A rickshaw which belonged to a king of the Nguyen Dynasty (1802-1945), Vietnam’s last monarchy, has finally arrived home after some 100 years being away and will be put on display in the central region next week as a happy ending for insiders’ unprecedentedly concerted efforts.
The rickshaw, which was gifted by King Thanh Thai (1879-1954), the 10th king of the Nguyen Dynasty, to his mother during his lifetime, is considered a royal treasure which is highly cherished for its technical, aesthetic, cultural, and historical value.
The prized item was custom-made from “trac” wood encrusted with conch and boasts sophisticated carvings.
The rickshaw will be displayed at an exhibition, which is poised to run on Wednesday at Dien Tho Palace, part of the UNESCO-recognized Complex of Monuments in Hue City.
The palace is a prominent highlight in Hue, the capital city of the central province of Thua Thien-Hue.
The homecoming is the fruit of Vietnamese culture authorities’ campaign, with the leader of a Paris-based museum giving up its legal right to purchase the object and fund-raising efforts.
At an auction in Tours, France on June 13, 2014 of various treasured items, including King Thanh Thai’s rickshaw, Vietnam’s people won the bid for the vehicle for €45,000. The item fetched €55,800 including organization fees.
In an unexpected twist, Katia Mollet, a curator of the Guimet Museum, declared that France had the right to buy the rickshaw for the same price.
State-run organizations in France were entitled by law to purchase the items at the same price as that offered by the auction winners.
The Vietnam Embassy in France and Vietnamese culture authorities persevered in talking the French museum’s leader out of the intention, and sought for support from French cultural agencies and experts on Vietnamese culture for Vietnam’s bid to purchase the rickshaw.
Some days following the auction, the Guimet Museum, which is well known for its painstaking conservation of a number of Vietnamese artifacts and has helped promote them through its exhibits, gave up its right to buy the rickshaw.
Buu Y, a respected culture researcher in Hue, was taken aback by the full-length details of King Thanh Thai’s rickshaw in a record kept by the French auction company.
According to the auctioning record, the king sold his rickshaw and bed – another royal treasure – to Prosper Jourdan, head of the king’s escort team, who took it to France in 1907.
The rickshaw has seen repairs to and restoration of some of its parts since, the record added.
Jourdan’s heirs later decided to put these two invaluable items up for auction and expressed their wish that after the auction, they will be displayed in Hue, which was Vietnam’s imperial capital during the Nguyen Dynasty. . . .