Preservation work on ancient gate irks Hanoi residents

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Residents of the capital city are unhappy with the ongoing preservation of a 300-year-old gate that used to be one of the entrances to the historic Thang Long City.

As the only gate of its kind to survive US bombing during the Vietnam War, O Quan Chuong had repair and restoration work begin last November with a total investment of US$74,500 from the US Ambassador Fund for Cultural Preservation.

The project, approved by Hanoi's People's Committee, aimed mainly to remove moss, repair damaged parts and replace details that aren't original but were set there during the first preservation effort in 1994, according to the Hanoi Famous Landscapes and Vestige Sites Management Board, which was assigned to the project.

But the work done so far has raised several questions.

Nguyen Thanh Lam, a resident of Hoan Kiem District, pointed out that the newly-established bricks have perfect shapes, which are totally different from old ones with a "rough yet ancient beauty."

People in charge of the project have even painted the gate's wall, trying to create an ancient-looking color, but "you can realize the artificial look right away," Lam said.

Other details are also "very inappropriate" like a row of pipes set up along the gates to erect flags, not to mention messy electric wires, he added.


In July, before the preservation project began,

In Novermber

Agreeing with Lam, another resident, 53-year-old Dinh Dong Ha said: "Some people have praised them for renovating the gate beautifully, but the beauty is too new."

He also complained about trucks of between four and five tons running through the gate, damaging old bricks despite a ban issued by local authorities.

Nguyen Doan Tuan, chief of the management board, said they are trying to change the paint color to make it look more suitable, but it would take time.

He denied accusations that they were "deforming" the historic site's structure or making it look younger than its real age.

Before starting the work, the management board cooperated with the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism's Institute for Historic Sites Preservation to hold a conference, collecting opinions from experts and scientists, he said.

He said when O Quan Chuong was recognized as a national vestige site in 1994, it underwent preservation work, but due to financial problems, some bricks of different ages were used.

The latest preservation has replaced those wrong bricks with the right ones unearthed at the excavation of Thang Long Citadel, he added.

"We are conducting the work in accordance with procedures. We are doing what has been ordered by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, because it's an important historic site," Tuan said.

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