From the 15th to the 19th century, Hoi An was an important port city that initially covered Japanese foreign trade, but then became an important hub for Asian trade, especially for European countries. The completely preserved old town contains numerous sights from this period, such as the covered Japanese bridge and the richly decorated Tan Ky house.
Old City of Hoi An: Facts
|Official title:||Historic old town of Hoi An|
|Cultural monument:||Traditional trading center in Central Vietnam; Well-preserved example of a Southeast Asian port city from the 15th to the 19th century; Buildings and the layout of the streets are documents of a mixture of local and foreign influences|
|Meaning:||Extraordinary example of a Southeast Asian port city from the 15th to 19th centuries.|
Historic trading metropolis in its original condition
According to payhelpcenter, anyone who strolls through the old town of Hoi An or is chauffeured in the Cyclo, a Vietnamese bicycle rickshaw, feels transported back to a time when junks and sailing ships from all over the world were anchored in the port. This may be because the picturesque streets are closed to motorized traffic, which is unique in Vietnam. In Hoi An, the past is palpable on every corner, because over 840 historically significant buildings contribute to the unique charm of the city: Buildings by the Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese and the French colonial rulers come together to form a total architectural work of art.
Hoi An, which was called Hai Pho until 1630, experienced its heyday from the 16th century when the regents Nguyen Hoang and Nguyen Phuc Nguyen opened the city’s port to the outside world. Initially it was traders from China and Japan who came to the central Vietnamese coastal city. They were officially prohibited from trading with one another, but the resourceful merchants bypassed the ban by simply exchanging their goods in Hai Pho: silk and fabrics, paper, porcelain, lacquer, Chinese medicine, sugar, tea, molasses, spices, Mother-of-pearl and ivory changed hands there. Many of the traders settled permanently in Hoi An. Later Europeans joined them, because the Dutch, English, Portuguese and French used the port on the South China Sea, which they called Faifo, gladly as a stopover on their trade trips to China. Each nation had its own neighborhood in the port city. The families of the Japanese traders lived on the other side of the river, with the Japanese bridge as an entrance. From the 18th century, the Thu Bon River slowly began to silt up, so that larger ships could no longer head for the port. They moved to nearby Da Nang, and Hoi An lost its international importance.
There are more than 840 historically significant buildings in Hoi An: houses and shops, family chapels, pagodas, Vietnamese and Chinese temples, bridges, meeting buildings of Chinese associations and fountains – such as the famous Ba-Le fountain: culinary is only allowed with its water The city’s specialty, Cao Lau – a noodle dish made with croutons, soybeans, vegetables, pork, and rice paper – can be prepared. The houses with their curved roofs and splendid decorations nestle against the narrow streets of the old town. Almost all of them date from the second half of the 19th century. As a rule, they consist of two parts of the building that are connected by an inner courtyard. At the front of the houses facing the street are the shops, which could be covered with horizontal boards and thus locked. The representative living room was also in the front part of the house. Domestic life, on the other hand, took place mainly in the sheltered inner courtyard. In the back of the house there were bedrooms, a kitchen, a toilet and possibly storage rooms. Many of the old houses are still inhabited today and can be visited. An example of these houses is the around 200-year-old Tan-Ky house, which a wealthy Vietnamese merchant had built. It combines Japanese and Chinese influences and is located directly on the riverbank. Pulley blocks in the back of the house show that the house was not only used for living, but also for trade. The Diep-Dong-Nguyen House was built by a Chinese merchant at the end of the 19th century.
The city’s 75,000 residents still number around 1,300 Chinese today, but when the Chinese ethnic groups and associations celebrate their festivals, numerous compatriots from all over Vietnam travel to the city. The focus of the festivities is on the five Chinese assembly halls. There the Chinese of Hoi An once maintained their contacts, did business or worshiped their gods and ancestors. One of these assembly halls is the Fujian Chinese house (Chua Phuc Kien), which was later converted into a temple. The sky empress Thien Hau, the patron saint of seafarers, is venerated there. An oversized mural to the right of the entrance shows how she rushes to the aid of a junk in distress.