A peak at the past: Night-time economy in pre-modern Hanoi

The night economic activities first arose in Thang Long at the end of the 13th century, but it was not until the 18th and 19th centuries that such activities were practically observed.

A peak at the past: Night-time economy in pre-modern Hanoi

  Illustration of Thang Long by Nguyen Thanh Phong, licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

In 1010, when Emperor Ly Thai To relocated the capital from Hoa Lu in the northern province of Ninh Binh to Thang Long (now Hanoi), the move heralded a new period in the country's development.

Under the Ly Dynasty (1009-1225), Thang Long was streamlined into 61 wards. Thanks to the open-door policy, Thang Long Citadel had jewellery and silk weaving stores. The Ly also opened Tay Nhai Market (now today's Ngoc Ha Market) and Cua Dong Market, which played an important role in connecting with the Forbidden City and the Imperial City.

However, Thang Long still depended on agricultural production and farmers worked in the fields early from the morning and went to bed early, so there was no evening activity in the citadel during this period.

Entering the Tran Dynasty (1225-1400), the socio-economic development witnessed progresses and several evening activities were practiced in Thang Long. According to ‘Dai Viet Su Ky Toan Thu’ (Complete History of the Great Viet), some trading and entertainment activities were held in the evening under the reign of Emperor Tran Anh Tong (1293 - 1314).

“Every night the Emperor rode in royal palanquin accompanied by imperial guards to travel around the city until early in the morning when the roosters came back” it wrote. These records show that "night economy" activities arose in Thang Long during the reign of Emperor Tran Anh Tong.

Thang Long witnessed significant change in the Early Le Dynasty (1428–1527) when the citadel was divided into 36 wards. Encouraging the spread of Confucianism, the Imperial court restricted people for foreign trade, main focused on agriculture rather than industry and trade. Thus, no night-time activities were observed during the historical period.

A peak at the past: Night-time economy in pre-modern Hanoi

  Map of Thang Long in the 15th century

The situation was much improved in the Le Trung Hung era (1533 - 1789) when the Khan Xuan night market (now part of the Presidential Palace area and Botanical Garden) was opened.

Lord Trinh Giang (1729 - 1740) ordered a palace to be built there to stay in during the summer. He also ordered court servants and imperial maids to deliver performances at the market when night fell. The night market was served as an entertainment place for the royal family only and ordinary people were not allowed to enter it; therefore, it brought no economic value to the society.

Following the Le Trung Hung era, many singing troupes were established in Hoe Nhai District, which were mention in a poem by scholar Ninh Ton (1743-1795). Ca tru (ceremonial singing) troupes had formed in Thang Long centuries before and they were invited to perform at festivals, weddings and celebrations in the citadel.

 
A peak at the past: Night-time economy in pre-modern Hanoi

  Entertainers in the past

The establishment of singing clubs, which operated overnight on Hoe Nhai Street, resulted from the performers’ need to increase their incomes as well as the entertainment demands of men in the olden days. The birth of such clubs also brought about the opening of overnight food courts and horse transport services.

Other popular entertainment place in Thang Long in the second half of the 18th century were pubs in Vong Thi (now in Buoi Ward). At that time, Vong Thi was the flower-growing land, which was located near Thuy Chuong Ward (now Thuy Khue) - a famous place famous for making wine from lotus.

Every night, people flocked to pubs in Vong Thi to taste fragment lotus wine, enjoy charming melodies and admiring beauties as told in a poem by scholar Nguyen Huy Luong (1750-1808).

At the end of the 19th century, Hoe Nhai Street became cramped with the increasing number of singing troupes, so many of them left for Hang Giay Street and operated there for 30 years before moving to Thai Ha Street and then Kham Thien Streets.

The night economic activities first arose in Thang Long at the end of the 13th century, but it was not until the 18th and 19th centuries that such activities were practically observed.

A peak at the past: Night-time economy in pre-modern Hanoi

  Hanoi in the late 19th century

These activities had become more vibrant in Hanoi since 1888 under the rule of French colonialists. As the French government in Indochina allowed the consumption and smoking of opium, as well as the opening of European-style brothels and pubs, these places operated 24/24 hours, which resulted in the blooming of support services such as rickshaw riding, night food stores, shoe polishing, bus stations and train stations.

When the French Governor-General of Indochina announced the policy to develop international tourism in the region which considered tourism as a driving force for economic growth, night entertainment activities became even more diversified.

In his article, celebrated author Vu Bang (1913-1984) wrote that in the 1930s and 1940s, writers came to Kham Thien Street not only to listen to ca tru but also seek new ideas for their articles and writing. Nhan Dan

Hanoi considers allowing overnight services to boost night-time economy

Hanoi considers allowing overnight services to boost night-time economy

Authorities in Hanoi are seeking feedback for a pilot scheme to allow recreational establishments in Hoan Kiem area to stay open past midnight.

 
 

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