Assoc. Prof. Dr. Do Van Tru: Cultural heritages needs true love

That is the meaningful statement of Assoc. Prof. Dr. Do Van Tru, Chairman of the Cultural Heritage Association of Vietnam, in his talk with the reporter from Weekly Publication of Nhan Dan Newspaper. He shared many thoughts about preserving and promoting cultural values, lessons for today and solutions for the future.
The quintessence of Xoan singing (a folk music genre in Vietnam's northern midland province of Phu Tho) is passed down to younger generations. (Photo: NGUYEN VAN MUOI)
The quintessence of Xoan singing (a folk music genre in Vietnam's northern midland province of Phu Tho) is passed down to younger generations. (Photo: NGUYEN VAN MUOI)

The field with the most documents and regulations

Q: This year is the 20th year since the establishment of the Cultural Heritage Association of Vietnam. Perhaps, there is a lot to say when looking back at the recent significant period of the Association's activities, especially for someone like you who directly campaigned for the establishment of the Association. Can you give me an overview of the achievements made by the Association?

A: The Cultural Heritage Association of Vietnam was established on April 23, 2004, under Decision No. 38/2004/QD-BNV by the Minister of Home Affairs. Immediately after its establishment, our Association actively coordinated with relevant agencies to submit to the Prime Minister to designate November 23 as Vietnam Cultural Heritage Day. Since 2005, Vietnam Cultural Heritage Day has officially been held annually.

To date, the Association has about 20,000 members. They are researchers, artisans, cultural practitioners, and those who love, are interested in and contribute to the cause of preserving and promoting the value of the nation's precious heritages. The Association has coordinated with other agencies to organise many conferences, seminars, and discussions, focusing social criticism activities on cultural heritages. Many affiliated branches, centres and units have been formed. The Association has directly appointed and introduced experts and members to participate in many national-level events of the cultural sector; contributed high-quality presentations and opinions to the process of developing relevant laws and policies.

Especially, during its operations, the Association's consistent viewpoint is to always place itself in a companionship position, to be a "bridge" connecting the community and the government; to build and create trust with the community, towards the community, and take the community as the centre.

Q: The Association actively contributed opinions during the drafting of the Law on Cultural Heritage (amended). Can you share some new highlights of this bill?

A: The Draft Law on Cultural Heritage (amended) includes 10 chapters and 154 articles. In particular, many new regulations have been added, such as regulations on handling measures for the cases of failing to properly implement the Heritage Protection Action Programme, committed to UNESCO, on Vietnam's intangible cultural heritages after they are included in UNESCO lists. The draft law also supplements regulations related to the types of social practices and beliefs; specific regulations on the types of folk literature and folk performing arts; policies to encourage the collection, compilation, translation, statistics, classification and preservation of literary, artistic, scientific and oral literary works; and regulations on implementation of annual inventory reporting regime. The bill announced the list of national intangible cultural heritages; national action programmes, reports and projects to protect and promote intangible cultural heritage values; regulations on urban areas with typical values in terms of history, culture, and arts or the locals, the country and the international community.

For the first time, documentary heritage is mentioned in the draft Law on Cultural Heritage with a separate chapter, which emphasises the rights and responsibilities of owners to directly manage, protect and promote the values of this type of heritage.

By the way, I also want to add that, in the cultural industry alone, there is probably no other field that has as many documents and laws as the field of cultural heritage. The gradual improvement of the legal corridor has had an impact on promoting our career and the values of our heritages.

Assoc. Prof. Dr. Do Van Tru
Assoc. Prof. Dr. Do Van Tru

Continuing to promote the role of the community

Q: Looking at the movements of practice, along with the Association’s activities, in your opinion, what shortcomings are currently facing in the issue of exploiting cultural heritage resources?

A: The exploitation of cultural heritage resources also involves many other factors, such as infrastructure, services, the expansion of exchanges and increased flows of goods and labour, creating an inclusive and harmonious development. More and more individuals, businesses, and communities are effectively applying cultural heritages’ values in their businesses, creating more profits. For example, some eco-tourism and resort areas are designed and constructed in a direction of being inspired by the architecture, decorative patterns of heritages, local cultural characteristics, or the activities and practices of heritages that are included as elements in the organisation of cultural services, attracting a large number of tourists. Many private museums/collections and large art programmes effectively use, display and perform many types of intangible cultural heritage.

However, besides the achieved results, the process of protecting and promoting the values of our country’s cultural heritages still has many limitations. The cultural heritage’s development has not been commensurate with economics and politics, and has not truly become an endogenous resource and driving force for sustainable development of the country. The restoration, embellishment, and prevention of the relic sites’ degradation still does not ensure all legal regulations, leading to their deformation at some times and in some localities. Human resources working in the field of cultural heritage are still limited. The tasks of inventorying relic sites, archaeological planning, repairing, embellishing, and promoting the values of the monuments in many localities have been still inconsistent and have not been strictly managed, leading to violations. There are still many relics that are deteriorating, most of them have not received great attention. Museums still have many limitations in effectively promoting the values of their collections.

Notably, talking about cultural heritage means talking about good traditions, moral values, lifestyles, long-standing lifestyles of society and community that have been passed down through many generations. Everyone understands that preserving cultural heritage goes hand in hand with socio-economic development, but the alarming problem is that social morality is deteriorating, the good traditions of our ancestors have been gradually disappearing.

Another important aspect is that the inspection and examination work at all levels has not been carried out synchronously. In fact, there have been many cases of tangible heritages vandalised, degraded and stolen which have been discovered by people and press agencies; however, the handling by the authorities have not been unsatisfactory.

Q: So what is the solution to the above problems?

A: Firstly, it is necessary to improve the legal system and policy mechanisms, as well as improve the effectiveness and efficiency of State management in the field of cultural heritage as soon as possible. In addition, it is crucial to harmoniously resolve the relationship between cultural heritage preservation and socio-economic development. In particular, the role of the community should be highlighted and the effectiveness of the socialisation of activities of protecting and promoting the cultural heritages’ values.

Thank you very much!

Assoc. Prof. Dr. Do Van Tru has been a member of the National Cultural Heritage Council since 2004. From 2004 to 2020, he held the position of Permanent Vice President and General Secretary of the Cultural Heritage Association of Vietnam and Editor-in-Chief of the Heritage World - the mouthpiece of the Association.