Vietnam reburies mummified corpse of ancient king

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The mummified corpse of a Vietnamese king who died hundreds of years ago was reburied on Monday, half a century after farmers accidentally dug it up.

Local television showed a red cloth, decorated with dragons, being draped over the coffin at the Vietnam Museum of History in Hanoi, where the body of King Le Du Tong had been preserved for decades.

Dark-suited officials held incense around the coffin, which weighed 700 kilograms (1,540 pounds), television showed. More than 20 royal robes were buried with the king.

“This event made us very glad,” said Le Van Duat, a representative of the Le clan. “It met the aspiration of several generations of the Le family. It also reflected the aspiration of the Vietnamese people.”

Farmers accidentally uncovered the king’s coffin when they were digging a field in 1958, according to the Vietnam News.

They found an “outer coffin” and when they broke a corner of it, they saw a red-lacquer inner coffin trimmed with gold, the report said.

After the museum ceremony a procession of at least 100 vehicles escorted the body of the king, who died in 1731, south to Thanh Hoa province for the reburial, said a witness who declined to be identified.

“Early this morning in Hanoi, a lot of people, especially those from the Le family clan, came to the Museum of History area to say farewell to the king,” she told AFP.

A motorcade took a few hours to reach Bai Trach village, where the king’s coffin was discovered.

“It is God and the people’s wish to bring the king’s body back to where he first rested,” Le Van Tam, another Le family representative, earlier told the Thanh Nien daily.

Local media said thousands of people turned out to greet the procession in Thanh Hoa, where military personnel in olive and white dress uniforms marched with wreaths on a red carpet.

Former Communist Party secretary general Le Kha Phieu, a member of the Le clan, was among the guests, the news website reported.

Officials and experts first opened the original wooden coffin in 1964. Buried with the king were 83 other items that included a pillow, clothing, utensils and wrapping cloths, the museum told AFP. All were rotting, it said.

The corpse itself had not maintained its original state “due to Vietnam’s then lack of budget and technique” but since 1964 its condition has remained largely unchanged, the museum said.

“This is the only case where one of the kings of the Vietnam feudal regime was excavated and studied. This is a precious historical thing,” it said in a statement emailed earlier.

Le Du Tong, who assumed the throne in 1705, was the 22nd king of the Le dynasty which had ruled since 1427 when its founder Le Loi defeated Chinese invaders.

By the time of his death at the age of 52, the long Le dynasty was nearing its end and lasted only a few more decades.

A new coffin resembling the original was built for the reburial, and artisans from the former imperial city of Hue were hired to remake the robes, shrouds and other personal items, Vietnam News reported.

The mausoleum complex covers 5,000 square meters (53,800 square feet), it said.

Local media reported that at the end of the ceremony an urn filled with incense began blazing, which Vietnamese believe was a sign that the king’s spirit had acknowledged the rituals.

Source: AFP

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