Thăng Long muôn thưở
As indicated by its name Hà Nội means « The city on this side of the river » (Hà means river, Nội means inside). Contrary to other cities in Vietnam, Hanoï has a long agitated history. Its destiny is that of the Vietnamese people. It experienced a long period of disgrace when Nguyễn Ánh arrived at founding the Nguyen dynasty in 1802 after 20 years of fighting the Tây Sơn and decided to transfer the capital to Huế (or Phú Xuân). It witnessed several decisive battles in the reclaim of independence, in particular the Đống Đa battle run by Emperor Quang Trung in 1789. Thanks to the blitzkrieg upon Chinese troops of Qing, and to Quang Trung’s scheme to choose the date of the Vietnamese new year to surprise the Chinese enemy, Hanoï was thus liberated as well as Vietnam. It was also chosen by Hồ Chí Minh to proclaim Vietnam’s independence on September 2, 1945 at Ba Đình Square.
It was also on one of its lakes under the name of Hồ Gươm where Lê Lợi, future king Lê Thái Tổ, after his victory over the Ming, according to a Vietnamese legend, returned his magic sword to a golden tortoise which gave him this sword during a walk. Thanks to this sword, Lê Lợi succeeded in chasing Chinese troops of Ming out of Viet Nam after 10 years of fighting a guerilla warfare. That is why the lake is known as « Lake of Returned Sword » (or Hồ Hoàn Kiếm).
It was also at Hanoï that the unique one-pillar pagoda (Chùa Một Cột) was erected in 1049 by king Lý Thái Tông on a strong wooden pillar in the style of ancient temples of ancestors. According to legend, the king afflicted by not having a descendant, saw in his dream Quan Âm, the Goddess of Compassion. Sitting on a lotus flower, she gave him a son. Shortly after that, a young country girl that he made favorite, gave him an heir. In witness of his gratitude, he had this pagoda erected in the middle of a pond of lotus flowers.
Because of its proximity to the Red river, every year Hà Nội is victim of floodings caused by the cresting of this river and by violent monsoon rain and typhoons.
In spite of that, Hà Nội continues to remain the capital of a unified Vietnam. No one dares to contest the political and cultural heritage it has left to the Vietnamese people. It represents not only for the majority of Vietnamese the symbol of national unity but also the pride of a people of peasants who know how to valiantly resist the changes of nature and the ambitions of invaders.
Hànội vắng những cơn mưa
Saxophoniste Quyền Văn Minh
Thăng Long muôn thưở
Before becoming the capital city of Việt-Nam, Hà Nội was the seat of the Chinese administration in 607 and bore the name of « Tống Bình« . In 866, this seat was surrounded by the wall of Ðại La whose some vestiges still exist. It was chosen by the founder of the Lý dynasty, king Lý’ Công Uẩn, in 1010 as a new capital of Vietnam at the place of Hoa Lư.
According to legend, in his dream the king saw a golden dragon flying over that locality. That is why Hà Nội was called at that time « Thăng Long » (ascending dragon)« .
This site was deemed favorable in comparison with other sites because it is located between « hà » and « sơn », waters and mountains, in the middle of rice paddies and protected from flooding by dikes. In 15th century, Hà Nội took the name of Ðông Kinh. Then it retook the name of Thăng Long until the transfer of the royal residence to Huế. Next, it took the name of Thành Tích then Bắc Thành before becoming Hà Nội only in 1931. It became the capital of North Viet-Nam after the Geneva Accord in 1954 and since the events of 1975, the capital of reunified Viet-Nam.
Hà Nội covers 913km2. Its interior (or nội thành 40km2) is divided into four urban districts (or Quận): Quận Hoàn Kiếm, Quận Hai Bà Trưng, Quận Ðống Ða, and Quận Ba Ðình. It also includes six suburban districts (or Huyện) and several villages located within its limits.
One finds the soul of Hà Nội through its old city. Poetess Bà Huyện Thanh Quan, a poetess of 19th century evoked it in one of her works.
What retains the most in that old city are the 36 streets that are often known as Hàng (or merchendise in English). There, each cratfsman makes his specialty object and each street was baptized following the craft that was practiced there: street of Silk, street of Drums, street of Potteries etc… Novelist Thạch Lam talked about it in his novel « Hà Nội, 36 Phố Phường« . Hà Nội is also the Vietnamese city which keeps more colonial traits compared to other cities. It can be said that it is the conformed copy of a French town in the structure of Arcachon, with its governor’s palace, opera house, post office and park. The bridge Long Biên (or Paul Doumer) recalls not only the first work of art of French builders on the Red river in 1902 but also the traces of American bombings during the Vietnam War.
In spite of that, Hanoï, from the past few years begins to change its face and look. Constructions have been multiplied at such a rhythm that there is not one square meter unoccupied. It tries to catch up with its late economy and to fill in the incoming vacuum left by the return of Hong Kong to China.