The Old Quarter in Ha Noi

Photo of Entry:  The Old Quarter in Ha Noi

During more than a thousand years, Thang Long - Ha Noi has been the national commercial centre, a place where people manufacture products, trade, produce handicrafts and provide services. As a consequence, it is the major residence of the classes called "townsfolk - common people" that gather most crowdedly there. In the project "Three citadels intermingle" of the imperial capital Thang Long in the old days, people built up three main citadels: the inner one is for the King and royal family; next is the one for the court offices; and the outside is used by citizens. It is similar in some manner to the new project today "three economic - social areas" containing: the administrative, politic and cultural area in the middle; the farming zone to the west; and the industrial and commercial zone to the east.

 Một góc phố cổ

With its original traits in history, economy and society, Ha Noi's Old Quarter have shown the architecture relics of traditional housing to travellers. These houses are neither high buildings with many floors as you normally see in cities nor stilt-houses on lines of poles. They belong to the popular ancient housing architecture of the antiquity and are still popular in Vietnams' mountainous regions these days. They are also called "tubular houses" which are short and narrow but have great length. In the past, the king stipulated that "citizens' houses could not be built higher than the height of the king's palanquin". And because of the dense population state in contrast to the narrow streets, people needed to spend the front room for stores; the inside room is widened to its length in order to divide places for manufacturing, eating and living of each family. This type is of the age-old vestiges maintained by the time.

Those tubular houses made up the ward along the soil streets; some streets were paved with stone or brick. Only till the later time, they were asphalted.


Đền Bạch Mã

  Bach Ma Temple

There are about 100 streets and small paths that are tangled in the traffic system of Ha Noi's Old Quarter. Because of the feature of the scheme, each street specialises in producing or selling only one kind of product; therefore, every of them has a very original name beginning with the word "Hàng" (i.e. store/stall). For example, we have: Hàng Điếu (pipes), Hàng Đồng (copper), etc. Then an interesting terminology has been circulated: "36 Old Street" . The number 36 just indicates "a great deal of stores" and only has symbolic meaning. Actually, now there are more than 50 streets with the name starting with "Hàng" in the area of The Old Quarter.


Coming to Ha Noi's Old Quarter, in order to live with the traditional urban culture here, the most fastidious travellers are also attracted by the non-material cultural value that is contained vividly in around 100 units and works of material construction. They are relics of antique pagodas (worshipping Buddha), old temples (worshipping Tutelary God), other shrines, joss houses and also family churches. Along with these architectures are sacred and spectacular performances of the various and even uncanny festivities annually, weekly or daily on the streets of Ha Noi's Old Quarter. Specifically, among these vestiges, there are four important religious architectures exactly at the four directions, on the outer frontier of the city. These ones have worshipped four holy Saints who always keep the land in peace. They are called "Thăng Long - four restraints" in which the first-ranged and oldest one is Bach Ma temple (the Temple White Horse) (symbolising for the Sun) built in the 9th century, at Street Hang Buom (Sails) where people produce and sell sails to the boats around Ha Noi ancient ward.


Only by sketching out some features, we can see that Ha Noi's Old Quarter have contained a lot of typical values of the imperial capital Thang Long (in the past) and the modern capital Ha Noi during thousands years. Nevertheless, after historical fluctuations, many of those values have been deforming or even disappeared. And the life of a modern, renovating and integrating city has made them unable to be maintained wholly.

Ha Noi Capital has a proposal to bring Ha Noi ancient streets into the roadmap of the world's heritages. That is an encouragement, maybe also a new, important motivation to resolve the matters of conservation, embellishment and improvement the values of these historical inherited properties.

The Vietnamese young generation in Ha Noi and also the entire nation are now trying to preserve and upgrade all the quintessence to merit what the ancestors have left for them.

Source: simplevietnam.com

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