Stolen treasure

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A recent spate of robberies from ancient tombs is sounding the warning bells for the security system in Hue Town.

Seven artifacts were stolen from Thien Dinh palace in King Khai Dinh's tomb in Hue Town December 1.

Among the robbed antiques is a bronze oval tray with two dragons' intaglio, betel crushing tools, a silver teapot set, and a 15.5-cm-high china decanter all belonging to King Khai Dinh (1885-1925).

Historical researcher Phan Thuan An said he was worried about the safety of Vietnam's ancient royal treasures.

An pointed out that several kim ngoc bao ty (emperors' seals made of precious stones and gold) have been stolen in the last few years.

Apart from the seals used by the empress, princes, and concubines, more than 100 royal seals were made during 143 years of the reign of Nguyen Dynasty's 13 emperors.

"In 2008 and 2009, thieves broke into King Tu Duc's tomb and King Dong Khanh's tomb to steal antiques from Hoa Khiem and Ngung Hi palaces," he added.

According to Phung Phu, director of Hue Ancient Capital Relic Preservation Center, the recent robberies are unnerving because "the historical relics are spread over a large area in the town, but there are only 200 security guards to watch over them."

An said that there are hundreds of royal seals in Hanoi. According to the book Kim ngoc bao ty cua hoang de va vuong hau trieu Nguyen Viet Nam (Royal seals of Nguyen Dynasty's emperors and empresses), published during an exhibition of royal antiques in Hanoi this October, there are 85 royal seals in Vietnam History Museum alone.

"Fortunately, the most precious royal seals are safe in the museum. These include the Dai Viet quoc (Great Viet) mold from 1709, and the seals of Sac menh chi bao and Hoang de ton than chi bao dating back to 1827. The latter two are made from pure gold and weigh more than eight kilograms each," he said.

"There are more than 100 royal seals mislaid in European countries and the US. What remains in the Hue Royal Citadel Antique Museum are seals for the king's officials. The total number of antiques remaining in the Hue museum is just one-tenth the number actually commissioned by the Nguyen Dynasty," An said.

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