A set of big bells and musical stones – instruments of Hue court music (Nha Nhac) – has been restored under the assistance of the Republic of Korea.
The RoK National Center for National Traditional Performing Art handed over the instruments to the Center for Preservation of Hue Royal Relics on April 8.
The instruments were restored in Hue city, at the cost of $14,000.
Mr. Lu Huu Thi, 102, the last instrumentalist of the Hue royal orchestra of the Nguyen Dynasty – the last feudal reign in Vietnam – tested the instruments. He was very pleased to listen to the true sound of ancient royal instruments.
The instruments were repaired by Korean artisan Kim Huyon Kon and Vietnamese artisan Hoang Trong Trong within six months.
Nha nhac is a form of Vietnamese court music. Vietnamese court music is very diverse, but the term Nha nhac refers specifically to the Vietnamese court music performed from the Tran Dynasty of the 13th century to the Nguyen Dynasty, which ended in the early 20th century.
Vietnamese court music was performed at annual ceremonies, including anniversaries and religious holidays, as well as special events such as coronations, funerals or official receptions, by highly trained and skilled court musicians. Along with the musicians, a number of intricate court dances also exist. Both musicians and dancers wore elaborately designed costumes during their performances.
Instruments commonly used for Nha nhac include conical oboe, pear-shaped lute with four strings, moon-shaped two-string lute, fretless lute with snakeskin-covered body and three strings, two-stringed vertical fiddle, bamboo transverse flute, drum, and other percussion instruments.
It is believed that Nha nhac did not truly reach the pinnacle of its development until the Nguyen Dynasty, when it was synthesized. The Nguyen emperors declared it as the official court music, and it became an essential part of the extensive rituals of the royal palace.
Nha nhac is still performed in the old capital of Hue. It was recognized in 2005 by the UNESCO as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. Extensive efforts have gone underway to preserve this truly unique and highly developed art.
The techniques to manufacture and play some instruments of Nha nhac have been, lost while RoK is the only Asian country that still preserves the techniques. Vietnam and RoK, therefore, have cooperated to preserve Nha nhac.
The two sides will continue to restore another set of bells and musical stones to use at Xa Tac and Nam Giao rituals.
In December 2010, the RoK presented the Center for Preservation of Hue Relics a set of bells and musical stones.