Vietnam Academy Of Social Sciences

Post-Inscription Safeguarding of Duong Lam Ancient Village Heritage


Nguyen Thi Hong Nhung, 

Vietnam National Institute of Culture and Arts.


Abstract: In 2005, Duong Lam became the first old village in Vietnam to be registered as a national historical and cultural relic by the State. From that, all activities related to monuments, such as remodeling and building new houses, shall comply with strict regulations of the Law on Cultural Heritage. The conflicts in Duong Lam between safeguarding and development, between honouring the heritage and the rights of the heritage owner community are always smoldering and at risk of bursting out into conflicts. The peak of that was in 2013, when a number of Duong Lam villagers lodged petitions to "return" the title of a national level relic to the State. Using ethnographic materials, this research focuses on analysing the conflicts arising in Duong Lam after being inscribed as heritage, and the conflicts between heritage safeguarding and the people's needs and rights. The paper points out that the title of "heritage" needs to benefit the entire community of heritage owners, not just a small group. That will help avoid post-inscription conflicts.

Keywords: Heritagisation, heritage inscription, living heritage, heritage safeguarding, Duong Lam.

Subject classification: Cultural studies


1. Introduction

The inscription of heritage in Vietnam is conducted to realise the Law on Cultural Heritage. Cultural practices/expressions selected for cultural heritage inscription depend on the views of cadres managing the culture sector (hereinafter referred to as “managers”), experts and the community. Once being inscribed with different titles (at the levels of provincial, national, special national and UNESCO heritage sites), the cultural heritage shall be governed by the law and UNESCO conventions to meet the standards of management organisations.2

Post-inscription period in Vietnam, in fact, is posing many urgent theoretical and practical issues, especially for properties considered “living heritage”, where people are still residing and which are themselves developing. The safeguarding and promotion of heritage values here must protect and honour cultural values, while doing no harm to people's needs. The balance between safeguarding and development and the issue of community rights to their own heritage are always challenges that require adequate measures. The consequence of not handling these issues well is that a wide range of local communities want to return the heritage titles such as the cases of Dong Van old town (Ha Giang Province) and Duong Lam ancient village (Hanoi).

Located on the outskirts of Hanoi, Duong Lam ancient village (Duong Lam commune, Son Tay town, Hanoi) remains untouched with most of the typical traits of a traditional northern delta village. As a relic compound, the "ancient village" includes five villages of Duong Lam commune (Mong Phu, Dong Sang, Doai Giap, Cam Thinh and Cam Lam) [12]. In 2005, Duong Lam became the first ancient village in Vietnam to be inscribed as a national historical and cultural relic by the State. This inscription is the legal basis for safeguarding and promoting values of the ancient village heritage. Duong Lam has received a lot of support from the State, non-governmental organisations, and, especially, from Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) to invest in the embellishment of ancient monuments and houses, provide training in tourism for relevant subjects and develop local traditional professions. Many old houses were restored quickly. From a pure agrarian village, Duong Lam has attracted tourists who come to learn about its cultural life, take photos, explore Vietnamese ancient housing architecture and enjoy specialty dishes. A few families who live in the ancient houses have benefited from tourism business activities. Some households in the village have also developed traditional trades and participated in selling products to tourists such as soy sauce, chè lam (Vietnamese nutty ginger sticky rice bars), confectionery and local crops.

In addition to the positive effects after Duong Lam ancient village was registered for UNESCO inscription, this caused inadequacies to be revealed in the heritage itself, the management task and the life of villagers. In the post-inscription period, it has become difficult for the original appearance of villages in Duong Lam commune, which is gradually changing due to urbanisation, to remain intact. The villagers’ lives have been also turned upside down. Activities related to the relic such as repair, new construction and others must comply with all regulations of the Law on Cultural Heritage. Some ancient houses were restored by the State, but the landlords were not satisfied with either the quality or the funding. Some old house owners cannot attract tourists because they have no idea how to do business. The climax of these contradictions is the event that a number of Duong Lam villagers applied to return the title of national relic to the State in May 2013.

I have been interested in doing research on Duong Lam since 2006 as a part of the Community-Based Heritage Training Project for National Lecturers organised by the UNESCO in May 2006. In the course, the trainees had the opportunity to go on a field trip to Duong Lam village and learn about the current situation of the heritage system here. I thereby discovered many issues around the safeguarding and promotion of ancient village values in the context of modernisation. Through field trips to collect materials for the project, I found that the post-inscription period in Duong Lam raises many problems, including the conflicts between safeguarding and development as well as between the honouring of the heritage and the rights of the heritage owner community. With ethnographic fieldwork materials, this study focuses on analysing conflicts which arose in Duong Lam after being inscribed as a heritage site by the UNESCO. The paper points out that inscription must benefit the entire heritage owner community, not just a small group of people, in order to avoid post-inscription oppositions.

The studies related to the paper include ones on the post-inscription period of Duong Lam ancient village. The post-inscription period has led to a wide range of issues in safeguarding and promoting heritage values. After its inscription, the influence of cultural heritage has also expanded. “The inscription is conducted to contribute to improving the respect of the owner community, expanding the ability of dialogue at the national and international levels and promoting the cultural diversity” [3, p.266]. Upon their inscriptions, many cultural heritage sites have been funded for “renovation”, “planning” and “upgrading”. “This creates new challenges in safeguarding the cultural heritage” [5, p.390].

The role of stakeholders, especially the community, in heritage inscription is mentioned in many studies. Salomone has mentioned the role of the local community in the heritagisation and restoration of Sanità district heritage since the 1990s [15]. In the case of Vietnam, Kirsten W. Endres emboldened the active participation of the government, scientists and spirit mediums to seek the official recognition of the title of cultural heritage from the State and UNESCO [14]. One of the hottest post-inscription issues is the heritage community marginalisation. According to the author, the process of heritagisation makes heritage and the local community’s partnership with heritage vulnerable to “outside impacts and interventions”. Local communities are deprived of the right to that heritage as in the past. The heritage privilege is then given to tourism, economy and politics [6].

Duong Lam ancient village, the case study of this paper, has attracted a lot of research. Cultural and historical issues, socio-political organisations, cultural spaces, celebrities, monuments, relics and others are the “traditional” research topics when it comes to Duong Lam village. The ancient village heritagisation has also attracted a researcher’s attention and is the basis for providing some information on the law-abiding inscription, post-inscription issues and conflicts in Duong Lam for this paper. In the views of Nguyen Quoc Hung, “the inscription of relics is not only the inscription of heritage but also the legal basis for the safeguarding and promotion of heritage values” [4, p.18]. The Master's thesis of Le Thuy Nga examined the heritagisation in Duong Lam ancient village, including the development of documents and principles as well as protection activities in the post-heritage context [7]. Along with the urbanisation of Duong Lam ancient village, the development is also associated with the risk of losing traditional cultural values if not safeguarded [11]. In addition, journals, press reports and interviews on issues of Duong Lam ancient village, especially post-inscription issues, conflicts and the community’s desire to return the heritage title to the State, have provided rich and complementary information for this paper.

In short, the post-inscription period is an issue that many home and overseas researchers have expressed their interest in through numerous articles and research in both theoretical and practical aspects, focusing on questions such as the transformation of post-inscription cultural heritage; the relationship between safeguarding and development; the community’s role in heritage management; post-heritage issues and tourism development. In general, the research has shown that the heritagisation has two co-existing sides. On the one hand, the heritagisation creates positive results in the safeguarding and promotion of post-inscription heritage. On the other hand, the heritage inscription leads to unwanted consequences for the heritage itself and the community of heritage owners.

2. The heritagisation and inscription of Duong Lam ancient village

Heritagisation is the process of creating heritage through the assessment, recognition, honouring and inscription of historical sites and the everyday cultural practices of local communities. This process is carried out by the State through experts and researchers in various fields outside the community. As a result, tangible and intangible cultural heritage owned by communities become “cultural heritage”, a symbol for a locality or the whole nation.

The strong push of heritagisation has institutionalised cultural issues in Vietnam with the promulgation of the Law on Cultural Heritage (No.28/2001/QH10) and the Law on Amending and Supplementing a Number of Articles of the Law on Cultural Heritage of 2009. With regard to the State management of tangible cultural heritage, the Law on Cultural Heritage has regulations on relic protected areas. Sections 2 and 3 of Article 32 stipulate: “Any constructions in protected areas of type 2 as defined in Section 1b of this Article shall be approved in writing by the Minister of Culture and Information in the cases of national and special national sites, or by the provincial people's committee chairperson in the cases of provincial sites”; “Protected areas as defined in Section 1 of this Article shall be marked on a cadastral map, attached with the minutes on delineating the protection area and confirmed by the competent state authorities in the documents of the relic” [8].

In implementing the Law on Cultural Heritage, the Government of Vietnam has carried out surveys, formed a data system of historical relics and conducted the relic classification and inscription. The heritagisation of physical and non-physical cultural works hereby drastically takes place. This activity is implemented not only by the Government of Vietnam and specialised agencies but also in close cooperation with foreign experts. Currently, the inscription of cultural and historical relics and landscapes is being implemented in accordance with Circular No.09/2011/TT-BVHTTDL of the Ministry of Culture, Information and Tourism (based on Decree No.98/2010).

In the inscription of relics, ancient villages in Vietnam are specially attended to. From the perspective of policies on safeguarding tangible culture, especially houses and architectural populations, the State management agency has a plan for conducting a survey and developing a map that assesses the status of ancient villages to propose measures to safeguard and promote their values in line with the situation of each specific place. One of the prime examples of external interventions in heritage is the international cooperation in ancient village and traditional housing research with research projects co-conducted by Vietnam and Japan. Since 1997, the Department of Cultural Heritage under the Ministry of Culture, Information and Tourism (present-day Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism) has cooperated with Japan Women's Showa University and some institutes and universities such as the Architectural Research Institute to conduct a survey of traditional folk houses. The project management board selected a number of provinces in all the three regions of the country - northern, central and Southern Vietnam, for piloting implementation. Surveys of traditional folk houses have been conducted in the northern provinces of Bac Ninh, Nam Dinh, Lang Son and Ha Tay (including Duong Lam ancient village), the central provinces of Thanh Hoa, Nghe An, Thua Thien Hue, Quang Nam, Quang Ngai and Binh Dinh, and the southern provinces of Dong Nai and Tien Giang.

In the case of Duong Lam village, it can be said that Japanese experts are the ones who have “awakened” the ancient village [13]. From 2003 to December 2004, experts from the Japan Cultural Properties Department, Women's Showa University and a number of research institutes in Vietnam held surveys for basic data funded by JICA [12]. According to an officer of the Department of Cultural Heritage (Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism), “never before has such a proposal for the title of national relic been carefully and professionally prepared as the one of Duong Lam ancient village”. At that time, the People's Committee of Ha Tay Province (a part of today’s Hanoi city) also held many meetings and seminars to collect the people's opinions. When the application was submitted to the National Heritage Council, it had already included signed proposals from the people who requested the heritage recognition for the village.

With outstanding values in history, culture, artistic architecture and natural landscapes, at the end of 2005, Duong Lam ancient village was inscribed by the Ministry of Culture and Information (now the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism) as a national architectural and artistic relic. The artistic value of the ancient village in Duong Lam is expressed in the most obvious manner through the system of religious architecture and civil houses. Duong Lam has 956 traditional houses, of which 117 ancient houses aged 100 to 400 years are safeguarded. The question is which benefits the inscription of Duong Lam as heritage has offered to the community and itself.

After being recognised as a national architectural and artistic relic, Duong Lam ancient village is funded to meeting two goals of safeguarding its “member ancient villages” and developing tourism services as well as creating livelihoods for the local people. Before 2005, the old houses in Duong Lam had degraded due to having no financial support for restoration. By 2019, 17 out of 956 houses had been restored and repaired. Each old house is provided with financial support (from VND 800 million to VND 1.2 billion) and technical assistance from Japanese and domestic experts. Since 2012, some old houses have been entitled to a “salary” from ticket sales of the relic management board. Specifically, 18 ancient houses are entitled to VND 250,000/month and two houses are entitled to VND 150,000/month. Ancient village tourism has developed, bringing economic benefits to many households and localities. After being inscribed as a national relic in 2005, the sense of safeguarding the ancient village was stirred up and the people living there were proud of its recognised cultural and historical values. Some people, when being interviewed, are really proud of the state-inscribed heritage. Mr Kieu Anh Bang from Dong Sang village said: “My family also feel very proud of the fact that visitors come and show their great interest in everything here”. One of the reasons for the benefits that the people get is the development of tourism and sale of specialty products such as chè lam and soy sauce. According to Ms Duong Thi Lan from the same village, “since 2013, many tourists have been coming here. Many households were very poor in the past, but they are now richer thanks to tourism. My niece sells chè lam at the village’s communal house. Before Duong Lam was inscribed, she could only sell a few kilograms a day. She now sells hundreds of kilograms a day and even has to buy machine to make enough amount for sale. Her husband also quit his job as a mason to come back home to make chè lam”.

However, the benefits of inscription are concentrated in only some old houses and households which do businesses (cooking, selling crops and specialties and others) and make money from tourists. The remaining households, who are either with or without old houses, are still subject to the scope of governance of the regulations induced from the title of ancient village. Shortcomings in the expansion, repair and construction of houses, differences between households with and without old houses or with and without tourism product businesses and so forth gradually accumulate, creating conflicts around the heritage inscription.

3.  Post-inscription period and development of conflicts in Duong Lam

The post-inscription period and socio-economic development are having significant impacts on the heritage system in urban and rural areas of Vietnam. Duong Lam characterised with a rustic style is not only full of cultural heritage but also considered a “living heritage site”, where people are densely residing, amidst the general context of a capital city that is in its process of development. Therefore, the safeguarding and promotion of cultural heritage values must protect and honour cultural values, as while not impeding the socio-economic development of the population here. This contradiction is far from easy to be solved in practice.

After being inscribed as a national relic, Duong Lam ancient village is governed by the Law on Cultural Heritage. In principle, the safeguarding of monuments there must conform to the state management regulations with many documents from the local to central levels. The Law on Cultural Heritage stipulates that organisations and individuals have the right to legal ownership of cultural heritage (Article 14), but they need to absolutely follow the regulations on principles of use and safeguarding set by the State (Article 13). From this point of view, and referring to Article 32 mentioned above, Duong Lam is a relic of national representative values (Article 29), so the ancient village is under the supervision and stewardship of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism. Meanwhile, there are also a number of independently inscribed monuments or monument compounds there managed at the provincial level. Duong Lam is thus, in fact, a subject under the dual management. In the Law on Cultural Heritage, the point of the highest spirit of renovation is that it aims to protect all forms of ownership, including public, collective and private. The State cannot, in the name of safeguarding, ask people to live forever in such a situation. The majority of houses in Duong Lam are privately owned. Therefore, if the State wants people to agree with its common goals, it needs to develop a mechanism to improve their lives.

At the local level, Son Tay Town People's Committee issued Decision No.68/2006/QD-UBND dated 15 May 2006 regulating the management, safeguarding, embellishment and use of ancient village relics in Duong Lam. According to this regulation, the old village in Duong Lam is divided into two protected areas (Article 4), and in the regulation are listed things prohibited or encouraged to do in each area of the relic (Articles 7, 8 and 9). In general, the above provisions are only applicable to the values related to the architectural aspect, and cannot deal with the issue of safeguarding the living structure and intangible values in Duong Lam. Based on legal documents and bylaws, Duong Lam Village Management Board, Duong Lam Commune People's Committee and Son Tay Town People's Committee shall implement guidelines, including requirements of repair and keep old houses intact in accordance with the planning. In line with the fixed principles, the people are consulted, but that is often done in the office of the communal people's committee, or some representatives are invited to the meeting of the relic management board; however, their opinions are deemed to be only “for reference”, implying merely as consultation, being neither material nor decisive.

In The Profile of Duong Lam Ancient Village Relic are specified the orientations of its safeguarding as follows:

-   Attention should be paid to the protection of the landscape, and no modern houses and new works shall be built in the key ancient village of Mong Phu.

-   The original elements of the old houses which are degraded and need to be repaired shall be preserved.

-    The status quo of the village’s current residential land area and roads shall be maintained [10].

In terms of such strong phrases, the principal issue of maintaining the status quo has been quite rigid. Is this an appropriate perspective of safeguarding for a living heritage site? The safeguarding of both old houses and ancient villages is different from the safeguarding of religious relics. Safeguarding the village is to preserve a living structure. Relics are also living environments of the people experiencing impacts of the urbanisation and trying to get their current living needs met. Among more than 1,500 houses in Duong Lam, about 100 houses aged 100 to 400 years and inscribed as old houses of type 1 and type 2 also need to be safeguarded. However, hundreds of other houses are of no architectural or artistic values, yet, they still have to be safeguarded. Moreover, if they need repairing or rebuilding, the procedure will be also quite complicated. Mr Duong Van Dat from Mong Phu village said: “In the past, only families of mandarins, landlords, traders or households possessing many fields for cultivation were able to build good quality houses that still exist today. Given the weather in our country, the cottages do not have any chances to make it presence visible at present”. Most families in Duong Lam village, in fact, work in the agricultural sector with low incomes. If their houses shall be repaired and/or restored in line with the ancient architectural designs, they cannot afford that. If they use modern materials, the principle of heritage safeguarding will be violated. For the villagers, the most pressing need is accommodation. Mr Ha Huu Thiet, also from Mong Phu village, said: “People have children, but own no alternative land to live on yet. If the villagers follow ancient designs to restore their houses with wood, how do they have enough money and land to do so?” In addition, the need to build new houses or expand old ones is becoming ever-more pressing because after the children get married, they need to have their own houses. However, the application process and regulations prevent some families from expanding their residential areas.

Inadequacies in the orientation of safeguarding principles in Duong Lam ancient village have been analysed and evaluated by the experts and managers. In the opinion of an ancient village manager, “managers regard Duong Lam ancient village as a communal house or a pagoda and force thousands of people to live in the sacred relic. However, people still have to find a way to live in the old village and to build new houses”. Mr Dang Van Bai, Vice Chairman of the Vietnam Cultural Heritage Association, and former Director of the Department of Cultural Heritage, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, who has many years of management and professional experience, asserted: “Relic restoration shall serve major objectives of preserving and bringing into play the values of the relic. However, there are never rigid one-size-fits-all principles to apply in all projects of relic restoration across the country” [17]. Having the same view, Mr Hoang Dao Kinh, a member of the National Cultural Heritage Council, told us in an interview: "It is impossible to treat ancient heritage villages in the similar way that a historical monument or an architectural relic is being preserved. The recognition of Duong Lam ancient village as a relic should not be understood in a rigid manner, and, [instead, it] should be applied with the principles of safeguarding and restoring monuments in conformity to the Law on Cultural Heritage”.

Perspectives of people, managers and researchers have shown that the inscription of heritage has created many shortcomings that affect the people's lives, from the constraint in rights to their own houses to the restriction in their living spaces. Heritage inscription is an honour. However, the inscription is also a burden, a constraint as well as a deterrent to the people’s own way of living if it does not come with additional support from the state, agencies and organisations.

4.    Post-inscription period and rights of the community of heritage owners

Recently, social changes towards the community participation have been reflected by changes in the heritage philosophy. Many documents such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), the European Landscape Convention (by the Council of Europe, 2000) and the Convention on the Value of Cultural Heritage for Society (or Faro Convention, by the Council of Europe, 2005) the British Heritage Safeguarding Principle (2008) emphasise the obvious fact that heritage is for everyone and everyone has the right to actively participate in preserving it. Everyone has the right to comment on issues related to heritage management. Therefore, the field of heritage needs to prioritise the facilitation for public participation, and to encourage and promote public interests [16]. The 2005 Faro Convention affirmed the need for the people in society to participate in the development and management of cultural heritage, which is consistent with fundamental human rights [19]. Earlier, the preamble of the 2000 European Landscape Convention pointed out and acknowledged that people’s participation should be recognisable to maintain the historical environment by having the opportunity to contribute their knowledge [18].

Vietnam’s Law on Cultural Heritage also emphasises the role of the community in safeguarding and promoting heritage values. This is consistent with the UNESCO’s 2003 Convention on the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage when the role of the owner community in “creating, maintaining and transferring” cultural heritage is emphasised. Accordingly, the community should be involved to the fullest extent in heritage safeguarding and management activities (Article 15). In the case of Duong Lam ancient village, people's frustration began to arise after the ancient village became a national relic. The people live in their houses and villages but are not allowed to decide or have a say with regard to elements of their living environment. They seem to be marginalised when policies on the management, safeguarding and restoration of heritage under the Law on Cultural Heritage are implemented.

Community representation: Currently, in Duong Lam, if we understand that community representatives are the communal people's committee and unions such as the Veterans Association, Farmer’s Union and Women's Union, it will be probably not comprehensive. These organisations cannot connect the ancient villagers together and represent the voices of households who own old houses, nor can they hold meetings to reach an agreement in cultural safeguarding and ancient village preservation. Still absent is an organisation consisting of representatives of households who are with or without old houses, so that they can voice their opinions on issues related to their rights and interests.

“Soft principles” (village’s customary law/big clans’ rules and others) in safeguarding old villages have not been effective yet. Specifically, people's participation in the development of soft principles is also not thorough at the absence of a consistent approach. For example, the Giang clan is a large one in Mong Phu village, whose descendants possess a large number of old houses, but the safeguarding of their old houses and ancient cultural institutions are rarely discussed when the clan holds the death anniversaries of their ancestors.

People's awareness of the issue of “community rights”: Deeming that “it is the State's heritage” and “the safeguarding of heritage is the State's business”, most people do not participate in the real-terms community discussions to make their voices heard regarding issues related to safeguarding ancient cultural institutions. People also do not think of a meeting with those households having old houses to reach an agreement in proposing preservation ideas, operating old houses for tourism and sharing their thoughts and feelings to address issues in life. Specifically, households living in area 2 of Duong Lam ancient village are even more indifferent to its common problems.

Or, one can list the case of Ms Ha Thi Khanh from Mong Phu village, who requested compensation for her family’s damaged houses, alternative land for building new houses and assistance in construction, so that they could meet the requirements for safeguarding ancient village. Her petitions were ignored by competent authorities.

As regard the principles of restoration and financial transparency: These are not clearly defined and cause disappointment among the public at large in Duong Lam. Currently, houses in Mong Phu village are under special preservation and divided into four categories following scientific criteria in order to determine the value and amount of funding for restoration based on the motto “the State and people work together”. The management agency has issued a set of construction management regulations in Duong Lam to prevent new constructions in the ancient village which can ruin its landscapes. However, the issue of funding to restore hundreds of degraded ancient houses traps the local authority, while the people “are not entitled to share their viewpoints”. Even old house owners show an attitude of indifference when they are supported to refurbish their old houses. The reason is simple. They are hardly able to participate in the restoration process and find the restoration cost unaffordable. During that process, people were left out of the equation. Their opinions were neither acknowledged by local authorities nor able to be conveyed to cultural management agencies.

By surveying the ancient houses of Mr Kieu Van Bang and Ms Duong Thi Lan (Dong Sang village) and Mr Phan Van Tu (Mong Phu village), the “marginalisation” of the community is very clear. These old houses deteriorated and were repaired by the State. Observing the houses after restoration, it can be seen that the most frequently repaired parts are the floor, tiles, parts of the wall and other items. With regard to the total restoration cost, Mr Phan Van Tu said: “I am informed that the total restoration cost is VND 1.2 billion VND, but I do not know the detailed cost breakdown”. Meanwhile, according to the people’s calculations, the costs for the above-mentioned restoration items should be only approx. VND 300-400 million. Some people who have been funded to restore their houses feel dissatisfied with the quality in comparison to the money provided and spent. Ms Lan told us: "JICA funds a house like this with VND 1 billion, but only about VND 200 million is spent on each. Used was the [cheap] wood from bead trees, not that of [the more expensive and durable] ironwood trees as in the old days." According to the people there, VND 1.2 billion for restoration is way too much. This amount of money is enough to build even a brand-new old house let alone just for repair. Villagers said that the remaining money might be spent on other things and they did not care because it is the State's money which will be disbursed top down for the restorations. It is the lack of transparency in funding disbursement and restoration methods that drives many households to repair their own houses without the support of authorities. One of the typical cases is the old house of Mr Ha Nguyen Hien. He said: "Why is the restoration cost settled at VND 1.2 billion even though it is actually just VND 200 million? For my own house here, I do not receive anything from the State. It is better to do it yourself. I will cherish every brick in my house. No one can touch my house”.

Regarding the equal rights and benefiting from the heritage: Duong Lam ancient village currently has five member villages with nearly 1,600 households and more than 6,000 inhabitants. In a place where people have mainly lived on agriculture for many generations, post-inscription tourism development is considered a great opportunity in economic restructuring. However, after more than ten years since Duong Lam was inscribed as heritage, only 10% of the people have developed tourism services so far. As shown by statistics, the receiving of tourists has been concentrated on only ten families with old houses and five to seven other families whose houses were built following the traditional model [1]. The goal devised by Son Tay town authorities was that, by 2015, at least 45% of the local people would have been involved in tourism services. However, by 2019, this indicator had been still far from achievable. The transition from agriculture to tourism services is slow, stemming from two factors, namely the local authorities’ support and people's willingness and capability. Mr Pham Hung Son, Head of the Management Board of Duong Lam ancient village, said that although Son Tay town had many programmes to support people in tourism area, many people do not know how to take advantage of that in practice.

Representatives of the households benefiting from ancient village tourism include the families of Mr Nguyen Van Hung, Mr Ha Huu Thiet and Mr Ha Nguyen Hien of Mong Phu village, and Ms Duong Thi Lan and Mr Kieu Anh Bang from Dong Sang village. They are the households who have been devoted to maintaining and taking care of the old houses left by their forefathers, and when there was support for tourism development with skills obtained from the JICA and the State, they all know how to take advantage of that, yielding economic benefits from the heritage. Mr Ha Van Thiet, the owner of an old house in the core zone, who himself organises tours and receives guests, said that his family was supported and trained in how to receive the guests, cooking and customer services. As for him, the activities have created jobs and stable income for his family. These households also know how to take advantage of science and technology, particularly the internet, to promote their profiles and invite tourists to their old houses. A typical example is the family of Ms Duong Thi Lan, who know how to provide information about their old house online, advertise about the services by themselves and attract tourists. Therefore, many companies have cooperated with her family for over ten years.

In fact, many people in Duong Lam ancient village want to do tourism and gain benefits from the potentialities and advantages of their current residences. However, apart from a few successful tourist businesses, the majority of ancient houses which are very beautiful attract very few tourists. An example is Mr Cao Van Toan's house in Cam Thinh village. These families do not attract tourists because they fail to create a relationship with the management board, who can distribute tours to families. Nor do they receive funding in renovating their old houses. According to the people there, the management board only takes tourists to families who have a close relationship with them. Every month, the families of Mr Hung and Mr Thiet must pay the management board. Mr Toan said: “Any family with their names on the brochure, diagram or website of the management board has to spend more than VND 1 million each month for advertisement. If they do not pay, no tourists for them then. Everyone must follow this unwritten rule to do business”.

The most vulnerable subjects in the post-inscription period are households that do not have ancient houses and business activities for tourism, but are still governed by the Law on Cultural Heritage and Ancient Village Regulations, especially ones in area 1 of the heritage site. In accordance with Article 32 of the Law on Cultural Heritage, the status quo of this area must be maintained. Therefore, houses with modern architecture in area 1 should be returned to traditional architecture when repaired. In fact, if the land resources and economic conditions are limited, it is impossible to build an old house as it used to be in the past. When the heritage only benefits a minority group, the majority of people have no reasons to be interested in it. If the heritage not only gives no guarantees for the daily livelihood of the community but also causes many difficulties and troubles, the safeguarding of the heritage will make no sense. “If the people do not see benefits from the monument, it will be very difficult to safeguard and promote the ancient village relic”, said an officer in the Management Board of Duong Lam Ancient Village.

Nowadays, in Asia’s heritage areas is getting increasingly popular the trend of “community-participated planning”. The basic principle of this plan is to take the space that people are living in to form the foundation for planning calculations and mobilise the participation of people right from the first stages in the safeguarding of heritage projects, placing community interests as one of the goals of the safeguarding work and discussing with the community what should be safeguarded and how the safeguarding should be done. China is an experienced country in protecting ancient villages and old streets. For example, from my fieldwork notes on protecting the heritage of Tai people in Xishuangbana (Kunming city, Yunnan Province, China, 2010), people receive the government’s support to restore old houses in the traditional architectural style. If people want to stay in houses with modern architecture, they would be provided with land and financial support by the State to build houses in other places. The old town of Nanluoguxiang built under the Yuan dynasty is one of the ancient architectural complexes that have been safeguarded relatively intact in the capital of Beijing. From cramped and dilapidated houses, this area has become a popular tourist attraction with restaurants, bars, hotels, cafés, fast food shops and souvenir shops. Currently, it is one of the busiest ancient streets in Beijing, attracting a large number of domestic and foreign tourists.

In Vietnam, there are two restoration activities preserving relics, which took two different approaches and are both spoken about with high regard. The first one is the project on the restoration of the cultural and historical relic and religious architecture of Chu Quyen communal house (also known as Chang communal house, Chu Quyen village, Chu Minh commune, Ba Vi district, Hanoi), conducted under the concept of “safeguarding of the originality” by the Ministry of Culture and Information in 2007. The project gained the International Union of Architects (UIA) Award on Heritage Preservation for Asia and Oceania in 2010. The second one is the conservation of Hoi An ancient town of Quang Nam Province that follows the viewpoint of “harmonious link between conservation and development”, praised for the efficiency in conserving and promoting the relic values in Vietnam. Are these cases lessons for the safeguarding of Duong Lam ancient village? Currently, the Hoi An cultural heritage has become the “tourism brand name” of Quang Nam Province and an attractive destination for international and domestic tourists, thereby contributing significantly to the development of the local economy. The tourism development has also been providing increasing income for the locals and enhancing the conditions for protection and maintenance of the heritage.

Hoi An ancient town and Duong Lam ancient village are both “living heritage sites”. However, if the former is considered an urban lifestyle museum, the latter is described as an agricultural lifestyle museum. That highlights the “tourism hallmark”, or the brand name, of Duong Lam as a tourist attraction. The challenge for the authorities of Son Tay town currently is how to help all the locals benefit from the heritage on the basis of safeguarding and promoting the values of the ancient village first and improving the people’s economic situation later. The government has many measures in place to promote and exploit heritage values, such as connecting travel agencies with ancient villages, developing agricultural economy in close linkage to trade and services, creating products to serve tourists in order to generate economic benefits for the community, encouraging economic sectors and businesses to invest in developing various types of tourism services to efficiently exploit values of ancient villages. In the case of Duong Lam, adjustments can be made to the protected areas of the ancient village towards narrowing the area defined as area type 2.

Similarly to the case of Hoi An ancient town, it is necessary to choose an appropriate method of safeguarding, embellishing and promoting the values of Duong Lam heritage area so that the local people can live in harmony with the heritage, benefiting from the heritage and enjoying equality regarding both the rights to and responsibilities for it.

5. Conclusion

Inscription of different types of culture heritage is still a trend attended to by international organisations, countries, communities and localities. It even becomes a political, social, cultural and academic phenomenon. Post-inscription issues in the context of socio-economic development are having significant impacts on people's daily lives. In addition to the pride and economic benefits, conflicts arise from the heritagisation and regulations on inscription.

The world is undergoing a process of increasing modernisation and globalisation, which affects every aspect of life. The management and conservation of cultural heritage cannot avoid challenges. Reputed organisations of culture and heritage have put forward a number of perspectives and principles on conservation of relics, especially in the context of modernisation. The authenticity of the tangible cultural heritage has been conceptualised in different ways at different points in the history. In the 20th century, international conventions such as the UNESCO’s General Convention in 1972 identified heritage values and management practices via an increasing number of charters and recommendations [21]. The Nara Document on Authenticity of the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) [20] is the most complex document on the issue, which concludes that authenticity may be related to several aspects: formal and design authenticity, materials and substance, use and function, tradition and technique, location and setting, as well as spirit and feeling.

In fact, the architectural or artistic values of cultural heritage are determined by experts and the community. Once the consensus is reached, values are glorified and act as the basis for conservation and promotion of heritage in the contemporary life. In Vietnam, from the Ordinance dated 23 November 1945 by President Ho Chi Minh on the conservation of relics to the 2001 Law on Cultural Heritage, which was amended and supplemented in 2009, legal documents related to heritage management were getting increasingly complete. However, given the characteristics of each heritage site and locality as well as changes in socio-economic conditions, especially the process of modernisation and urbanisation, legal documents should be supplemented to suit the new situation. Through the case of safeguarding Duong Lam ancient village heritage, one can see that if regulations on construction and repair of houses are rigidly applied as they are for relics, they will surely lead to conflicts.

Duong Lam ancient village, having outstanding historical, cultural, artistic and architectural values, and beautiful natural landscapes, was registered as a national artistic and architectural relic in 2005. In the post-inscription period, besides the pride and benefits, a wide range of issues have arisen from the safeguarding of relics, which are related to the people's lives. The heritagisation where multiple stakeholders participate as well as shortcomings in the orientations for the principles of safeguarding in the ancient village have caused the community to be stuck within the regulations. The title of "heritage" has forced many people in Duong Lam to see a decade elapse without money to build houses, or build them and then be forced to demolish. The people live in their houses and villages but are not allowed to decide on or have a voice about the house, which is the property of their family, and have to be subject to and depend on the regulations related to the title. The community seems to be pushed aside when policies on heritage management, safeguarding and restoration are implemented. The heritage has benefited only a small group. Most of the people have no reasons to be interested in heritage. When heritage not only gives no guarantees to the daily livelihoods of the community but also causes a lot of difficulties and troubles, the safeguarding of heritage no longer makes sense.

In an increasingly flatter world, history and national identity have become an important factor in affirming the position of each country. Heritage is the clear and vivid evidence of the cultural history of each region and country. Not only the time-tested heritage but also the contemporary and modern heritage should be carefully selected, so as not to interrupt the history of a land, a region and a country. In addition to its great spiritual significance, safeguarding heritage makes real material contributions to the local economic development. Issues like those of Duong Lam in the post-inscription heritage management and conservation are common, especially in areas where the urbanisation is taking place. The population growth, leading to an uptick in people's demand for housing, has created certain difficulties and pressure for management and conservation of the landscape and heritage environment. Experience of many localities and countries shows that tourism and services provide a great source of income for many heritage areas. The community and authorities at all levels need to show their mutual cohesion and negotiations to set out regulations in specific areas for the engagement of people such as regulations on management, renovation and use of ancient houses. Therefore, the post-inscription safeguarding and promotion of heritage values, on the one hand, must protect and honour the cultural values and not harm the heritage owners’ needs. On the other hand, the safeguarding and promotion shall also ensure that the owners' rights are protected and their obligations towards the heritage are exercised. Only by doing so can post-inscription conflicts be avoided.



The paper was edited by Diane Lee.

2  This research is funded by the Vietnam National Foundation for Science and Technology Development (NAFOSTED) under grant No. 699.01-2017.01. We would like to thank the NAFOSTED for sponsoring this research and the authorities and people of Duong Lam for their enthusiasm in sharing information and welcoming the research team. For privacy reasons, the names of interviewees have been changed.



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