dais was first discovered in the central province of Thanh Hoa's Vinh Loc District in 2004.
Since then it has been excavated four times and many other vestiges found, like the Trai Cung palace, where the king rested away from his concubines in order to purify himself before conducting the most significant ritual to pray for peace and happiness for the country and its citizens.
Archaeologists have dug out numerous relics like broken tiles and bricks, ceramics and knife handles from the site. They have also established that the dais had three floors built at heights of 21.7 meters, 20.1 meters, and 17.3 meters respectively.
The latest three-year excavation work, which was approved to cover 24,000 square meters by Thanh Hoa authorities, has unearthed even more important discoveries since it began last year
The Nam Giao dais in the central province of Thanh Hoa's Vinh Loc District built by the Ho Dynasty in the 15th century. Vietnam has found three daises, including one in the central town of Hue and another in Hanoi. However, both of them were critically damaged.
One of them is a well which was called the gieng ngu duyen or gieng vua (the king's well), said Do Quang Trong, head of the management board of the Ho Dynasty vestige site, where the dais is located.
The square well, located to the dais' southeast, covers an area of 196 square meters and has a depth of nine meters, which contrasts with the archaeologists' initial speculation that it was round in shape with an area exceeding 10 square meters.
The most noticeable aspect about the well, he said, are the stone embankments built into it at a depth of three meters, which proves that the second shortest dynasty in Vietnam's history had mastered the skill of cutting and assembling stones.
Trong said they also discovered three stone-paved paths which were 125-130 meters long leading to the dais's three floors. The path to the highest floor, which was known as Than Dao (sacred way), was for the king's exclusive use.
"Many more unexpected things will probably come up during the excavation at this precious vestige site," Trong said.
Along with Thanh Hoa authorities, scientists expect that the last excavation, for which VND12 billion (US$630,307) has been allotted from the provincial budget, would help them fully identify the structure and the values of the dais and surrounding works.
The findings will be convincing evidence that can be added into an application submitted to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) for recognizing the Ho Dynasty's Imperial City vestige site as a World Heritage.
They will also form the basis for local scientists to restore the dais and preserve it for posterity.
So far Vietnam has found three daises, including one in the central town of Hue and another in Hanoi. However, both of them were critically damaged.
While scientists were learning about the dais, the Nam Giao prayer rituals were already revived at the Hue Festival in 2002 in accordance with records of the Nguyen Dynasty (1802-1945). Since then it has become an important part of the biennial festival.
According to Nguyen Dac Xuan, an expert in Hue culture, the last Nam Giao Ritual was performed by Bao Dai, the last King of the Nguyen Dynasty in the central highlands town of Buon Ma Thuot in 1953.