Cholon and its origins (Vietnam)
Located west of the city center, Cholon is Ho Chi Minh City’s historic Chinatown.
It is quite a big area as it includes District 5, District 6 and a part of District 10 and District 11.
Here is a bit of history to remind us how Cholon was born. The first Chinese settlement established there in the second half of the 17th century, after the fall of the Ming Dynasty in China, by the people who remained loyal to the fallen emperor and exiled to Vietnam.
Then, later during the 18th century, a second wave of Chinese immigration arrived to Cholon, as a consequence of the demographic pressure in China. The communities organized themselves in “bangs” or “community groups”, based on their respective dialects and regions of origin.
In the late 18th century, the Chinese settlement was destroyed when the Tay Son rebel army captured the city of Gia Dinh (actual Saigon). The survivors had to rebuild the town and took this opportunity to improve the waterway system by building high embankments and wharves along the river. The settlement then took the name of “Tai Ngon” (embankment).
It grew and became a bustling center of commerce. Chinese merchants started to trade a larger variety of goods such as building materials, opium, alcohol, tobacco.
However, in the 1820’s, citizens of Chinese origins saw their privileges abolished by emperor Minh Quang who distrusted the Chinese.
In 1859, the French invaded Vietnam and started naming “Saigon” the administrative center located in today’s District 1, while the Chinese settlement became known as “Cho Lon”, literally meaning “Big market”.
The Chinese community sought the French’s protection and, thanks to their support, could resume trading as they did before Minh Quang’s reign.
In the 1930’s Cholon was a real “suburb” of Saigon and they started to merge together.
Cholon got pretty much destroyed during the American War. However it has kept its reputation of frantic trading hub and has become one of the largest Chinese communities outside China. It is also a city within the city, with its own culture, customs and beliefs.
Nowadays, many of Cholon’s historic shopfronts are progressively disappearing under advertising hoardings or new building constructions. However, you can still recall the old Chinese city when you have a stroll along the traditional herb shops on the streets Lương Như Hộc and Triệu Quang Phục or if you go and visit the beautiful ancient pagodas & temples of the neighborhood: Bà Thiên Hậu temple, Tue Thanh Assembly hall, Ha Chuong pagoda and Quan Âm pagoda just to name a few of them…
Cholon is still a fascinating area to visit to get out of the neat environment of District 1.
To dive into Cholon’s typical atmosphere and hidden alleyways in an innovative way, do not miss our interactive walking tour in District 5!