HOI AN ANCIENT TOWN
Hoi An is an old town down the Thu Bon River, on the coastal plain of Quang Nam Province, about 30km south of Da Nang.
After a long period of absence from the tourist map, this lovely town started to draw the attention of visitors and researchers at the beginning of the 1980's. What is so special about Hoi An is that this little port town is in an incredible state of preservation. It offers some of the most densely-concentrated sights in Viet Nam with its old streets bordered with ancient houses and assembly halls, its pagodas, temples, ancient wells and tombs. In total, more than a thousand places of interest.
The architecture of Hoi An is characterised by a harmonious blend of Vietnamese, Chinese and Japanese influences. After many centuries, Hoi An is still respectful of its traditions, folk festivals, beliefs and of its sophisticated culinary art.
Set in a quiet environment, Hoi An is surrounded by peaceful villages, a beautiful river, the sea and sunny beaches. Offshore, Cu Lao Cham Islands are very famous for sheltering their prized birds' nests, and it also is recognised as World Biosphere Reserve.
The architectural significance of Hoi An has been recognized by UNESCO, during the 23rd Congress which took place in Marrakech (Morocco) from 29 November to 4 December, since the town was offially listed as a World Cultural Heritage Site.
General Facts about Hoi An
Surface area: 60km2
Population (December 2011): over 91,000 inhabitants (Kinh and Chinese)
Hoi An is situated in Quang Nam Province, 30km south of Da Nang. It borders by Duy Xuyen District to the south, Dien Ban District to the north and to the west, and by the East Sea to the east. All these districts belong to Quang Nam Province. The average annual temperature: 25.6°C.
With a 7km coastline, Hoi An boats one of the most nicest beaches in Viet Nam, Cua Dai. Cham Islands are is very famous in Hoi An with yen sao speciality.
This port town has been known under different names: Lam Ap, Faifo, Hoai Pho, and finally, Hoi An.
According to some archaeological studies, the pre-Sa Huynh civilization was living on Hoi An's territory more than 2,000 years ago. Searching ancient tombs of An Bang, Hau Xa 1 and 2 and Xuan Lam, as well as the site of Trang Soi, Dong Na, Thanh Chiem and Bau Da, archaeologists have discovered different sorts of Mo Chum (earthenware graves of Sa Huynh Culture), tools and jewellery made of stone, ceramics, glass and metal. They also discovered two types of Chinese copper coins, dating from Han Dynasty, iron tools of Tay Han, pong Son, Oc Eo, which confirmed the existence of commercial exchanges in these territories from the very beginning of the Christian Era.
From the 2nd to the 14th centuries, Hoi An was part of the Champa Kingdom under the name of Lam Ap Pho. It was then a bustling port frequented by Arabic, Persian, Indian and Chinese merchants. According to several old books, Lam Ap Pho and the important port of Dai Chiem played a crucial role in the development and prosperity of Tra Kieu Citadel and My Son Sanctuary. The discovery of remains, statues, ancient Cham wells and artefacts from the 2nd to the 14th centuries, belonging to the Chinese, Vietnamese and to Middle-Eastern people, tends to confirm the existence of a city called Lam Ap Pho.
Following the historical movements and wars, this territory fell into oblivion for a period of several centuries. However, thanks to very favourable conditions and to its strategic position for trade, Hoi An made a comeback in the 16th century and prospered until the 19th century. In 1558, Lord Nguyen Hoang took control of Thuan Hoa region, then of Quang Nam (in 1570). With the help of his son Nguyen Phuc Nguyen, he expanded his territory, built citadels and developed the economy of Dang Trong (the South).
During all that period, Hoi An was an important stop for foreign merchants and it soon became one of the richest ports in the country, and even in the whole of South-East Asia.
During the Nguyen Dynasty, Hoi An became a major economic centre of the country, as Kinh Ky (Ha Noi) and Pho Hien (in Hung Yen Province). The port was frequented by ships from all over the world. Seamen and merchants came from China, France, Portugal, Japan, Thailand, England, Indonesia, etc. The goods traded were also incredibly varied: cotton, silk, green tea, wax, ceramics, traditional remedies, sugar, ivory, lacquerware, pearls, sulphur, lead, etc.
At the end of the 19th century, Thu Bon River started stilting up and trade waned. Hoi An was then replaced by the nearby port of Da Nang. Chinese merchants left Hoi An for Sai Gon (Cho Lon) and Da Nang. Hoi An slowly fell asleep.
During the 100 years until 1975, Viet Nam experienced two major and destructive wars. However, Hoi An came out of them miraculously untouched. Its inhabitants do a lot to preserve its invaluable architecture and are extremely proud of their town, recognized as a World Cultural Heritage Site by UNESCO.
Hoi An's Architecture and its Characteristics
Even if they were constructed a long time ago, most of the buildings in Hoi An underwent restoration at the beginning of the 19th century. The Japanese and Chinese streets had been totally destroyed by the tropical climate of monsoons, floods, wars and fires in the 18th century. Hoi An came to life again later, but at that time, only Vietnamese and Chinese merchants were left. Today, we can still see traces of the port, the wharves, and streets from that period.
The Old Town covers about 2km2. The streets are very narrow. Parallel to Hoi An River are three main streets: Tran Phu (leading to the Lai Vien Bridge or Pagoda-Bridge), Bach Dang and Nguyen Thai Hoc. Perpendicular to the river are Nguyen Hue, Tran Quy Cap, Le Loi and Hai Ba Trung streets.
The buildings of the Old Town were constructed with traditional materials such as bricks and wood. The old houses play an important part in the overall architecture of the town. Most of them follow the same model: built on two levels, and very long, stretching between two streets. The front room, generally 6m wide, is used as a shop. Then, there is a small yard leading to the back-house, where the family lives and the goods are stocked. Beyond the back-house, another yard opens onto the street behind or on the river.
The main structure of the house is its wooden framework, the pieces of which are assembled with tenons and dowels. Then, the house is made of bricks, but the inside walls are covered with wood. The roof is tiled with "yin-yang" pantiles. Old houses also have "eyes", wooden circle blocks engraved with a yin-yang symbol. Inside, the houses also have fine pieces of furniture. Having inherited a multi-cultural architecture so varied and sophisticated, Hoi An must have attracted numerous and talented workers in carpentry, ceramics, and woodcarving from China, Japan and other regions of Viet Nam.
Door-eyes in Hoi An
A typical architectural feature of the ancient houses in Hoi An is the door-eyes (mot cua) over the doorway. They are two round wooden pieces elaborately carved with the symbols of yin-yang, eight-sign figure (Bat Quai), dragon, tiger, etc. In the minds of Hoi An people, the door-eyes are the ornament and also the guard to drive away the evil spirits and bring good luck for the house and the family.
Door-eyes in Hoi An are the symbol of the animism conception and also an inseparable entity in cultural and spiritual life of Hoi An people, create unique cultural value of the heritage land.
The Pagoda-Bridge (Lai Vien Kieu)
The only old bridge of Hoi An, also called Chua Cau (Pagoda-Bridge) by the locals, is now one of the symbols of the town. West of the Old Town, and linking Nguyen Thi Minh Khai and Tran Phu Street, it crosses a small canal that flows into Thu Bon River.
The bridge is 18m long, 3m wide and has 7 compartments. Sheltering an altar in the middle, the bridge is also used as a place of worship. The pagoda is said to protect the bridge and the inhabitants against monsters and to grant peace for the town. The exact date of the construction of the bridge is not known for sure. May be the Japanese built it at the beginning of the 17th century.
The bridge underwent renovations in 1653, 1763, 1817, 1865, 1915 and 1917. The last renovation was in 1986. The actual architecture as we know it today is characteristic of the 18th and 19th centuries.
The bridge boasts a distinctive architecture, typical of tropical Asian countries. Built on stone foundations, it is a covered bridge, with a roof of double tiles.
The Japanese architecture is clearly visible on the outside of the bridge, notably the curved roof with its turned-up corners. Inside, the style is more Sino-Viet- namese. The bridge is arched and paved with blocks of wood. On both sides, small plinths were once used to display goods for sales. The patterns and decorations, lacquered and sculpted, harmoniously integrate Sino-Nippon-Vietnamese and Western art. The pagoda situated in the middle of the bridge is dedicated to Saint Bac De Tran Vu.
The pagoda was built about half a century after the bridge. Situated in the middle, in an alcove on one side, it is closed off by a wooden panel and a door with bars in it. Above the door, is a red horizontal panel with three yellow Chinese characters on it: "Lai Vien Kieu". It was a present from the Lord Nguyen Phuc Chu, given during his visit to Hoi An in 1719. (His seal can be made out on the left of the panel.)
Above the panel are two protective "eyes". The door has a lion and an open Japanese-style fan carved into it. The pagoda is dedicated to Saint Huyen Thien Dai De (Bac De Tran Vu), of Chinese origin. His statue has pride of place on the altar, in a majestic posture, one foot on the back of a tortoise, his arms crossed on his chest. The pagoda is dedicated to him because, according to legend, this Saint overcame a monster and protected the inhabitants from plagues. At each end of the bridge is a pair of statues, one of them dogs and the other monkeys. These statues are carved in jackfruit wood. In front of each statue, there is a vase with joss-sticks. Some people explain their presence by the fact that the construction of the bridge started the year of the Monkey and ended the year of the Dog. Others say that it is linked to the Japanese tradition.
According to oriental belief, plagues (earthquakes, floods, and dryness) are caused by a sea monster which head is in Japan, body in Viet Nam and tail in China. It is called Mamazu by the Japanese, Cau Long by the Chinese and Con Cu by the Vietnamese. Every time it moves, it provokes some natural catastrophes. The statues on the bridge might have been put there by the Japanese to control this monster, since the dog and the monkey are sacred animals according to their Totem religion. Other legend is said that the construction started in the year of the monkey and finished in the year of the dog, according to Chinese calendar.
Phuoc Kien Assembly Hall
Phuoc Kien Assembly Hall is located at 46 Tran Phu Street. Originally, the house was a thatched pagoda called Kim Son, which was built by the Viet people living in Hoi An in 1692. This pagoda was dedicated to Buddha. Over the course of time, it was damaged. In 1759, the owners had to sell it to the rich Phuoc Kien traders from China who came to Hoi An, so that it could be restored. After the restoration, the pagoda was renamed "Phuoc Kien Assembly Hall" and was dedicated to the worship of Buddha, gods and former times' sages. The pagoda is also a place of gathering for the natives of Phuoc Kien.
The Assembly Hall stretches from Tran Phu Street to Phan Chu Trinh Street. The three-entrance gate is a structure composed of seven-roof layers covered with blue enamel tube-tiles. These roofs with gently curved corners overlap each other.
A board with three Chinese characters "Kim Son Tu" is hung at the front hall. Inside the hall, there are two big embossments. The one on the left describes the scene of Thien Hau Holy Mother saving a boat which was sinking into the sea; the one on the right represents the scene of six generals riding horses and leading to fight the Qing in order to restore the Ming Dynasty movement. After these six generals were defeated, their offspring had to flee to Hoi An.
The main hall is dedicated to the statue of Avalokitesvara sitting in mediation in a glass cage. A big incense burner is placed at the front of the statue. On the left of the incense table is the statue of the God of Thien Ly Nhan (thousand-mile vision) and the right is the God of Thuong Phong Nhi (thousand-mile hearing). These are masterpieces of the skilled workers of Kim Bong Village. These gods are believed to have assisted Thien Hau Holy Mother in saving victims on the sea.
The rear of the main hall is dedicated to the worship of Thien Hau Holy Mother; her statue seats in mediation. On the left, there is a model of a 1875 sailing boat. Behind the main hall is the back sanctuary. At the front is a small lake for raising ornamental fish. A big dragon whose head is grafted with turquoise enamel porcelain and colourful glass pieces twists around the lake. The head looks very lively and beautiful. A unicorn embossed on the wall, at the back of the hall, is depicted playing with the dragon above the lake, to form the scene of "dancing dragon and unicorn".
A place at the centre of the back sanctuary is dedicated to six generals of the Ming Dynasty who came from Phuoc Kien Province. Two sides of the back sanctuary are dedicated to Chinese popular gods.
The left altar is dedicated to three Sanh Thai goddesses (Kim Hoa Nuong Nuong, Sanh Thai Nhi Chua, Sanh Thai Thap Nhi Tien Nuong) and 12 midwives. The right one is dedicated to the God of Wealth. As for the back sanctuary, it is dedicated to people who donated their wealth to build the pagoda. The Assembly Hall houses a lot of statues, bronze drums, bronze bells, big incense burners, 14 horizontal lacquered boards and other valuable artefacts.
Phuoc Kien Assembly Hall is religious relic. It is the biggest assembly hall and it displays rich architectural and artistic features.
Guangdong Assembly Hall (Quang Trieu Congregation)
The house was built adjacent to the Pagoda-Bridge at 176 Tran Phu Street, on the corner of Hai Ba Trung Street - a gastronomic street of Hoi An. Every year, on the 15th day of the first lunar month, the Nguyen Tieu Festival is held here. Also, on the 24th day of the sixth lunar month, the festival to pay homage to Quan Cong (a Chinese general) attracts many pilgrims. In the Assembly Hall, many ancient vestiges have been preserved such as four big horizontal lacquered boards, a big bronze censer, a pair of Chinese terra-cotta seats and noteworthy documents on the Chinese community living in Hoi An.
The house was built in 1885 by Chinese overseas who came from Guangdong (China). However, the members of the house's management board believe that it was established in the late 17th century and the biggest restoration was carried out in 1885.
On the early days, the house was dedicated to Thien Hau Holy Mother, then to Quan Cong and former times' sages who came from Guangdong. Formerly, it was a place for Chinese fishermen and traders to stay temporarily and exchange goods. In those days, there was a wharf at the front of the house.
The complex of Quang Trieu Assembly Hall is rather attractive with its stone three-entrance gate and four rows of stone pillars at the front. Four Chinese characters, meaning "Quang Trieu Assembly Hall", are embossed on the upper part of the three-entrance gate. The gate is roofed with green tube-tiles and decorated with images of dragons, small lions, and lemon flowers. Stone pillars supporting the roof are carved with refined designs. The robust frame and decorative designs make the house look imposing.
The main hall roofed with green tube- tiles. Inside, the pillars supporting the roof are made of durable jackfruit wood and beautifully decorated. The pillars on the veranda of the hall are red-lacquered and the dragons are gilded. The statue of Quan Cong wearing a royal gown is set up in the middle of the hall. It looks very imposing. Former times' sages and people who donated their wealth to build the house are also worshipped here.
Trieu Chau Assembly Hall
The house (also called Ong Bon or Am Ban Pagoda) is at 157 Nguyen Duy Hieu Street. It was built by Chinese overseas coming from Trieu Chau (China) in 1845. It is dedicated to the worship of the God of Wind and Big Waves. The house's owners hope this god will always bring luck to them and help them travel smoothly on the sea. Formerly, people often went to the house at night to pray because they thought that all their wishes would come true. The most outstanding features of the house are a sophisticatedly carved wooden frame, decorative designs, beautiful wooden patterns and embossed patterns made of porcelain pieces.
The main hall is dedicated to General Phuc Ba (Bon Dau Quan), a god of mastering waters. The two sides of Phuc Ba's altar are refined for worshipping the gods of Wealth and Luck. The east-wing house is dedicated to former times' sages, chiefs and deputy-chiefs of the house. The house is not big but it is beautiful and carefully designed. Its rafters were made in China and then transported to Hoi An.
Every year, descendants of the Trieu Chau people gather at the house from the 1st day to the 16th day of the first lunar month to worship their ancestors.
Hai Nam Assembly Hall
The house is located at 10 Tran Phu Street. It was built in 1875 in memory of 108 Chinese people who were killed when crossing the sea.
Hai Nam Assembly Hall is located in an enclosure. Passing through the metal gate and the square pavilion considered as a sitting room, visitors will reach a large yard where many ornamental trees are planted, and where are the east-wing and west-wing houses, and the main hall dedicated to 108 Chinese people killed on the sea. The founders of the house are worshipped on the left of the main hall, and the God of Wealth is honoured on the right. The house is roofed with tube- tiles and its frame is made of wood. A quon ban (a kind of hanging) was transported to Hoi An from China.
Trung Hoa Assembly Hall (Ngu Bang Assembly Hall)
Trung Hoa Assembly Hall is at 64 Tran Phu Street, right of Phuoc Kien Pagoda. Established in 1741, it was then called Duong Thuong Assembly Hall. However, many people think that it was built in the 15th century. Anyway, it is also one of the oldest assembly halls in Hoi An. It was the home of Chinese immigrants and dedicated to Thien Hau Holy Mother.
In 1928, it was renamed Trung Hoa Assembly Hall, then Chinese Public School, and finally Le-Nghia School. The house is a place for worshipping and for gatherings. It is also a school for Chinese overseas in Hoi An.
Besides worshipping Thien Hau Holy Mother, the house is also dedicated to other people such as Confucius, San-Yat- Jen (a leader of the Chinese revolutionary movement in the early 20th century) and soldiers killed in the anti-Japanese resistance war. The full text of Sen Yat Jen's Testament is found on the wall, in the backyard of the house.
OLD HOUSE - FAMILY CHAPELS Tan Ky House
The house, located at 101 Nguyen Thai Hoc Street, is not the oldest in Hoi An, yet its architecture is among one the most typical.
It was built nearly 200 years ago. The owner of the house has preserved its interior design and old furniture, as well as many relics of the prospering trade and cultural exchanges among the Vietnamese, Chinese and Japanese in the late 17th century.
The person who built the house was a Minh Huong (a Chinese native) who came to Viet Nam to do business in the 17th century. Seven generations of owners have successively lived in there. Thanks to their protection and the high- quality construction materials, the architecture of the house has been kept almost intact. Only small repairs have been made.
The house was built from traditional materials by skilled local artisans and was influenced by Chinese and Japanese styles. Its charming and elegant designs give it a cosy aspect. The architecture of the house has been kept almost intact. Only small repairs have been made.
The front hall of the tube-shaped Tan Ky House overlooks Nguyen Thai Hoc Street, and its back opens on Bach Dang Street. It used to be a shop selling cinnamon, tea, silk, wood and medicines obtained from rare animals' bones.
The front hall has two storeys roofed with pan-tiles. The ground floor is 2m in length and is divided into 3 smaller compartments by several columns. The left and right ones are 2m in width each, and the middle one is 1.2m wide. All the columns stand on round stone bases carved with lotus flowers, for a solid structure.
There is a large wooden door but no window. Above the door are two wooden bolts carved with the yin-yang symbol. Long planks are put together horizontally on the two sides of the door. They can be dismantled for displaying goods and seating the owner when necessary. On the inner wall of the door of the second compartment is a red lacquered board engraved with three golden Chinese characters meaning "Le Family Chapel."
The second compartment constitutes the centre of the house. It is bigger than the first one, and it used to be a guestroom. Today, it is devoted to worshipping of the ancestors and Buddha, as well as receiving guests. It has only one storey with a high ceiling. Its rafters are quite special: the lower ones are longer than the upper ones. The column that supports the rafters stands on a finger-shaped wooden support. The walls have two bricklayers with thin planks in between them, thus keeping the house cool in summer and warm in winter. Strong peck and jackfruit woods are the main materials of the house. The floor is paved with Bat Trang- made tiles. The stone used in other places of the house comes from Thanh Hoa Province.
Skilled carpenters from Kim Bong Village mortised all parts of the force-resistant frames instead of using nails to assemble them. The ends of the rafters and columns are decorated with purely Vietnamese designs such as "eight weapons," "apricot, orchid, chrysanthemum and bamboo," "dragon, unicorn, tortoise and phoenix," or "people holding musical instruments reciting poems and drinking liquor." The signboards "Tan Ky" and "Tan Buu" of the shop are hung in the middle room of the house.
In the sitting room, there are an old table and chairs made of black lacquered wood. Their surfaces are made of centuries old marble from Ngu Hanh Mountain.
On the walls are Chinese-inked pictures of mountains, rivers and horses in the old Chinese style. The columns are adorned with different parallel sentences. On two columns, in the middle of the room, are two mother-of-pearl inscriptions named "a hundred birds." Each letter of the sentences represents a bird, the symbol of noble men. The birds have different postures. The sentences read, "A 10 feet- long row of willows waits for rain thousands of miles away; a lOcm-wide moonlight shines up the whole garret full of books."
On the two innermost columns of the second compartment are two parallel sentences written in old Chinese characters. They are inlaid with mother-of- pearl, depicting apricot flowers, birds, orchids, chrysanthemums and bamboo trees. Japanese-style rafters support the wooden arch between the two compartments. Some other columns are carved with motifs of "carps transforming into dragons/' which are commonly found in Chinese architecture.
A two-storey compartment, which serves as a "bridge house/' runs on the right of the plot of land and squarely to the second compartment. On the left side is the open yard, which absorbs sunshine and helps ventilate the whole house. There is a rain water reservoir in the yard, which is paved with grey square stones from Thanh Hoa Province.
The balcony, the "bridge house", and the second compartment are connected to each other by a wooden bar edged with grape leave-shape designs of European origin. The wooden bars that link the columns together are decorated with bas-relief of peaches or finger citrons.
Another two-storey compartment stands parallel with the first and second ones. On the ceiling of the ground floor, there is a square hole that the owner would use for moving goods horizontally with a pulley. The back door overlooks a wharf by the Hoi An River, which was very convenient for loading and unloading goods.
Phung Hung House
The house is located at 4 Nguyen Thi
Minh Khai Street. It was built over 220 years ago when Hoi An was prospering. It is a typical commercial house of Vietnam's urban areas in the 19th century.
The house has kept many documents about the architecture, culture, art and lifestyle of the Hoi An's business circle from the old days. Phung Hung house bears the popular style of the 19th century. It has a tubular shape with a wide facade. It is not as long as some other old-style houses. It is mainly made of wood, with two storeys and four roofs. Its two adjoining parts look north-west. The ground floor used to be the shop. Today, it is the family's living room furnished with some wooden old-style cupboards containing many precious objects and belongings.
The house has 80 columns made of precious wood. Each column stands on a lotus-shaped base in order to minimise subsidence and moisture for the house and to prevent termites from damaging it. There are square pillars on the veranda, which roof is made of pan-tiles.
A wide corridor surrounds the second storey, made of wood. On the floor, there is a square hole used for moving goods upstairs. The second floor is now reserved for the worship of the family's ancestors and of Thien Hau Holy Mother. On the table, in front of the altar, there is always a bowl with seven marble dices, which the owner used to employ to decide the departure time before his faraway journeys. The architecture of Phung Hung house represents the combination of Vietnamese, Japanese and Chinese styles. There are a lot of designs carved by carpenters of Kim Bong Village.
The house used to be a shop trading in cinnamon, pepper, salt, silk, chinaware and glassware. Now part of the house is used as a workshop for making commercial embroideries.
Quan Thang House
The one-storey old house is at 77 Tran Phu Street. It was built over 300 years ago, in the early 17th century. Its first owner was a Chinese man coming from Guangdong. He opened a Chinese herb shop here. This narrow-front wooden house has an architectural design of Chinese style. It has a tube-shaped structure with double walls (with an inner brick wall and an elaborately carved wooden wall).
The first room (formerly used as the store), now reserved for worship, is followed by the sitting room, yard, and the last room intended for the family's daily activities. The inside is decorated tastefully. The arrangement of the furniture has been kept in tact. The walls surrounding the yard are ornate with beautiful blue ceramics shards.
Diep Dong Nguyen House
Diep Dong Nguyen house, at 80 Nguyen Thai Hoc Street, was built at the end of the 19th century. Its first owner was Diep Dong Xuan, a Chinese native of Gia Ung District, in Guangdong Province. In the mid-19th century, he opened a pharmacy in Hoi An. After building this house, he developed his business, trading in many commodities, such as high-quality materials, jewellery, ceramics, books, and others.
Today, the house is a famous tourist attraction thanks to its original architecture, style, structure, building materials, and interior decoration. It is now owned by Mr. Diep Gia Tung (the grandchild of Mr. Diep Dong Xuan), who has made great efforts to preserve it as to show his respect for his ancestors.
Diep Dong Nguyen house is a two-storey building, with a roof frame made of high- quality wood. It is deeply inspired by Chinese architecture: large front, tube-shape. It is also influenced by Japanese architecture (crabshell ceiling). Its wooden plank- doors can be easily removed whenever there is a family gathering.
The front room on the first floor is the shop. The rear room followed by a yard kitchen is intended for the family's daily activities. On the second floor, with a lower ceiling, are the worshipping place, bedroom and sitting room. Near the stairs, there is a hole through which goods are loaded and unloaded. In the house, many parts are carved with a Chinese motif of "dragons-carps," as a symbol of strength.
The house contains many precious objects: high-quality wooden furniture, paintings and statues, books, ancient ceramics, etc. In the near future, the family's collection of antiques will be displayed here and the house will become the first private museum in Hoi An.
Tran Family Chapel
The house is located at 21 Le Loi Street. It is a place for all family members of the Tran clan to worship their ancestors. Tran Tu Nhac, an intelligent mandarin who lived during the reign of King Gia Long (around 200 years ago), built this house.
In late 1802, he and some others were sent to China as the King's envoys. Before departure, he wanted to leave something to his offspring and show his gratitude towards his ancestors. So he had this house built.
Like other family chapels in Hoi An, the Tran house is situated in the middle of a 1,500m2 garden with high surrounding walls and a gate. Ornamental plants, flowers, fruit trees and several century- old plants are grown in the front.
The architecture of the house bears the Chinese, Japanese and Vietnamese styles, and it has remained almost the same as two centuries ago. The house is made of precious wood. It is composed of three compartments and two lean-tos. Its roof is covered with pan-tiles. The wooden columns and beams are decorated with refined carvings. The house is divided into two parts: the main one is used as the worshipping place, and the other one, as the living space for the clan's head and for receiving guests. The design of the house respects the rules of traditional geomancy.
Today, some of his belongings are still kept at the house, such as a sword and a seal. People of the Tran clan often go to the house to pay their respect to their ancestors. Annually, all the clan gather in the house, in front of the altar to show their gratitude and piety towards their ancestors and to pray for happiness. On this occasion, they recall the past, discuss the future and teach their offspring to do good things. The meeting is organised in a joyful and warm atmosphere. Parents educate the children about the clan's traditions. Such annual gatherings help strengthen the attachment of the clan, and are opportunities for new members to make acquaintance with each other, to define their rank in the clan's hierarchy and enhance their awareness of the need to preserve their identities.
The house of the Tran clan is a famous tourist attraction thanks to its architectural and cultural values, and it is a fine example of the distinctive clan life of Hoi An residents among the multi-ethnic community of Viet Nam.
Truong Family Chapel
The house is located at 69/1, Phan Chu Trinh Street. The head of the clan, a Vietnamese of Chinese origin, came to Hoi An in the first half of the 18th century to begin his new carrier. Successful members of the clan built this house for future generations to pay homage to their ancestors.
The worshipping compartment and the extension adjoin, resembling the shape of the letter "L". They are made of wood and brick. The worshipping compartment comprises three smaller compartments and two lean-tos. Its rafters bear traditional architectural styles. Its roof is made of pan-tiles.
The four beautifully carved wooden statues kept in the house were brought from China in the late 19th century. In early 2001, the house underwent restoration with assistance from Japanese experts in order to preserve a valuable architectural work in Hoi An.
Minh Huong Pioneers Chapel
The house, at 14 Tran Phu Street, is dedicated to the founders of Minh Huong Village. "Minh Huong" stands for the Chinese who fled from China during the Qing Dynasty, and were granted political asylum in Viet Nam by the Nguyen Lords. They set up a village and a worshipping house both called Minh Huong. The house is built on a square ground, with its facade turned to the south. It has a large front hall. The house attracts a great deal of visitors who come to sightsee or study its architecture and the Minh Huong community.
Nguyen Family Chapel
This is a typical family chapel in Hoi An. Built by Nguyen Dien, a carpenter from
Kim Bong Village, it has a purely Vietnamese architectural style. Today, the members of Nguyen Dien family live in an auxiliary house, next to the worshipping compartment.
Starting from Hoi An coach station, visitors can follow Huynh Thuc Khang Street, go about 300m, turn left and take the earthen path, go about several tens of metres before reaching the house in residential block No 7, Thanh Ha Ward.
In fact, this house was originally built in Ngoc Thanh Hamlet, Cam Kim Village. In 1969, because of the subsiding ground beneath the house, Nguyen Dien had it moved to its present location. With his skilled hands, Nguyen Dien managed to dismantle all the columns and rafters of the house and reassemble them.
The design of this building is purely Vietnamese. The house has three compartments and two lean-tos roofed with pan-tiles. Its floor is covered with cement. Its large doors are made of black- painted wood.
The columns are made of high-quality wood. The rafters are decorated with dragon head designs and elaborate carvings. The middle compartment is dedicated to the ancestors. A big lacquered board engraved with three Chinese characters meaning "Nguyen Family Chapel" is hung high on the wall of the main worshipping compartment. Wood-carved parallel sentences, which praise the contribution of the ancestors are hung on the columns of the house.
TEMPLES, TOMBS AND ANCIENT WELLS
Quan Cong Temple
Quan Cong Temple, also called Ong Pagoda by the Hoi An people or Trung Han Cung by the Chinese, stands at the
fork of Tran Phu and Nguyen Hue streets (No 24 Nguyen Hue Str.) near the central market.
This temple is one of the typical ancient architectural constructions of Hoi An. It was constructed by the Minh Huong people (Chinese immigrants) together with the Viet people.
The temple was built in 1653 and dedicated to Quan Cong (Guan Gong), a prominent mandarin of the Han Dynasty, who lived in the time of "Three Warring Kingdoms" (3rd century AD). He was a talented and virtuous general, a symbol of courage, loyalty, piety, moderation and righteousness in the feudal time of China. Though restored many times in 1753, 1783, 1827,1864, 1904 and 1966, the temple's original structure has been kept almost the same.
Quan Cong Temple's structure resembles the Chinese character "Quoc" (meaning country) and is divided into many rows of houses. The roofs are covered with green-glazed tube-tiles.
The top-edges are heaped up and decorated with patterns of dragons and unicorns, and paved with colourful ceramic pieces. The structure is composed of three parts: front hall, open yard and back hall (sanctuary). In the front hall, at the ends of the beams under the roofs are attached four blocks of wood carved with overlapping lotus petals, which are painted pink and called "lanterns" (these "beams" architectural feature can be seen in most of the pagodas and temples in Hoi An).
On the entrance door to the temple are carved in relief a couple of blue dragons winding their bodies amid white clouds (legend has it that Quan Cong is the embodiment of Thanh Long (Blue Dragon) and Boch Ho (White Tiger). Above them is a pair of mat cua (Eyes of door).
The front hall is smaller than the back one. It has three compartments and two lean-tos. The rafter that supports the roof has an overlapping structure with a hand-like part. Right in the middle of the front hall is the altar dedicated to Quan Cong's guards. On both sides are hung banners, which are written with four Chinese characters "Hiep Thien Dai De" (The king who acts in accordance with Heaven's rule).
On both sides of the altar are a set of ritual weapons and objects used for processions. On the wall opposite to the altar, just beneath the lower edge of the roof, is hung a hoanh phi (Horizontal lacquered board) inscribed with two Chinese characters Nghia khi (Righteousness and Will).
Above the altar is a red baldachin bearing four yellow Chinese characters "Quan Thanh De Quan". Below the baldachin is a hoanh phi with a red background and four black Chinese characters "Hao Khi Lang Tieu" (the mettle soars into the sky).
On the two sides of the altar are a half-a- ton bronze bell and a huge drum supported by a wooden stand, which was granted by King Bao Dai. Besides, there are many parallel sentences hung on the post rows at the back of the front hall. They were offered to the temple by kings, lords, famed intellectuals and influential tradesmen to praise the talent and virtue of Quan Cong.
The statue of Quan Cong is nearly 3m high. The face is red with phoenix-like eyes and a long beard; the two hands are clasped together. He is dressed in a green royal robe and majestically rides a kneeling white horse. He is looking down at his two fostered children in an imposing manner.
On the right, stands the statue of Quan Binh (Guan Ping) and on the left side, the statue of Chau Thuong (Zhou Cang), a civilian mandarin and a military mandarin, as well as Quan Cong's fostered children. They stand in a posture that shows that they are ready to die for their master. In the main sanctuary, there is a large wooden board engraved with a long poem of Duke Nguyen Nghiem (the father of great poet Nguyen Du), which praises the merit and virtue of Quan Cong.
On both sides of the sanctuary are two life-size wooden coursers of Quan Cong, the white horse, on the left and the sorrel, on the right. On the wall behind the altar is hung a valuable brown-stripped grey brocade royal robe, which the Minh Huong people offered to the temple in the 18th century.
The temple contains about 30 hoanh phi (Horizontal lacquered board), over ten pairs of parallel sentences, many stelae and Tang poems written by famed intellectuals, which teach patriotism, loyalty, piety, moderation and righteousness. These relics are the symbol of a noble philosophy of life, which esteems the "heart'' of the Vietnamese, Chinese and Japanese people of Hoi An. Quan Cong
Temple is a shrine where numerous adepts come to conduct religious services.
The temple used to be the religious centre of the tradesmen in the port of Hoi An. Legend has it that Quan Cong Temple was the place that witnessed and built the faith for tradesmen to make contracts in their transactions. When arriving or before leaving the port, ships and boats used to come to Quan Cong Temple to make votive offerings to thank the genie or to pray for luck in their trips.
Ong Pagoda Festival is held twice a year according to the lunar calendar: the birthday of the genie (on the 13rd day of the first lunar month) and the death anniversary of the genie (on the 24th day of the sixth lunar month). These festivals attract a lot of believers and pilgrims from all over the country.
Van Thanh Temple
Van Thanh Temple located at 32 Hung Vuong, Cam Pho Ward, is about 500m from the Hoi An coach station. It is dedicated to Confucius, Tien Thanh Monk and winners of Confucian examinations of the old times.
The structure evokes the Chinese character "Quoc". It faces south-southwest and its foundation is 1.5m above the ground. The temple has a front hall, then a large yard in the middle of the eastern and western houses leads to the main sanctuary. This sanctuary has three compartments and two lean-tos. It has a pan-tile roof and its floor is paved with Bat Trang bricks.
The whole structure was set up by local skilful carpenters and bricklayers. The structure of the rafters follows a tyle called chong ruong gia thu. Van Thanh Temple is a quite typical religious work in Hoi An, which expresses the spirit of encouraging everybody to learn and has many historic and cultural meanings.
Nam Dieu Temple
From Hoi An coach station, go along Huynh Thuc Khang Street, about 1,500m to the west, then turn to Cam Ha Market. The temple (in Hamlet 6, Cam Ha Commune) is about 500m from here.
The temple is dedicated to the Founding Father of the craft of making pottery and tiles. It is located at the heart of the pottery village of Thanh Ha, on a large open area surrounded by many brick and tile kilns.
Nam Dieu Temple comprises four small shrines. To Nghe (Founding Father) Temple and Thai Giam (Eunuch) Temple face south. Am Linh Temple also looks south but is a little back behind. Son Tinh Nhi Vi (Two Mountain Genies) Temple faces west-northwest. These temples all have pan-tile roofs.
Annually, it takes place two festivals to dedicate to village's Founding father, one in spring (the 10th day of the 1st lunar month) and the other in autumn (the 10th day of the 7th lunar month)
The cult of the whale plays an important part in the spiritual life of the fishermen living in the coastal area of Viet Nam. According to popular belief, the Genie- Whale once saved the fishermen caught by a storm. It is a Holy-Fish, an object of veneration to be worshipped.
Every time fishermen find a dead carcass of the Genie-Whale drifted ashore, they would build a tomb to be dedicated to it. The cult of the whale is not only specific to Hoi An; in the villages of Cam An, Cam Thanh, or Tan Hiep, one may find many tombs dedicated to this cult.
Most of these brick tombs date from the 19th century. They have some architectural features in common: configuration following the Chinese character "Dinh" (T), front ceremonial hall, back sanctuary, low vault, pan-tiles, and elaborate decor.
The Tomb of Tani Yajirobei, a Japanese merchant who died in 1647, the largest of this kind in Hoi An, serves as a reminder of the presence of the Japanese and their "Japanese Street" in this town.
The Tomb, which faces north-east, stands amid rice fields in the hamlet of Truong Le, Cam Chau Commune, 2km from the centre of the Old Town.
Atop this saddle-shaped tomb lies the stele inscribed with Japanese characters, which literally means "The Tomb of my father, a warrior Di Thu Lang Binh who was conferred the title of National Protector", and bears the restoration year of 1928.
Forty ancient tombs, which exclusively enrich the list of Hoi An's places of interest, are scattered in eight communes and wards. After a sightseeing tour of these tombs, one can decipher whether the people who rest in there were rich or poor, of the upper class or lower one.
Located in Hamlet 1, Cam Ha Commune, Hoi An City, it is one of the typical wells of the Cham people. Its design is very simple, but it makes us admire our ancestors for their excellent knowledge of geology, which helped them choose a place having good underground water springs for digging the well. Today, ancient wells in Hoi An are still being used as their water is plentiful, clean and fresh.
The well's bottom is round. The diameter of its outer belt is 100cm and its stone wall is 10cm thick. Outside the wall are four stone columns set up in four directions, and the well is surrounded by a small rectangular yard.
Ba Le Well
Also called Kiet Well, it is one of the most famous ancient wells of the Cham people in Hoi An. It was dug in around the 10th century. Its mouth is square. The well's clear water is a water source for daily use of the families nearby. It is a very special thing that only the water of this well can be used for preparing Hoi An speciality of coo lau noodles. Ba Le Well is situated in the garden of Mr. Ba Lo Le, about ten meters from Kiet Gieng Lane (which links Phan Chu Trinh Street and Tran Hung Dao Street).
Hoi An Museum of History and Culture
Located at 7 Nguyen Hue Street and built in 1989, the building used as the museum today is the former Ba Pagoda, contains 212 exhibits and documents concerning the formation and development of Hoi An. The exhibits include pottery, ceramics, bronze, iron, paper, wood and so on, which are classified into three eras: prehistory, Champa period and Dai Viet period. These phases correspond to Sa Huynh Culture (before the 2nd centuries AD), Champa culture (the 2nd-15th centuries AD) and Dai Viet, Dai Nam Culture (the 16th-19th centuries) respectively. In the development process, Dai Viet is prominently highlighted as a bright period in the historical path of Viet Nam.
The documents displayed here constitute a numerous and diverse cultural treasure that testifies the formation and development of Hoi An through the great creativity of many generations of local residents.
Visiting Hoi An Museum of History and Culture is also a chance for visitors to explore more interesting things about this land; for instance, the history of Tran Phu Street, the oldest street of Hoi An, the folk meaning and conception of the "eyes" on the doors of ancient houses and of the spiral carved patterns "De leaf" "Yin and Yang", and many others.
Museum of Trade Ceramics
The museum, at 80 Tran Phu Street, was opened in 1995 and now displays 430 pottery exhibits that date back from the 8th to 18th centuries. Most of them come from Middle-East, India, China, Japan Thailand and Viet Nam. Among them, some antiques were picked up from a wrecked ship in the sea in 1933. Others were collected by archaeologists in the excavations carried out at the sites of Hoi An. They are the pottery of the Chinese Tang Dynasty (the 7th-10th centuries), of Middle-East countries in the 9th-10th centuries and of Viet Nam in the 15th century.
The museum is a precious material treasure, which helps confirm the important role of Hoi An Trade Port in trading transactions, which had an immense influence on the economic and socio-cultural development of the town.
Museum of Sa Huynh Culture
The museum was constructed in 1995 at 149 Tran Phu Street. It displays 216 exhibits of Sa Huynh culture, which were found in Hoi An and dates back to 2,000 years ago. They are terra-cotta jars that were found by archaeologists in their excavations between 1989 and 1994, at such sites as Hau Xa, Thanh Chiem, An Bang and Xuan Lam.
These jars are about lm high and were used to keep ashes of cremated human bodies, and their possessions to be burnt with them, such as jewellery or weapons.
Besides, in this museum are also displayed various tools for production, hunting and fishing, as well as jewellery. The museum is the most interesting collection of Sa Huynh cultural objects in Viet Nam, and a treasure of precious materials concerning the ancient inhabitants of this civilisation.
Cua Dai Beach
Four kilometres east of Hoi An centre, in the area of Cam An Ward stretches the Cua Dai Beach, over 3km in length and up to 300m in width. The beach boasts fine white sand, clear and blue water, moderate slopes and small waves, which make it ideal for recreational activities like swimming and other sea sports.
In the shady palm-lined road bordering the beach stand some large seaside resorts such as Hoi An Beach Resort or Victoria Resort, where lodgings built in Vietnamese traditional style are available. On summer holidays, the famous beach of Cua Dai cools off those heading to Hoi An.
Cu Lao Cham (Cham Islands)
The Cu Lao Cham bobs up and down approximately 20km from Hoi An Town. Covering an area of 15km2, this archipelago includes seven islands with evocative names: Hon Lao (Hon Ong), the largest and most populous; Hon Kho Me, Hon Kho Con, so called because of their arid soil; Hon Tai having an ear-shaped figure; Hon Dai, resembling a wave; Hon La, that of a boat and Hon Mo, the shape of a tomb. Three mountains rise from Cu Lao Cham: Ngoa Long, Bat Long and Tiem But. Cu Lao Cham has been listed in the World Network of Biosphere Reserves of UNESCO since 2009.
According to archaeologists, Cham islanders first settled there 3,000 years ago and established business contacts with external countries some 1,000 years ago. Up to now, Cu Lao Cham has preserved many architectural constructions which date back to the 18th-20th centuries. They include the shrine dedicated to Than Yen Sao, built in 1843 at Bai Huong, and Hai Tang Pagoda, built in 1753 on the western hillside of Hon Lao.
Still, Cu Lao Cham has more to offer. After a 20-minute canoe trip, one may hop over to the famed well of the Cham people. Situated in a salty-water area, this square-bottom well, amazingly, provides clear fresh water all year round.
Enjoyable extras include white-sand, pristine beaches and captivating attractions evocatively named Bai Ong, Bai Bim, Bai Chong, Bai Bac, Suoi Tinh, Cau Mo, Suoi Ong, and so on, where tourists can relax, swimming or diving for admiration of coral, fishing - even fishing octopuses. Travellers also have chances to view the sea swallows' nests clinging to the towering cliff. Cu Lao Cham wins kudos for its seafood and delicacies (octopuses, lobsters, fish's fin, abalone, kaki, hind, cholo- nia's eggs, birds' nests, etc.) and fascinating souvenirs (pearls, conches, tortoise-shells, etc.).
Kim Bong Carpenter Village
Kim Bong Carpenter Village is located in Cam Kim Commune, Hoi An City. The carpentry of this village originates from North Viet Nam, and has long been famous with its arts of wood carving and sculpture.
Through contact and exchange with artisans of the same trade from Thailand, China, Japan and so on, combined with their own skills; these Kim Bong carpenters have created pieces of work which have normally great meaning in philosophy and fine arts. Products made here have been marketed in domestic as well as oversea markets.
Thanh Ha Pottery Village
Thanh Ha Pottery Village is located in Thanh Ha Ward, Hoi An City. Having its origins from Thanh Hoa Province, the pottery-making profession In Thanh Ha Village absorbed some techniques, original in Quang Nam Province and hence their products have become different from all the others in Viet Nam, though also based on clay with manual manipulation and kiln heat.
The originality of their products resides in the color, durability, lightness and decoration. For generations and in a silence, the village has contributed to the society key items for daily use like cups, bowls, pots, jars, flower-pots...
Depending on the time of burning and the temperature of kiln, the color can be changed from pink, pink yellow to red, light brown and ink-black. Thanks to the special technique of processing soil and the combination of successive manipulations, the durability of their products is nearly at the top rank compared to the others in the country and the brightness is same like enamel.
Also, this pottery is lighter than the others. Especially, a soft and clear sound with echo can be heard by knocking on the product. Some products are offered on request or used for planting orchids, pot plants; they are decorated with the sink and float vignettes that are simple but very nice.
Thanh Ha Pottery craftsmen had ever been invited by the Court of Nguyen Dynasty in Hue to create special products for activities of the imperial palace. The same as Kim Bong wood craftsmen, they were put at the eight or nine grades of mandarin system. In the recent some decades, Thanh Ha pottery has still been sold throughout the country and sometimes abroad (Canada, America, France).
Besides the pottery work, Thanh Ha Village is also famous for bricks and tiles. So far, it has ever supplied double, zigzag and tubular tiles for the old architectural constructions, of which the Hoi An Ancient City with the restoration and embellishment of places of historical interest.
Lantern work in Hoi An
Hoi An lantern is various size and shape, from normal lantern to dragon lantern or fish lantern with full of color. Hoi An people highly pride on their lantern. It is very simple and easy to do only with hard- work. In past, there was no "night of ancient city".
In past and now, when mention to Hoi An trade villages, it is always said to Thanh Ha pottery, Kim Bong carpenter villages, hardly to the lantern work. Years recently, Hoi An lantern work has developed greatly because out of the rules of town committee all families light lantern in Hoi An Legendery Night ( the 14th day of every lunar month calendar) and tourists buy a lantern as a souvenir.
There are about 30 families working
lantern in Hoi An. They have to use the old bamboo soaking ten-day in salt water against wormhole and moth then drying it and sharpening it as the size of lantern. Cloth must be silken or nylon cloth, enough toughs for stretching and stretching worker need good technique to do it. To be done a couple of lantern requires 4-work day and 3 decorative works. The recurrent night of ancient town, holidays, with multi-color lantern on very roads. It makes everybody feel a happier nd more lovely Hoi An.
Hoi An Legendary Night
The Hoi An Legendary Night held on the night of the 14th day of every lunar month is a unique activity of Hoi An. It took place for the first time in the Mid-Autumn Festival of the year 1998.
In the Hoi An Legendary Night, all the electric lights are switched off from 18h30 to 21h00 and replaced by shimmering light of lanterns with various colours and styles. Many specific traditional culture activities are also held such as bai choi singing; boi singing; performances of fishermen and Quang Nam folksongs, classical music, traditional musical instrument, paper-lantern festival on the river, traditional poem recitation, extempore composition of Tang poems, calligraphy, Chinese chess, gastronomy market, martial arts performance, folk games..
Tra Que Vegetable Village
Tra Que Village is located in Cam Ha Commune, from the centre of Hoi An Ancient Town about 3km. It has been famous for a long time with high-quality fresh vegetables.
Tra Que villagers specialize in planting kinds of vegetables such as lettuce, water spinach, cabbage... and many kinds of herbs such as basil, coriander, fish lettuce... Tra Que vegetables are very popular, many tons of vegetables are provided for people in Quang Nam Province and Da Nang City every day. Not only that, thanks to the special flavour, Tra Que vegetable has contributed to the popularity of cuisine in Hoi An and Quang Nam. Quang noodles, a typical food dish of Quang Nam must eat with Tra Que village like as many other villages in Viet Nam, visitors will have opportunities to learn about the life of villagers and experience works of vegetable-growers.
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