A Rich and Royal Ruin in the Heart of Hanoi

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Nine hundred years before Ho Chi Minh declared Hanoi the capital of a newly independent Vietnam in 1945, the first king of the Ly Dynasty issued a similar decree.

In 1010 King Ly Thai To picked Thang Long (“Ascending Dragon”), situated within present-day Hanoi, as the capital for a country that had defeated the Tang Dynasty less than a century before, ending a millennium of Chinese rule.

“It is situated at the very heart of our country,” the king declared in Edict on the Transfer of the Capital. “It is equally an excellent capital for a royal dynasty for ten thousand generations.”

The enormous royal complex that Ly Thai To built did last, not 10,000 generations, but 900 years, through three major dynasties and repeated foreign invasions. For the last five years, archaeologists from the Vietnam Institute of Archaeology have been slowly unearthing the remains of Thang Long, uncovering millions of artifacts and building features spanning 1,300 years. Hanoi is gearing up to celebrate its 1,000th anniversary in 2010, and Thang Long, a potential Unesco World Heritage Site, is its centerpiece.

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