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Ancient town eyes global innovation network

Wednesday - 10/07/2024 04:59

The ancient town of Hoi An has plenty of innovative creations including of community lifestyle, crafts, architecture, fine arts, environment protection, heritage preservation, cuisine, music and cinematography.

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CULTURAL BRIDGE: The Japanese Bridge is a typical destination in Hội An ancient town. The architecture of the bridge features culture exchange among Vietnamese and Japanese communities in the town from previous centuries. VNS Photo Công Thành

The ancient town of Hội An should be developed as a unique innovative heritage on the base of being a green, climate resilient and environmentally friendly destination, according to architect Ngô Viết Nam Sơn.

At a conference on the development of Hội An in the global innovation network, he said that the heritage town would eye a balance of preservation and development, while promoting architecture, culture, crafts and innovation in harmony with nature.

“Luckily, Hội An is a rare urban area with the lowest ratio of concrete buildings in Việt Nam. It naturally was grown on the base of being a green and watery space and there are no high-rise storeys in the centre,” Sơn said.

“The ancient town has plenty of innovative creations including of community lifestyle, crafts, architecture, fine arts, environment protection, heritage preservation, cuisine, music and cinematography.”

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  LOCAL CRAFTS: Võ Tấn Tân, a craftsman is making a bamboo Koi fish at a workshop in Cẩm Thanh Commune of Hội An. Photo courtesy of Taboo Bamboo

He recommended that Hội An be built as an innovation heritage town in terms of architecture, travel, religion, all precious values that will be remembered by visitors.

“Hội An needs to encourage creativity and cooperation with urban networks. Community-based innovations offer opportunities for tourists when visiting Hội An. The local community can earn good revenue from crafts and fine arts, while luring young generations to learn and practise local crafts and traditional hand-made trades,” he said.

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  NEXT GENERATION: A boy learns how to carve a wooden statue in Kim Bồng carpentry village in Hội An. VNS Photo Công Thành

In the future, Hội An should eye climate change resilience plans in dealing with disasters as the central coastal region of Việt Nam is vulnerable to rising sea levels and stronger storms and floods, Sơn added.

He said Hội An should shift pressure on accommodation infrastructure to neighbouring urban areas instead of building more hotels and resorts.

Nguyễn Văn Lanh, vice chairman of Hội An City’s people’s committee [municipal government], said Hội An was a living heritage that preserved different old cultural styles.

“The town is seen as an exchange of culture, lifestyle and architecture among Vietnamese, Chinese and Japanese communities from previous centuries. The Japanese Bridge is a symbol of this multi-culture,” Lanh said.

“Hội An also is structured with the architecture of rural and township lifestyle and crafts. Community and residents in Hội An joined hands long ago in promoting innovations as well as contributing to heritage restoration and preservation.”

Trần Thị Hải Vân of the International Cooperation Department, under the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, said Hội An was a foundation of diversified culture, folk arts, human resources of crafts.

She said Hội An had been dramatically promoting its world heritage brand through cultural and art events in the town and abroad.

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  ABSOLUTELY POTTY: Visitor practise clay forming at a terracotta workshop in Thanh Hà pottery village in Hội An. VNS Photo Công Thành

She suggested the ancient town promote digital transformation, building a digital map of cultural innovations.

“Hội An should invest in innovative solutions, local brands, and the education of young talents in crafts. The city needs to build a leading role in ASEAN urban innovation network,” Vân said.

Phạm Thị Thanh Hường, from UNESCO, recommended that culture-based innovation be a driving force for Hội An’s development in the UNESCO Creative Cities Network (UCCN).

“Hội An has to promote education in arts and culture, while fostering artists and craftsmen, assigning education courses and scholarships for the young generation in folk arts and crafts,” she said.

Last year, the historic town of Hội An became a member of the UCCN in the Crafts and Folk Art category.

Hội An is home to 1,700 households and 685 small-scale enterprises engaged in crafts and the performance of folk arts. Approximately 4,000 artists and craftsmen generate an annual average income ranging from US$3,500 to $4,000 through their involvement in folk arts performances and craft trades.

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  SHINING LIGHT: Artisans make lanterns in Hội An. Many crafts have been preserved by the local community including lanterns, leather, terracotta, carpentry, and bamboo. VNS Photo Công Thành

In 1999, UNESCO conferred World Heritage status upon the Old Quarter of Hội An.

The Mid-Autumn Full Moon Festival, observed on the 14th day of the eighth lunar month, received the town's latest National Intangible Heritage recognition.

A series of recognitions include the annual Nguyên Tiêu Festival, Thanh Châu bird's nest, Thanh Hà Pottery Village, the carpentry trade of Kim Bồng Village, and the Trà Quế vegetable garden.

The central province of Quảng Nam has proposed an overall restoration plan for Hội An ancient town and relics with an estimated fund of US$66.8 million in 2030-35.

According to a report from the city’s heritage preservation and management centre, there are 1,439 relics and old houses, of which 80 per cent belong to the Old Quarter, listed in the local heritage preservation list. Many houses are 100 to 200 years old.

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  MAGICAL: Foreign tourists explore the architecture of an old house in the Old Quarter of Hội An City. Photo courtesy of Hội An City Centre for Preservation and relic management

Experts from the Japan International Cooperation Agency and Việt Nam have been joining hands in repairing the centuries-old Japanese Bridge – a symbol of Hội An and the Việt Nam-Japan friendship.

The town has been promoting green and sustainable tourism with zero-waste, as well as non-plastic and low-carbon policies. It also plans to develop Hội An as a ‘non-smoking’ and a ‘bicycle’ destination.

Whether it is in design, film, gastronomy, or music and architecture, the future looks bright for the town as it looks to expand its influence in the UNESCO Creative Cities Network. 

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