n official from the Thua Thien-Hue provincial administration says, “As part of the project, research has been conducted into more than 7,100 garden houses, including 800 ancient houses of significant value”.
Tran Thanh, who is Deputy Head of the Hue City Cultural Office, reveals that there is a plan afoot to restore 150 typical houses which are in danger of becoming lopsided. However, only 52 have been restored to their former glory, he says.
In 2009, the provincial People’s Committee decided that each garden house owner would receive VND100 million (US$5,000) in financial support to restore the house.
Residents who invest in building their garden house can borrow VND5 million per house in five-year preferential terms.
In fact, many house owners who cannot afford to restore or sell parts of their property to people from other localities did not receive any financial support as the local government had promised.
“We open our houses to the public to view free of charge without any financial support from tourism firms,” says Nguyen Ngoc Trinh, owner of Phu Mong-Kim Long tourist site located in Kim Long Commune.
Cultural researcher Nguyen Huu Thong, Head of the Vietnam Culture and Arts Institute’s branch in Hue, mentions the urgent need to preserve garden houses.
“New policies will provide a shot in the arm for preservation and restoration efforts”, he added.
A typical garden house in Hue has two main parts: nha ruong (house built with many beams (ruong) and pillars (cot) and a surrounding garden, designed according to geomancy (feng shui) stipulations and their owners’ spiritual orientation.
Another distinctive feature of nha ruong is that all beams and pillars are joined by mortise and tenons, not nails.
Roofed with section tiles, the beams and pillars of nha ruong are made of precious, solid wood such as lim (iron wood), gu (sindora) or thong xanh (teranthera pine). The entire house sits with big pillars on a round or square stone base.
Traditionally, a garden house cannot be sold out as family needs to maintain ancestral links. However, rocketing land values have encouraged some people to sell their land or some parts of their nha ruong.
If this trend continues, a unique feature of the central province will disappear from history and culture books.