Under the Cultural Heritage Law, the Government assigned the Institute of Archaeology to conduct an excavation on an area of ten thousand square meters near Ba Đình Square in Hà Nội. Vast arrays of relics and artifacts have been revealed.
The site is located on the western side of the Thăng Long Citadel belonging to the Lý, Trần, Early Lê, Mạc, and Restored Lê Dynasties from the 11th – 18th centuries. This site also belonged to the Royal Đại La Citadel in the 7th–9th centuries and the Royal Hà Nội Citadel in the 19th century. The excavation has uncovered a historical range from the 7th to the 19th century, including the pre-Thăng Long, and Hà Nội period. The vestiges and cultural layers continuously overlap one another through different historical periods and dynasties. Rarely is there a large historical and cultural history that encompasses such a wide range of historical eras. This land has been the capital for most of Việt Nam’s history.
The architectural relics consist of the foundation, the base of pillars, sections of brick walls, road sections, brick/gravel tiled floors, a water drainage system, water wells, and traces of lotus lakes. The new discoveries have revealed the magnitude and scale of the Thăng Long Citadel that could not be manifested through written documents or ancient maps.
A wide range of the relics in large quantity includes construction materials like bricks, tiles, stone column bases, and ironwood poles. Objects belonging to the royal family include artifacts such as jewelry, Vietnamese ceramics and porcelains, Chinese / Japanese ceramics and porcelains (Hizen ceramics and porcelains (Hizen ceramics), bronze coins from different areas, weapons. Some of the findings are valuable, or never discovered items. These relics demonstrate the highly technical and artistic developments of the Vietnamese people in the past.
In a historical perspective, the new discovery has provided scientific insights into the central location of the Thăng Long/Đông Đô/Đông Kinh Citadel, laying groundwork for a better understanding of the relationship between the Đại La Citadel with the Thăng Long Citadel. This discovery will help us develop a clearer understanding of the citadels from the Lý, Trần and Lê Dynasties to the Hà Nội Citadel during the Nguyễn Dynasty.
The relics of the Đại La Citadel were found in the four sections A, B, C, and D of the excavated areas, which means the sections were located inside Đại La citadel. Beyond the vestiges of the Đại La Citadel are relics of the Lý Dynasty. The name of the royal citadel was either called the “Dragon Citadel,” Phoenix Citadel,” or “Dragon Phoenix Citadel” during the Lý and Trần Dynasties. This changed throughout the Lý, Trần and Lê Dynasties, so more research is required to prove that the citadel was situated to the west of the center. In other words, it was part of the western side of the royal citadel. The result of the excavation in combination with ancient maps and documents has provided a better picture of the royal citadel.
The discovery has provided information about a great number of precious relics from the Thăng Long Citadel.
Therefore, there should be more excavations on a large scale and plans to create a historical heritage site. This site should include the ancient sites of the Thăng Long and Hà Nội Citadel, and the more recent revolutionary resistance relics of the Hồ Chí Minh era such as the Ba Đình Meeting Hall, the Hồ Chí Minh Mausoleum, Hồ Chí Minh’s house on stilts, and the headquarters of the Việt Nam People’s Army during the American War. This would create a heritage site starting from the 7th century up through the 20th century. This is an invaluable heritage site lying in the heart of Hà Nội.
By Prof. Phan Huy Lê