The 14th -century Ho Dynasty Citadel, built according to the feng shui principles, testifies to the flowering of neo-Confucianism in late 14th century Vietnam and its spread to other parts of east Asia. According to these principles it was sited in a landscape of great scenic beauty on an axis joining the Tuong Son and Don Son mountains in a plain between the Ma and Buoi rivers. The citadel buildings represent an outstanding example of a new style of south-east Asian imperial city.
The Citadel of Ho Dynasty built in 1397, composed of the Inner Citadel, La Thanh Outer Wall and the Nam Giao Altar covers 155.5 ha, surrounded by a buffer zone of 5078.5 ha. It is located in accordance with geomantic principles in a landscape of great scenic beauty between the Ma and Buoi rivers in Vinh Loc district, Thanh Hoa province of Viet Nam. The Inner Citadel constructed of large limestone blocks represents a new development of architectural technology and adaptation of geomantic city planning in an East Asian and South-east Asian context. It demonstrates the use of architectural elements in terms of space management and decoration designed for a centralized imperial city in order to show a concept of royal power, based on the adoption of the Confucian philosophy within a predominantly Buddhist culture. Being the capital of Viet Nam from 1398 to 1407 and also the political, economic and cultural centre of North Central Viet Nam from the 16th to the 18th century, it bears exceptional testimony to a critical period in Vietnamese and South-east Asian history when traditional kingship and Buddhist values were giving way to new trends in technology, commerce and centralized administration.
Criterion (ii): The property exhibits Chinese Confucianism influence on a symbol of regal centralized power in the late 14th – early 15th century. It represents new developments in architectural style with respect to technology and, in adapting pre-existing geomantic city planning principles in an East Asian and South-east Asian context, makes full use of the natural surroundings and incorporated distinctly Vietnamese and East and Southeast Asian elements in its monuments and landscape.
Criterion (iv): The Ho Citadel is an outstanding example of an architectural ensemble in a landscape setting which illustrates a flowering of pragmatic Neo-Confucianism in late 14th century Viet Nam, at a time when it was spreading throughout East Asia to become a major philosophical influence on government in the region. The use of large blocks of stone testifies to the organizational power of the Neo-Confucian state, and the shift in the main axis distinguishes the Citadel layout from the Chinese norm.
The integrity of the property is guaranteed by the areas of the three major components which represent the characteristics of the Ho Dynasty: the Inner Citadel, the Nam Giao altar and part of La Thanh Outer Wall. These elements reflect the presence of a citadel that has remained almost intact, with massive stone walls within a landscape setting that is easily recognizable. Excavations have also demonstrated a rich source of archaeological evidence preserved underground below the present rice and other crops within the boundaries of the three components. The buffer zone includes all cultural elements that were part of a large imperial city during the late 14th – early 15th century, including religious monuments, traditional villages, common houses, ancient roads, markets, landing places and scenic beauty spots, which are a direct tangible expression of the cultural values of the property.
The conditions of authenticity in terms of the geo-cultural location and landscape setting of the property are almost unchanged; the layout and architectural design and materials of the Inner Citadel’s walls, four gates, sections of moat, and section of La Thanh Outer Wall and archaeological remains of Nam Giao Altar are well preserved. The archaeological excavations in the property reveal well-preserved structures contemporaneous with the Ho Dynasty.
Protection and management requirements
The Inner Citadel and Nam Giao Altar were designated in 1962 as national heritage by Decision of the Ministry of Culture of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam and are protected under the Law on Cultural Heritage of 29/06/2001. The nominated section of La Thanh Outer Wall is in the process of being similarly protected. The buffer zone is protected by the Law on Environmental Protection of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, number 52/2005/QH11, Chapter 4, Article 31 of 2005. The property is directly managed by the People’s Committees of the relevant communes for the particular component sites, under the Management Board of the Citadel of the Ho Dynasty established by Decision 2264/QD-UBND (30 July 2007).
A comprehensive five–year Management Plan for the property was submitted in November 2010. The control of urban development near the Inner Citadel, in Vinh Loc town particularly along the axis between the Inner Citadel and Mount Don Son, and in the buffer zone generally should receive specific attention so as to protect all view lines along the axes between topographical features, and views within the area enclosed by the line of the outer wall and the Ma and Buoi rivers. Special attention is needed for the development of a risk-preparedness and management strategy and a strategy for involving local people in the protection and management of the property. The local authority and people are working closely for the preservation and protection of the property through a training and public-awareness raising programme.
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