Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam is an enchanting city with a wonderful and fascinating history. Below is a brief history of Pre-Colonial Hanoi Vietnam.
The city of Hanoi is built on the foundations of a small district originally known as Long Do. The village community in Long Do, known as Long Bien appears to have been established as early as the third century CE. However, its early history has largely passed it by and there is much we do not know.
At the beginning of the eighth century CE a general named Lu Yu visited Long Do. He fell in love with the beauty of the area around the village An Vien (near Long Do) and established his headquarters there. He built a shrine to the Emperor Hsuan Tsung, put up an inscribed tablet and built a shrine to honour the local earth god. This shrine includes a poem emphasizing the beauty of this region.
The origins of Hanoi as a great city are due to Ly Cong Uan. He was a temple orphan who quickly rose through the ranks of the palace guards to become their commander. In 1010, four years after the death of King Le Hoan, Ly Cong Uan was proclaimed king. This marks the beginning of the 200 year Ly Dynasty. He then moved the capital to Da La and renamed it Thang Long (meaning ‘Soaring Dragon’).
Thang Long stayed the capital during the Ly Dynasty. The heart of the city lay within the king’s sanctuary in the Forbidden City (Cam Thanh). The people drew both spiritual and physical protection from the close proximity to the king. A city of commoners built their homes around the walls of Cam Thanh. The kings of the Ly Dynasty established a Buddhist monarchical tradition here, like other courts in Asia. They also established a number of pagodas. However, most have long since vanished, apart from the One Pillar Pagoda and the Tran Vu Temple, which date this period.
Thang Long was renamed Tay Do (Western Capital) in 1400 when the Ho Dynasty (1400 – 1407) was established. The Ho kings moved the capital to Thanh Hoa but then power shifted back to Thang Long. It was then renamed Dong Kinh (Eastern Capital).
It is from this name that the French took their name for the city, Tonkin.
From 1786 to 1802 Dong Kinh was known as Bac Thanh (Northern Citadel) when Quang Trung established his capital in Hue. The present day name of Hanoi dates back to 1831 when the Nguyen Emperor Tu Duc (1847 – 83) declared it the capital of Hanoi province.
A few short decades later the French started to expand into the country when the Red River become an alternative trade route to that of the Mekong. The French would then seize the country and become the power behind the throne, becoming an established force in the country in what is commonly referred to as the colonial period.
The pre-colonial period in Vietnam is sadly overshadowed by the better-known histories of Thailand, China and Japan. Yet, the Vietnamese people enjoy a heritage and culture that is just as rich as its Asian neighbours, making it a truly incredible journey through time. Hope you enjoyed this article and its insights into the history of Pre-Colonial Hanoi Vietnam.