Vietnam’s royal rickshaw on its way home from France

By Bui Ngoc Long, Thanh Nien News

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The Nguyen's Dynasty royal rickshaw at the Vietnamese Embassy in France. Photo: Phan Thanh Hai The Nguyen's Dynasty royal rickshaw at the Vietnamese Embassy in France. Photo: Phan Thanh Hai


The Vietnamese embassy in France has received a Nguyen’s Dynasty rickshaw for sending it back to Vietnam soon, marking the country’s first successful effort to retrieve royal antiques from an auction abroad.
Phan Thanh Hai, director of the Hue Monuments Conservation Center, said the embassy and his agency lent it to the Guimet Asian Arts Museum in Paris to display at the L'envol du Dragon - Art royal du Vietnam exhibition from July 9 – September 15.
“It will take another 5,000 Euros to transport it to Vietnam and we are calling for Vietnam Airlines for support,” Hai said.
The rickshaw, which was made of rare trac hardwood and inlaid with mother of pearl, was commissioned for Queen Mother Tu Minh by King Thanh Thai - the tenth emperor of Vietnam’s Nguyen Dynasty (1802-1945).
Thanh Thai ruled from 1889 to 1907 and was known as a patriotic king who was one of three rulers - including his predecessor Ham Nghi and his son Duy Tan - to be dethroned and banished for opposing French colonial powers.
The king's ornate rickshaw and bed were sold at a Rouillac auction in Tours on June 13.
The Hue center made the winning bid of 55,800 euros (US$76,000) on the rickshaw. 
According to Hai, the Thua Thien Hue provincial government contributed 42,800 of those Euros and the rest came from Vietnamese people in the country and abroad.
The Guimet Asian Arts Museum in Paris immediately sought to buy it back but the conflict has been settled in Vietnam’s favor, according to the Vietnamese embassy in France.
Ta Van Quang, a descendant of the king, bought the bed for 124,000 Euros ($168,000) and is making plans to send it back to Hue, the former seat of the Nguyen Dynasty's power.
Research suggests that the king transferred his assets including the bed and the rickshaw to his chief French guard, Prosper Jourdan, in a note written prior to his banishment in 1907.
Hai said a lot of Vietnamese antiques remain scattered all over the world due to its history of wars and invasions.
Few recovery efforts have succeeded due to a lack of funds and information.

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