3. The Residential Area (Continue)
In general, among Thang Long’s street and guild areas in the 17th and the 18th centuries, “The principal streets of this city are wide, though some are but narrow.” (150:38) “There were three streets, three dam long.” (143:315) “Some streets in Ke Cho were so large that ten or twelve horses could easily walk in a row.” (206:108)
Nevertheless, people did not take care of the sanitary condition of streets in Ke Clio’s residential area. “They are most of them paved, or patched rather, with small stones; but after a very ill manner. In the wet season, they are very dirty and in dry periods there are many smelly ponds and some ditches full of black stinking mud.” (150:38)
Perhaps it was during the 17th and 18th centuries, which guild gates appeared in Thang Long-Ke Cho streets. (They became more common in late 19th century.) These gates blocked the connection of one guild area to the other, and when closed at night they isolated each guild area. Article 69 of the Le Code stipulated that, “At night, in the capital, youngsters moving into different guild areas who pass through the gates of adjoining hamlets to attend performances of cheo and tuong [traditional folk theater] without torches will be fined under the law of nighttime vigilance.” (151)
William Dampier described guard posts in Ke Cho streets in the 17th century in more detail: “There every street is guarded with a strong guard as well as to keep silence, as to hinder any disorder. The watchmen are armed with staves, and stand in the street by the watch-houses to examine everyone that passeth by. There is also a rope stretched cross the street breast high. No man may pass by this place till he is examined, unless he will venture to be soundly bang’d by the watch.” (150:57)
In all areas of the capital except the eastern commercial area people lived in quite spacious surroundings. Each household had a garden, a yard, and a pond. (186:110) Article 226 of the Le Code stipulated:
“Residential and garden areas of high ranking mandarins and officers in the Imperial Court cannot exceed three man (one man = 3,600 square meters.) Areas for each grade of mandarin was stipulated differently. There were nine grades of mandarins. One is the highest and nine the lowest.
- First grade mandarin - 3 man
- Second grade - 2 man
- Third grade - 4 man
- Fourth grade - 5 sao (one sao =1/10 man)
- Fifth grade - 3 sao
- Sixth and Seventh - 2 sao
Eighth and ninth grade mandarins, people without title, were offered only one sao, that is, 360 square meters.
Men “in military camps that is military mandarins, were offered an area which was one grade smaller than those above mentioned. Anyone who possessed an area larger than the allowed area would be tried and had to suffer 50 strokes and
was demoted one grade from his previous position.” (151:140/20-11:68-69)
In the eastern commercial area, houses were much smaller. It was recorded in the book, About the Customs and Products of the Capital, “Ordinary people build their houses everywhere in the capital leaving no empty space. They even build houses on stilts on the water surface. Tourists from all over who are fond of the capital come here continuously.” (31)
Rows of houses faced the streets in an urban pattern. However, they were separate houses and most of them, roofed with thatch, including a garden, yards and ponds, were designed in rural style. The first western missionary, P. Baldinotti, coming to Thang Long in the 17th century, noted, “With the exception of the Royal Palace - where the buildings are tiled and constructed with carefully trimmed stones - most houses in the capital were built with reeds as big as wood, called bamboos. Those houses were roofed with straw and have no windows.” (126-77)
Alexander de Rhodes noted: “All houses in the capital were made of wood.” (206-179) Samuel Baron noted: “Two- thirds of the houses are made of wood, the rest are made of brick; among these are the stores of the foreign merchants, distinguishable amid a multitude of cabins built of bamboo and clay.” (128:12)
William Dampier, coming to Thang Long in 1688, estimated that: “There may be in Cachao about 20,000 houses...generally low, the walls are of mud, and the covering thatch, yet some are built with bricks and the covering with pan tile. Most of these houses have a yard or back-side belonging to them.” (150:36-37) G. F. Marini said that those houses were one-storied. (186:110) Richard estimated that one-third of houses in Ke Cho were brick. (208-1:37) G. Carreri remarked, “The king doesn’t allow his subjects to build high houses as he’s afraid that they can use the garret to make attempts on his life.” (143:312) This remark was made in accordance with height regulations which were written in verse and distributed by hand.
Those whose houses are nearby roads
are not allowed to build the garret facing the road.
If they need a place to store goods,
then it should not be as high as the mandarin’s sedan chair.
Typical houses in Hanoi in the 19th century were constricted in “tube-like” style with one story and a tiny garret. The front facade was very narrow. This type of house still exists around Hang Dao and Hang Bac Streets.
The majority of houses were roofed with straw, and “in the capital, they were densely located, so fire often occurs.” (35:23) Historians recorded that fires destroyed the capital in 1586, 1619, and 1631. In 1786, King Le Chieu Thong secretly ordered his men to set fire to the Trinh Lord’s palace. The fire spread over the entire capital. According to a September 3, 1786 letter of Blandin -living in Thang Long at that time- and now filed in the Foreign Affairs Archives, the fire ruined “two thirds of the capital.” (196:129)
That’s why all houses had to have a brick-lined nook somewhat like an oven to store valuables in case of fire. On the tops of the houses, residents stored jars of water and tools to extinguish fires, such as a long pole with a bucket to pour water upon the house. (150:37)
Baldinotti (1626) remarked: “In the capital, there are many big ponds and pools which help to extinguish the fire just after the houses caught fire. Many fires ruined as many as 5-6,000 houses but within four or five days, they are rebuilt.” (126:78) Alexander de Rhodes described a fire fighting scene in the capital: “Some elephants are taken to the burning house to knock them down because when the fire spreads out, it can spread to the whole capital. The elephants are skillful and quick. Following the signals of the elephant keeper, they raise their trunks to lift the roof of the burning house and push the walls down. They never act beyond the keeper’s orders.” (206:179-80)
Tags cho bài viết