Defining power among Vietnamese powerful dynasties-some interesting discovery

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March 2011, Vietnam

It is always fascinating to study the clothing of past monarchies, which provide us with a glimpse into life during those days. But time fades and the mysteries surrounding the clothing worn by members of Vietnam dynasties prevent us from doing so.

Under feudal system, the emperor was considered the “Son of Heaven”, meaning he was sent from above to rule. In Vietnam, similar to other eastern countries, the position can be hereditary. Apart from treasures that symbolize the emperor’s power, such as jade seals and royal swords made from gold, gems, and ivory, royal crowns were also elevated to a level of sophistication that differentiated the emperor from others in the royal court.

Most of original outfits worn by emperors during Vietnam’s dynasties could not be preserved. But the Vietnam History Museum has maintained some sought-after treasures dating back to the Nguyen Dynasty (19th century), including crowns.

The collection of crowns includes two calls “Mu Binh Thien”, or crown of the land pacifier, and two others called “Mu Thuong Trieu”, which was worn during court meetings with mandarins.

According to historical documents, “Mu Binh Thien” symbolizes the emperor’s position as the ruler of the land, representing Heaven and Earth. This crown was only worn together with the imperial robe during ritual worship he had to perform, such as celebrate ceremonial sacrifices to Heaven and Earth or during important court meetings with foreign officials.

The base is made from black tussore, with twelve gold rising dragons attached and surrounded by daisies with pistils made from precious stone. The top of the crown is a flat rectangular shape, intricately adorned with twelve fringes. Each fringe includes a string of beads made from gold, precious stones and coral. It weighs some 720 grams.

The crown worn during the emperor’s meetings with mandarins is called “Mu Thuong Trieu”. It has two flaps rising upward from both sides, giving it another name: “Mu Xung Thien”. This crown is also intricately made from black tussore with decorative elements attached, such as a golden dragon, daisies and pistils made from precious stones. The crown in the Museum’s collection is adorned with 35 dragons, weighing 660 grams.

This collection of royal crowns gives us an inside look into past dynasties. The feudal system ended in Vietnam nearly a century ago, and these treasures now belong to the public. Apart from their historical and cultural value, they also reflect the skills of artisans back then, who made and defined these symbols of power.

Information: the exhibition “Imperial treasures” is currently being held at the national Museum of Vietnamese History from October to December 2010. The exhibition features a number of treasures, including four crowns from the Nguyen Dynasty.

Keywords: Nguyen dynasty,crowns,emperor,power,tussore,Mu Binh Thien,Mu Thuong Trieu

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