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The impacts of climate changes on conservation and enhancement of festival culture in Hue, Vietnam

THE IMPACTS OF CLIMATE CHANGES ON CONSERVATION AND ENHANCEMENT OF FESTIVAL CULTURE IN HUE - VIETNAM(*) 

Assoc. Prof. Dr. Nguyen Tien Dung

Hue University of Sciences

 

Abstract

Locating at heart of Central region where is well-known for natural disasters in Vietnam, Hue as a well-recognized as World Cultural Heritage and Festival city of Vietnam has consistently exposed to a broad range of risks of natural disasters. There are a number of concerns about how climate changes will affect the festival city and what should be effective risk management approach for the cultural heritage city. This study aims to document key impacts of natural disasters on Hue festival and culture city and draw out some policy implications for more integrated efforts for better conservation and development of the heritages.  

 

Introduction

At the time I start writing this paper, the outside temperature is about 40oC; big rivers in Vietnam, upon that the hydro-electronic power plants work to ensure electricity supply for production and consumption, has lowered down its water level; the world weather forecast shows that many European countries have suffered from hot weather that had never happened for many decades; whilst not ever before, freezing cold air will hit South America; Nepalese people as many others who love adventures to the top Everest share the same worries that global warming, hydropower plants on rivers have exacerbated negative environmental impacts, changing the icy space into rocky trails to the top of the world; or even people, adventurers themselves and their activities may damage the Everest to becomes the garbage site on top of the world…In other words[1], climate change and its impacts have been observed from the space, to the earth, rivers and go into daily life of each family. Climate change has impacted on all aspects of human lives. Therefore, raising awareness and searching for mechanism and solutions for mitigation and adaptation to climate change are not limited to effort of a single organization, government, but all people over the world.

This paper is not to explore the causes of climate change because it may be clear for each of us when we are responsible for our living environment (this is said because not a few people as well as organizations due to some reasons has shown their indifference or ignorance to climate change), but rather the paper aims to discuss on an issue that seems in void research domain. That is impacts of climate change on conservation and enhancement of festival culture in particular and Hue culture in general. The fact is that while the impacts of climate change have been environmentally and economically drawn much attention, the impacts on culture changes may not be observed because of its intangibility and familiarity to the daily lives. Very little is recognized about its role in building the local identity, the brand of cultural zones, historical importance and uniqueness of human ecology.

Ancient capital Hue and climate change

Hue is well-known as a Festival city of Vietnam since early 2000 and Festival Hue is regularly organized in the first weeks of June in every even year since then. After five Festivals were organized, the time for Hue Festivals is reviewed and rescheduled to April from 2012 instead of June, mainly due to dramatic change of weather these years. The hotter and changeable weather (hot and unpredictable sunny and rainy weather) had caused many difficulties in organization and management of the cultural events, and impact on the attendance of visitors and local people in the Festivals as well.

        Hue was one of three ancient capitals of Vietnam, and capital of two feudalistic regimes, namely Tây Sơn (1788-1801) and Nguyễn (1802 - 1945). In  Đại nam thống nhất chí (one of the most prestige publications about history of Vietnam), it describes Hue as “a place where the sea meet the mountain, standing between the North and the South, high plain land, tranquility rivers, having water transportation with deep and mystery sea gates of Thuan An, Tu Hien, land transportation bordered by Hải Vân, Hoành Sơn, large rive framing in front and high mountain backing behind, rising dragon flanking tiger, fortifying position, that is arranged by God”.  

As capital of former Southern land reign (“Đàng trong”) and with a long lasting history of more than 700 years (1306 - 2010), Hue becomes one of major culture centers, and being the culture zone bridging two culture centers of Vietnam. Forming the Hue culture is the crystallized Vietnamese culture from the North of Vietnam and the Cham strongly affected by Hindu culture. From the Nguyen dynasty, Western culture, especially French culture had flowed in Vietnam and bequeathed a legacy of western style and culture in Hue culture, especially architecture (according to a survey 2000, there are about 240 works having French architecture), prominently Tay Lloc street, Dong Bba market, Truong  TtTien bridge, Van Nnien water plant… 

          Situating on the best location and forming a tangible systems that manifests thinking and culture of Vietnamese have made Hue present uniqueness not only as a prosperous golden age of feudalistic regimes, but also long lasting in each individual and people when visiting Hue. Hue embedded in herself two world culture heritages recognized by UNESCO, namely Hue ancient city (11/12/1993) and Master piece of art of Hue Royal Music (7/11/2003).

  Thua Thiien Hue lies in 15059'30'' - 16044'30'' the North latitude within the tropical monsoon area, which is high temperature and humidity. The weather  in Hue is known as transitional climate zone of two regions: the North and the South of Vietnam. It can be said that, Thua Thien Hue is one of provinces that suffers the most from weather hazards in Vietnam.  Like many other Central provinces of Vietnam, Thua Thien Hue is under strong effect of tropical monsoon. Its complex topography with high narrow mountain ranges sloping from the West, adding with low forest cover have strongly effected on the diverse and harsh weather in Thua Thien Hue. Furthermore, Thua Thien Hue also lies within strong impacts of high atmosphere circulation activated by seasons from atmosphere pressure centers. From September to March, Thua Thien Hue is effected by high pressure air flows from Siberia of Asia continent to the low pressure air flow in Oceania characterized as Northeastern monsoon, causing temperature drop and rain. From April to June, it is under effect of tropical air flows from Northern Indian Ocean to the West side of province causing the dry season.

From July to September, Thua Thien Hue is effected by hot humid and unpredictable air flow from South Pacific Ocean, causing bad weather such as tropical typhoon and storms. Lying within the North tropical belt with high altitude (50018' - 87058') and long daytime (11 - 13 hours), Thua Thien Hue has high solar radiation. The total heat radiation assumes about 232 - 233 Kcal/cm2/year, but under impacts of water evaporation and cloud, this reduces the solar radiation to 50-60% and reaches 124 - 126 Kcal/cm2/year.

The above features have made the weather in Thua Thien Hue even much more harsh – much sunny and more rain. The total sunny hours in Thua Thien Hue is about 1700-2000 hours/year, of which the hottest period is from May to July (about 200 sunny hours per month). Rain in Hue is very typical, which continuously lasts in many days and also makes Hue famous with “Mua Hue” (Hue rain) but creates unfavorable conditions for production and daily life activities. 

          It can be said that Thua Thien Hue (forward is interchangeable used as Hue) is among provinces having highest rainfall in Vietnam. An annual average rainfall in Hue is about 2600 mm, especially in some places as Bach Ma mountain ( a famous tourism site in Thua Thien Hue built under French colony), Thua Luu, the annual rainfall records at 4000 mm. Total rainy days is up to 220 days per year in the mountainous areas and 150-170 days in the lowland areas. During the rainy season, there is about 16-24 rainy days, especially sometimes it rains continuously for 4-6 days and covers a large areas causing flooding. For instant, rain lasted from 28/10 to 1/11/1999 with total rainfall of 2294 mm which contributed to the top history flood in Thua Thien Hue. The 1999 flood removed the Hoa Duan sea gate of Tam Giang lagoon to the sea.  For Hue people this flood was recorded as a millennium flood or mega-flood. The statistics release that this flood caused not only huge economic loss but also cultural damage including festival cultures. Moreover, in recent years, as many other places, the weather phenomenon of El Nino had made Thua Thien Hue suffered heavily from drought and high temperature which aggravate the severity of weather hazards to production and people health, such as in years of 1977, 1983, 1993, 1994, 1997, 1998, 2002, 2007, 2009...

          Likewise, the statistics over 116 years (1884 – 2000) show that on average, Thua Thien Hue has experienced 0,84 storms per year. There was a few years having no storm but many other years was evidenced about 3-4 storms, of which some were described as very severe or mega storms, for example the storms in 1904 (killed 724 persons, damaged 22,027 houses, broke 4 spans of the Truong Tien bridge, wrecked off 529 boats and ships), in 1985 (damaged 214.000 houses, 2.000 school rooms, 200 clinics and hospitals, 600 high voltage poles, many historical and cultural relics – including Quang Tri as a part of Binh Tri Thien province). Typhoons usually cause heavy rain lasting for many days with rainfall of about 300-400mm, and sometimes up to 500-600mm. This high rainfall accompanies with cold wind that forges bad weather. On average, Thua Thien Hue experiences 15 -20 times of Northeast monsoons, and commonly accelerate by tropical atmosphere circulation that causes very heavy rains; This weather phenomenon is often worsened by lightening, whirlwinds, hails, fog and drizzles…which characterizes weather in Thua Thien Hue as very hot in summer, but very cold in winter with high humidity. This clearly impacts on production activities and people lives (economic, environmental, mental and cultural). Especially the weather makes it harder for conservation and enhancement of world cultural heritages.

In sum, the weather in Thua Thien Hue manifests more unpredictable nature but it is neither exceptional phenomenon in Vietnam nor elsewhere in the world. It is important to note that apart from the common of climate change globally, the severity of climate change in Thua Thien Hue could be more typical due to interaction between people and their responses to the living environment, which does impacts on economic activities but also mental, cultural and spiritual lives of local people in Hue.

An overview of cultural festivals in Thua Thien Hue

In spite of harsh weather conditions, Hue culture possesses in herself sufficient tangibles and intangible values. It can be said that, festival culture in Thua Thien Hue typically represents for festival culture in Vietnam. However, with different characteristics of topography, interaction between human being and its environment, interrelation among people and with their production activities, as well as spiritual beliefs, all together has nurtured uniqueness of Hue culture, especially festival culture traits. A recent survey releases that Thua Thien Hue has highest number of cultural festivals in Vietnam. From anthropological perspectives, cultural festivals in Hue reflect survival interrelationship of human being. Talking about cultural festivals could not exclude the issues of human sprit and spiritual beliefs. In Thua Thien Hue, it is Hue uniqueness that forms Hue festival culture known as “nowhere else haves” both indirect and direct meanings. Also, nowhere else in Vietnam, the impacts of living conditions, preventive behaviors and adaptation to the harsh changing weather are inspired in not only festival culture but also in daily people lives and then cultivated to become a trait of cultural beauty of Hue. For instant, mussel rice -  a special cuisine of Hue, embeds in itself a long history about Hue people, who is fearless, strenuous to face up unfavorable environment. It also manifests their sorrow and pain, and a thirst for peaceful life carrying on from generation to generation.

To have better view on festival culture in Thua Thien Hue, within the frame of this paper, only some key features of Hue festivals are drawn out, from which some suggestions and policy implications will be made for better conservation and enhancement of Hue festival culture within the current context of climate change and adaption.

Generally speaking, culture festivals encompasses two types: traditional festivals and contemporary festivals. Traditional festivals have long lasting history and become indispensable in people daily lives. Contemporary festivals often link to introduction and promotion of a destination, its people and culture, such festivals as 'Tam Giang waves' (Sóng nước Tam Giang), 'Legend of the sea' (Huyền thoại biển), 'Breath of water' (Hơi thở của nước)... In our viewpoint, by nature this is the result of cultural development process. As Chinese said “Truong giang’s wave is immiscible, one rushes over another”. That is eternal truth. However, this contemporary festivals will not be discussed here. Traditional festivals in Thua Thien Hue can be classified into the following groups:

Firstly, ritual ceremony for village land explorers (so-called Spring rites – Xuan te, Autumn rites – Thu te), that is festivals when local people pay their respect and gratefulness to predecessors who opened new land for their village settlement, very often known as motherland. For example, Autumn rites of Xuan Hoa village, Thế Chí Tây village, ritual festival of Chuồn village (An Truyền), Lang Sinh wrestling, fishery rites at Thái Dương village (Thuận An), Village House festival of Co Bi, Autumn rites at such villages as Thanh Can, Duong No, Phu Oc, Winter rites at Phu Bai, An Nong, ritual ceremony for four village founders at My Loi, Phuc O…

Secondly, the profession ceremony rites, which is held for commemorating their profession founders, who were accredited with creating new livelihood for the local people. Even in some cases, the profession was later on recognized as typically traditional ones of the region or nation. For instant, ceremony rites of carpentry, plastering, goldsmith, bronze casting, ceramics making, Tuong (classical drama), Hue music...

Third, religious rituals, which are perceived as the way to make connection between men and God, man and Heaven, alive and death people, between human being and supernatural forces. In other words, this type of festivals manifests human being spirit their aspiration for a better lives, for instant rituals at Hon Chen Temple, worship rite of Thai Dương Lady, rites for Souls' Day...

Forth, festivals for commemoration of national and historical celebrities. This type of ceremony is paid for memorial of heroes who deserves credit for building and defending the country, such as Tran Thi Dao Lady, master Vo Dai Nho... 

Fifth, festivals upon local customs that are mainly to preserve and introduce the local traditions and customs, which have commonly unclear origins but transmitting from generation to generation, such as rowing practice dance, Hue kiting festivals, rituals seeking for fish, for rain, peace....

A survey of 50 typical festivals in Thua Thien Hue, the author found that, after the war, cultural festivals have been not only restored but also promoted extensively with different ways. On one hand, this presents improvement of social, cultural, spiritual and economic lives of the local people. On the other hand, it calls for more effort in order to well preserve and enhance values of these cultural festivals in changing environment (socio-economic and natural environment, including climate change). Obviously, no one would assure that science can explain everything, especially the spiritual psyche (festival culture is a prominent form), even though that could be the greatest invention of humankind. It is also to avoid the fact that the more people understand about the nature, the less they know about themselves. Therefore, it is necessary to better understanding about the positive and negative factors to the festival culture, including factors of climate change, for better preservation and enhancement.

It is also important to note that not all but selected cultural festivals in Thua Thien Hue should be conserved, which follows the nature of development process. Some festivals may be faded because they did not serve well the people needs both practically and spiritually, even in some cases having negative effects. Whereas, there may be a birth of new festivals that better reflect the current ways of life.

Festivals in Thua Thien Hue manifest not only rich cultural nature, but also the survival thirst of people via sport activities to gain strength dominating nature, living environment and human being themselves. Majority of these festivals are outdoor activities that very often change in time schedule and form of presentation because of bad weather condition such as typhoon, flooding, whirlwind…

As a part of spiritual culture, Hue cultural festivals’ solemnity is put at top priority. Festival culture is also an important aspect of daily life culture, thus the relationship between the popularity and solemnity should be recognized. The fact shows that very often the loss of many cultural festivals is due to commercialization of festivals, though provision of supplementing services is needed for festivals.

Climate change and conservation of festival cultural heritages

Although cultural heritages in Thua Thien Hue have drawn much effort from different parties for conservation and enhancement, the outcome is still far reaching and its degradation is under warning. Among the causes are insufficient fund for conservation, lack of efficient technological supports and unfavorable weather adding in the dust of timelines. Moreover, many historical and cultural relics used for front during the war were heavily ruined that needs to have special care and conservation if not fading away. 

Examining impacts of climate change on cultural conservation and enhancement is not new issue in the many developed countries, but it is relatively new in underdeveloped countries like Vietnam where the income per capita is under $1000, especially in poor provinces of the Central region. The conservation and enhancement of cultural festivals should be explored from several perspectives: (1) climate change may have impacts on nature of the festivals and/or the way they are organized and scheduled; (2) climate change may influence the conservation activities, including approaches, methods and technology required; (3) learning conservation experiences from other countries with application flexible in the specific conditions of the region should be a must for more efficient conservation.

1) Climate change impacts on nature and the ways festivals organized: It seems that not until very recently the Hue people are more interested in rehabilitation and conservation of traditional festivals, many of those are prayed for better weather and peacefully life. One the one hand, it may because the people become more concerned about the spirit lives when the material life is getting better and better.  One the other hand, it may be due to the increasing natural hazards due to climate change. Local people and their communities have recognized the increasing need for joining together to cope with hash weather and natural disasters, mentally, spiritually and physically. Many communities tend to pay much more attention on recovery of many spiritual festivals and other cultural traits, which were almost forgotten for many years, to express their wishes to the God that they believe in, and to strengthen their community spirit as well in order to help each others to overcome the difficult times. Furthermore, the festivals are regularly organized at a larger extent with rich agenda of activities and higher solemnity.

For the time being, conservation activities of cultural festivals in Thua Thien Hue under the undeniable impacts of climate change should firstly consider organizational matters in scientific and reasonable manner. As common, the time for organizing festivals is traditionally predetermined and religiously unchangeable. Therefore, the event organization and management should be put under the careful planning with several scenarios and proactive prevention plan. This will help to avoid uncertainty and passive implementation that hurts the festival solemnity. Moreover, promotion activities for the festivals should be integrated with building public awareness about the relationship between climate change and festival culture. Festivals were not organized out space, thus protection of our living environment helps to conserve festivals in a right spirit and solemnity. Joining the Earth Hour is a prominent example. From economic viewpoint, this helps to save electricity and resources that finally reduce economic cost. More important, the Earth Hour helps enhance people awareness and their responsibility to save our living environment, which is unconvertible into money term. This is twofold of cultural festivals in connection with climate change.

Another important issue is that examining impacts of climate change on festival culture in Thua Thien Hue should consider the relationship between festivals and religious belief. At present, religious activities raise important voice in people lives. Therefore, cultural festivals are expected to enhance the goods and abolish the evils in each individual via such simple ways as food habit (no discussion from medical perspective), saving living things, doing the good things....

Likewise, organization of cultural festivals should put in the context of cooperation and exchanges with other cultures and sub-cultures, which bring in better opportunities to raise common sense in environment protection as a basic instinct of the human being. However, the way of cultural exchanges and cooperation should be decided by nature and content of the festivals.

2) Climate change influences the conservation activities: It is clear that conservation of cultural festivals is culturally, environmentally and technologically sensitive, which is out of discussion in this paper. However, for the common sense, conservation of cultural heritages should be based on sufficient database about socio-cultural, environmental, economic and technological aspects. The fact is that many tangible and intangible values of heritages may be damaged or degraded due to improper conservation activities, especially cultural heritages. Likewise, many construction works of conservation become nullified due to either harsh weather and natural disasters or overuse/underuse of technology. This calls for more suitable approaches, methods and technology for more efficient and sustainable conservation of cultural heritages in general and cultural festivals in particular, in which the experience exchanges among national and international stakeholders should be crucial for the success.

3) Partnership in conservation: Conservation and enhancement of cultural festivals in Thua Thien Hue under the impacts of climate change should be made by cooperative efforts of different governmental organizations in Vietnam and other related international agencies in which the roles of Hue communities and their behaviors toward this matter is of importance.

For better conservation, first of all, climate change and its possible impacts in Thua Thien Hue in general and cultural heritages in particular should be well forecasted, from which specific strategies for conservation and enhancement of the heritages are planned in accordance with conditions and mobilized resources.

Conservation of festival heritages in Thua Thien Hue would not be separated from education and building awareness for local people about environment protection. This is not just incorporated into the school curriculum or via slogans on streets but make it become lifestyle of the locals, where culture is rooted.

There appears a trend that climate change has accordantly formed festival activities, which is anticipated to give a birth for a pure form of festival culture of climate change. This is due to not only people spirit and wish, but also need from the fact of life. It is less arguable that in cultural festivals in each nation contain at least some traits of festivals reflecting changes in weather and living environment from the primitive age. Therefore, people consciousness becomes vital deciding their attitude and behavior to living environment. Once, people take less cares of their living environment or fail to treat it well intentionally or unintentionally, they contribute to worsening their own living environment and by all means unacceptable.

Likewise, impacts of climate change on cultural festivals could be unforeseeable now but in the long term. Time dimension of conservation should be important factor that needs to be treated fairly and scientifically, because the fear of human being is after all the pass of time. Many cultural values have been buried by time and many civilizations have been lost due to impacts of climate change over time, which adds in work burden of scientists seeking for the recovery.

Conclusion

This paper is not to examine all aspects of climate change impacts on festivals in Thua Thien Hue and Vietnam in general, but to discuss issues forming a vector of scatter dynamics related to the theme. Recognized as the world important heritage with richness of cultural festivals and heritages, Hue authority and her people should be more conscious about the climate and its impacts on cultural preservation and enhancement in general, and cultural festivals in particular. Conservation of Hue cultural festivals should aim to not only minimize the impacts of climate change and natural disasters, but also preserve the originality and authenticity of the Hue cutural festivals. This calls for more proactive efforts from different parties, of which building partnership among governmental and non-governmental organizations, industry people and local community is vital.

Climate change is no longer just the written issues but presents in each every corner of our daily lives. Culture, environment and climate change are two folds of an issue. It hardly makes one better without making other better and vice versa.

Key references:

1. Malin, B. (2006) ‘Resilient Society, Vulnerable People A Study of Disaster Response and Recovery from Floods in Central Vietnam’, Doctoral thesis, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Uppsala 2006

2. Shaw, R. Pulhin J. M. and J. J. Pereira (2010): Climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction: An Asia Perspective’. Book Chapter in Climate change, Adaptation and Disaster Risk Reduction: An Asian Perspective, Shaw, R. Pulhin J. M. and J. J. Pereira eds. Pp. 1-18.  Emeraldbooks.

3. SRV (Socialist Republic of Vietnam) (2007) National Strategy for Natural Disaster Prevention, Response and Mitigation to 2020, Hanoi, 16 November 2007

4. PCFSC (Provincial Committee of Floods and Storms Control of Thua Thien Hue) (2000) ‘Report on Disasters in Thua Thien Hue province in 2000’, Hue.

5. Tran, P., Marincioni, F., Shaw, R., Sarti, M. and An, L.V. (2008) ‘Flood Risk Management in Central Vietnam: Challenges and Potentials’, Natural Hazards, Volume 46, Number 1, July, 2008.



(*) Paper presented at "Asian Symposium on Disaster Impacts and Assessment", Hue, Vietnam, 25-27th August, 2011.

Nguồn: PGS,TS. Nguyễn Tiến Dũng



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