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Located in the area of Hoan Kiem District, the ancient quarter is well-known as one of most famous tourist and historical spots in Hanoi. With a huge area of about 100 ha, the ancient quarter has the geometrical shape of triangle, of which has a peak named Hang Than street. This quarter includes two sides: eastern side by Red River damp, western side by the street of Hang Cot, Hang Dieu, Hang Da, and bases by the axis of Hang Bong – Hang Gai – Cau Go Street.
Several historians stated that the ancient quarter has a long history, about thousand years ago. They assessed that the quarter could appear right at the period when the earliest capital of Vietnam, Thang Long, was established a thousand year ago. However, they also claimed that majority of houses, which are currently located in the ancient quarte, just have very young age of about more than 100 years old.
Nowadays, there are very few houses which are still remaining the ancient value. Most of the appearance of the ancient houses are now changed unorganizedly and are destructing the ancient quarter’s special atmospheres. Therefore, it is very urgently required to take a plenty of great efforts in order to embellish and preserve this quarter.
To welcome the 990th anniversary of Thang Long – Hanoi, the government has chosen a part of the ancient quarter in Hanoi to conduct the project of embellishing the ancient houses. Of which there are two areas that are picked for this project, are 87 Ma May and 38 Hang Dao. Thanks to the good investment in maintaining, two above houses became a famous destination for tourists to visit and contemplate the beautiful features of the ancient architecture in Hanoi’s the ancient quarter.
The design of the ancient house in Hanoi is mostly like tube shape. They are typically narrow in width, about only of 2m. However, they can have long length of up to 60-70m. Because of caring about lacking of space and brightness, every house in this area has its own yard in order to get more light and fresh air.
In the early periods, citizens living in the ancient quarter used wood as the main material to build their houses. Nevertheless, during 100 recent years, people started using brick instead. Besides, they used the mixed mortar made from honey and leaves to form walls or stick tiles on slope roofs. The images of dragon or phoenix are popularly used to decorate on the window bars, doors and roof rafters and so on.
Most parts of the ancient house in 87 Ma May including the front and interior were assessed to have the age of 110 year olds. This street was originally a combination of two smaller streets: Hang May Street and Hang Ma Street. Hang May Street was named basing on the name of the material that made the goods sold popularly there, rattan. Hang Ma street is the where people can easily buy things for sacrifices to the dead people, which is mostly made from paper.
There were many businessmen living in this street. They came from inside and outside the country. In 1954, there were five families who identified themselves as the Chinese, arrived and lived there for a long time. Since the residents changed the original structure of the house, they also destructed the ancient architecture exiting for hundred years.
At the very first time, the ancient house in 38 Hang Dao was built to be used as a communal house of Dong Lac – a communal house of the former marketplace for silk brassieres under the Le dynasty in 17th century. However, this house was seriously damaged throughout many years of war later. It was not until 1856 (year of Binh Thin under the King Tu Duc reign) that the house was restored for the first time. And then, it was undergone a maintenance for the second time as a two-floor construction in 1941 (15th year of the King Bao Dai reign).
The family owner used the ground floor to make their business, and the first floor was designed to place their family altar. In 1953, it became a shop where sell miscellaneous goods. Then, during the period from February 2000 till April 2000, the house was rebuilt for the latest time.
Affected by the architecture of ancient pagodas and communal houses, most of doors of the houses in this ancient quarter have the same style that the middle door is pretty bigger and higher that the side ones. People believed that the central door was officially reserved for the nobles such as the royal family’s members, mandarins and officials. The mobs had to use the side ones. The sanctuary in the first floor was restored as its origin.
There are several differences in perspectives of the house in 38 Hang Dao. The vignettes carved in the handrails were preserved the same as the available original patterns. Nowadays, the house in 38 Hang Dao has become not only a famous tourist destination but the headquarters of the Management Unit of Hanoi’s ancient quarter. To get more information about the ancient streets and houses of Hanoi, you can visit this place for your convenience.
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