6/4/2010
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VGP - Think of the oldest civilizations in the world – India, Egypt and China. Think of old cities such as Athens, Rome, Xian or Cairo. There are few metropolitan conurbations where one feels that the feet of generations have trodden these same streets, century upon century for a thousand years, like one feels in the Old Quarter of Hà Nội.

VGP - Think of the oldest civilizations in the world – India, Egypt and China. Think of old cities such as Athens, Rome, Xian or Cairo. There are few metropolitan conurbations where one feels that the feet of generations have trodden these same streets, century upon century for a thousand years, like one feels in the Old Quarter of Hà Nội.

 

To be sure, the faces A corner of the Old Quarter

 of the cities have changed, including Hà Nội’s, so dramatically that little remains of the deep historical past – or it is no more than a few landmark ruins, an amphitheater, a temple, a cathedral or a mosque that connects us to past millennia.

For most of its thousand years as a city, the history of Thăng Long, later become Hà Nội, was the history of just two areas, the Imperial Citadel and the Civil or Commercial Quarter, now known as the Old Quarter of Thirty-Six Streets.

From its founding in 1010, Thăng Long served as the cultural and intellectual core of the country. Off necessity to serve the imperial court, the Commercial Quarter was located within easy access of boat transport, the harbors lying along the Red River and the Tô Lịch River, so that goods could be delivered directly to the gates of the Citadel. At the beginning, a network of craft villages or representatives of artisan villages, loosely equivalent to guilds, which brought their products to Thăng Long’s market to sell, grew up between the east wall of the Citadel and the Red River. It was first known simply as “the market place”.

Under the first independent Vietnamese dynasties, the Lý and Trần (11th-14th centuries), there were sixty-one wards or village streets, each named after the trade or craft practiced there. Most of these streets translate as “merchandise” or “shop”. For example, silversmiths from Hải Dương province occupied Phố Hàng Bạc – Bạc means “silver.”

Below is a list of their names

Name

Means

Name

Means

Bàng Buồm     

sails

Hàng Bút         

brushes

Hàng Cá       

fish

Hàng Cân        

scales

Hàng Chai       

bottles

Hàng Chỉ         

threads

Hàng Chiếu   

mats

Hàng Chai  

jars

Hàng Cót       

bamboo lattices

Hàng Da     

lather

Hàng Đào       

(silk) dyers

Hàng Dầu        

beans or oils

Hàng Điếu       

 pipes

Hàng Đồng      

copper

Hàng Đường    

sugar

Hàng Gà          

chicken

Hàng Gai         

silk

Hàng Giấy       

paper

Hàng Hành    

onions

Hàng Hòm       

cases

Hàng Hương    

incense

Hàng Khay      

trays

Hàng Khoai

sweet potatoes

Hàng Lược

combs

Hàng Mã

votive papers

Hàng Mắm

pickled fish

Hàng Mành 

bamboo screens

Hàng Muối  

salt

Hàng Ngang

transversal street

Hàng Nón       

hats

Hàng Phèn   

alum

Hàng Quạt       

fans

Hàng Rươi       

clam worms

Hàng Than       

charcoal

Hàng Thiếc

tin

Hàng Thùng

barrels

Hàng Tre         

bamboo

Hàng Trống     

drums

Hàng Vải       

cloth

Lò Rèn            

blacksmiths

Lò Sũ              

coffins

Mã Mây          

rattan

Ngõ Gạch

bricks

Thuốc Bắc

herbal medicine

By the 13th century, the craft guilds had developed sufficiently to satisfy the court’s requirements for highly refined, quality products.

During the Lê Dynasty, 15th to 18th centuries, the commercial area between the Red River wharves and the citadel was reorganized into thirty-six wards, although some suggest that the number thirty-six was merely a symbolic concept as the number nine in Asia symbolizes “plenty” and nine times four – the four cardinal directions – makes thirty-six streets in the Old Quarter today and there have been for a very long time.

By the 15th century, there were still few real streets in Hà Nội. International trade arrived as early as the thirteenth century with traders from China and Java as well as monks from India. The seventeenth century brought a broadening of international trade through Dutch, Portugue, British and Chinese merchants along with refugees from China.

According to statistics, the Old Quarter is home to 15,275 households, 60% having resided there for more than thirty years, many for generations. Of those, only 6.7% have expressed a desire to live anywhere else.

After all, the Old Quarter of Thirty-Six Streets is not only the oldest part of Hà Nội; it is the oldest surviving neighborhood in the country and Hà Nội’s most precious historical heritage./.

By Carol Howland

(chinhphu.vn)

 

 

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