To date, Vietnam has had 17 world-recognized heritage items. The first recognition was given the Hue imperial relic complex in 1992. Ha Long Bay was twice listed as world heritage in 1994 and 2000. Hoi An ancient town and My Son sanctuary received the honor in 1999, followed by the Hue Royal Court music in 2003 and the Central Highlands gongs in 2005. Over the last 5 years, Hanoi’s Royal citadel and the Ho Dynasty’s citadel won the world recognition. Intangible cultural heritage namely Tru singing, Quan Ho folk singing, Giong festival, Xoan singing and the Worshipping rituals of the Hung Kings were also listed as world heritage. The Nguyen dynasty’s woodblocks, Vinh Nghiem pagoda’s woodblocks and 82 steles of doctorate degree holders from 1442 to 1779 have been included the memory of the world program.
The world’s recognition plays a significant role in heritage preservation. Doctor Dang Van Bai, Vice President of the Vietnam Cultural Heritage Association told VOV:“The title world cultural and natural heritage is a noble honor. But it entails great national responsibility and duties. UNESCO’s convention on the protection of heritage is aimed at enhancing community’s awareness of the role and significance of heritage in the life of humankind. It also confirms national duties in preserving national cultural heritage as part of world heritage”.
The UNESCO recognition also helps boost tourism economic development. The authorities of localities have initiated many program to promote heritage such as the Ha Long Tourism Year, Hue Festival, Quang Nam-Heritage Journey, and Hoi An’s full moon festival. Many unique tourism products have been developed such as orchard tour, Cham island tour, and tours of traditional handcraft villages. These tourism products not only generate jobs for locals but also contribute investment capital to heritage restoration and management.
Community plays an important role in the preservation of heritage. Bac Ninh province, home to world-recognized Quan Ho folk singing, has made strenuous efforts in involving the community in heritage preservation and promotion. Bac Ninh has carried out 14 programs on communications, identification and review of heritage and honoring artisans. Nguyen Van Quyen, a resident of Diem village, the homeland of Quan Ho singing, has just finished his 2,000-page book of 1,000 Quan Ho folk songs that he has collected over the past 5 decades. Quyen told VOV:“When the elderly villagers died, they brought with them all the legacies. That’s why we now need to be passionate to Quan Ho and preserve it. As Quan Ho has been recognized by the world, it should be popularized among the people”
World heritage in Vietnam is not only for enjoyment but also a cultural resource of the community. The State needs to adopt policies and plans of action that encourage the community’s participation in making heritage alive.