The restoration of these relic sites, which have a history of hundreds to thousands of years, presents managers with several challenges since they require urgent and specialised conservation.

Tay Phuong Pagoda, located in Thach That District on the outskirts of Hanoi, is one of the city's most popular cultural and religious sites.

The pagoda has been severely degraded over time and faces a risk of collapse, which could damage the centuries-old statues inside.

Tay Phuong Pagoda in Thach That District has been severely damaged after hundreds of years of existence. VNA/VNS Photo

It is a combination of three pagodas, Ha, Trung and Thuong, all built in the 17th century. It is also home to many masterpieces of Vietnamese Buddhist sculptures of the 18th century.

After many years without proper care, the pagodas' main features have deteriorated. At the Trung and Thuong pagodas, columns and pillars have termite damage, while parts of Ha Pagoda's tiled roofs have leaks when it rains.

Tay Phuong Pagoda is home to many masterpieces of Vietnamese Buddhist sculptures of the 18th century, which are in poor condition. VNA/VNS Photo

The entrance's laterite steps to the temple were broken, making it a hazard for visitors. Many ancient statues have flaking paint or broken bases.

"The problems will get worse if no action is taken. Given that the pagoda's protection zone lies within a decades-old residential area, it is urgent to make plans for the relocation of the residents to provide sufficient space for restoration works," said Nguyen Truong Giang, head of the district's culture and information authority.

Many other relic sites in Hanoi are in the same situation. However, several issues are standing in the way of restoration efforts.

In many cases, a lack of expertise in restoration and preservation has led to irreparable damage to relics.

Removing barriers

Le Xuan Kieu, director of the Van Mieu – Quoc Tu Giam Centre for Cultural and Scientific Activities, said the biggest obstacles to restoring a heritage relic were shortcomings of the Law on Planning and lack of funding.

He called on regulators to address legal issues hindering the development of plans for a restoration project.

Director of the Hanoi Department of Culture and Sports Do Dinh Hong spoke about the limitations of restoring a special national monument, saying that when a monument has deteriorated severely, it is important to act promptly to secure the original elements.

Tay Phuong Pagoda's leaky roof. Historic and religious sites require urgent and specific protection to preserve their originality. VNA/VNS Photo

He said that the renovation must complete all appropriate processes and that the department is responsible for presenting these procedures to the Hanoi People's Committee and the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism.

Director Hong underlined the necessity of closely monitoring the investment and renovation process to avoid problems and to take the implementation of the authorised investment project seriously.

He also stated that the department would establish a heritage advisory council to assist localities with special national monuments and other monuments undergoing restoration.

To remove barriers to the restoration of heritage sites, Vice Chairman of Hanoi People's Committee Chu Xuan Dung ordered the City's Department of Culture and Sports to issue instructions for properly planning restoration projects and how they should be submitted to the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism for verification and approval.

He said the department must also strengthen coordination with concerned units and local administrations to intensify inspection and monitoring of restoration works and prevent unlawful restoration attempts.

The capital city's authorities have pledged to boost the public investment plan for 2021-25 by pouring over VND14 trillion (US$600 million) into restoring and embellishing a total of 579 heritage sites in the area.

According to the municipal People's Council, the sum is a significant part of its financial supplementation plans for a five-year term and the allocation for 2022, including investment plans in building and renovating public schools, upgrading the public healthcare service, as well as restoring and upgrading heritage sites from 2022 to 2025.

According to Dung, heritage site restoration has been one of the city's three major investment plans for 2021 to 2025.

"The city's authorities have requested departments, agencies and localities to focus on the plan, not merely on construction works, but they should be 'cautious' as it contains cultural and spiritual elements," the official said.

In 2018, Hanoi spent more than VND40.8 billion on urgent repairs of 50 heritage monuments. 

Source: Vietnam News