2. Residential area of Hanoi in the 19th century
The deterioration of the Hanoi citadel during the 19th century influenced the condition of the whole city. The southern and northern areas were again sparsely inhabited. The western area became even more thinly populated. However, the eastern commercial and handicraft center, which then expanded to the Sword Lake area, was still prosperous and even crowded.
A journalist from Le Courrier de Saigon wrote articles about Hanoi during the 19th century. Extracts were quoted by Luro and Silvestre. “Although Hanoi is no longer a residential place for royalty, it is still the leading city of the country in terms of art, skills, commerce, wealth, population, courtesy and education. It must be said that nowhere in the country including the north and south exceeds this city in handicrafts. Hanoi is the place where writers, poets, highly skilled workers, and merchants gather from all parts of the country. It is the place where they manufacture essential goods and luxury cosmetics. In brief, it is the heart of the country.” (182:27, 211:28) Under the Gia Long reign in 1805, Thang Long was changed into Hoai Due Prefecture which included the two districts of Tho Xuong and Vinh Thuan (formerly Quang Due district) and was governed by two mandarins. Tho Xuong was about the same size as present-day Hoan Kiem and Hai Ba Trung districts combined, and Vinh Thuan was about the size as modem Ba Dinh and Dong Da districts combined. All of these areas, including some cantons of Tu Liem district, make up modern-day Hanoi. Tho Xuong was divided into 194 wards and villages under the eight cantons of Hau Tuc, Thien Tuc, Ta Tuc, Hau Tuc, Hau Nghiem, Tien Nghiem, Ta Nghiem, and Huu Nghiêm. Vinh Thuan district was divided into 56 wards and villages under five cantons: Yen Thanh, Tong Thuong, Tong Trung, Tong Noi, and Tong Ha.
In 1831 Minh Mang ordered a reorganization of the country’s administrative units. The Northern Citadel was abolished, thus destroying the prestige role of Thang Long as a capital city. The newly created Hanoi Province comprised not only Hoai Due Prefecture with its two districts of Tho Xuong and Vinh Thuan, but also four other prefectures of Hoai Due, Thuong Tin, ưng Hoa, Ly Nhan and 15 districts. Hoai Due Prefecture included Tu Liem district, which formerly belonged to Quoc Oai in the Son Tay region. (7-X:353) An administrator governed both Hanoi and Ninh Binh Provinces which when considered together were called Ha Ninh. (7- X:374)
In late 1832 Hoai Due Prefecture was reorganized and a new chief was appointed to govern both Tho Xuong and Vinh Thuan. (7-XL8) Formerly the headquarters of Tho Xuong district was situated in the southeast actually outside of the citadel but in 1842 it was moved to Tien Thi village, Thuan My canton (i.e., Ly Quoc Su Street today). (6:III:166) This is the description of the Frenchman, Jean Dupuis whose troops destroyed this district on October 1, 1873. “The head office of Tho Xuong district is just at the beginning section of the commercial city, a short distance from Cua Nam. It is a type of military post which is defended by a wall and a small trench surrounding it. Inside, there were the district office, houses of the staff and servants, a law court and prisons. All are surrounded by gardens.” (160:152)
During the administrative reorganization of 1831, the cantons of Tho Xuong and Vinh Thuan districts maintained basically the same number and the name as during Emperor Gia Long’s reign. But in late Minh Mang period (1838-1840) the names of Tho Xuong cantons were changed. The new name for the cantons of Tho Xuong were: Dong Xuan, (former Hau Tuc, Thuan My (Tien Tuc), Phuc Lam (Ta Tuc), Dong Tho (Huu Tuc), Thanh Nhan (Hau Nghiem), Vinh Xuong (Tien Nghiem), Kim Liem (Ta Nghiem) and Yen Hoa (Huu Nghiem.) The number of wards and villages of the two districts were also changed; some small villages were merged. Thus, the number of wards and villages of the two provinces decreased. Tho Xuong had 116 wards, or 78 fewer than it had previously. Vinh Thuan had 27 wards or 29 fewer wards. The names of these wards and villages were recorded in several geographical description books. In the first year of Emperor Tu Due’s reign during the process of reduction of the mandarin staff (streamlining) the positions of chief of Vinh Thuan and Tho Xuong districts were under the administration of a single mandarin. All the territory within modern-day Hanoi nowadays was under the domination of a single mandarin: the Tho Xuong District Chief. The administrative situation of Hanoi was basically stable until the French colonialists invaded. In 1888 they forced the Nguyen Court to hand Hanoi over them. In the 19th century most people lived in the commercial-handicraft area, between the citadel wall and the Red River bank. This area was shaped like a triangle. The peak is the southeast citadel corner and its base is three kilometers along the Red River bank. Each of the other two sides was 2.5 kilometers long. (181:8) One side of the triangle was the eastern wall of the citadel, the other side of it ran from the north of Sword Lake to the Red River equivalent to Hang Bong, Hang Gai, Cau Go, and Lo Su Streets today. In this area today -referred to as the “Old Quarter”- guilds and markets were concentrated. A Book on Unified Dai Nam states, “The city [Hanoi] attracts industry, commerce, even Chinese people, luxurious habits and customs. In the southeast of the city, there are 21 streets with contiguous houses and plenty of commodities.” (6-III:165-189) French authors estimated from 100,000 to 150,000 inhabitants when they began their invasion.
Boissiere cited Luro’s description of commercial streets of Hanoi in 1870, “The inhabitants are crowded and they live mainly in straw-roofed houses. Commercial activities are much more bustling and lively on the Red River bank or on canal banks. As for houses, some are built on land and some are built half over the land and half over the river bed, that is, houses on stilts.” (136:202) Henri Riviere, who came to Hanoi in 1883 wrote, “This is a place full of people on top of people.” (187:131)
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