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Nation fetes Ha Noi’s Old Quarter

In the Old Quarter, a dragon dancing troupe performs in a newly-marked pedestrian street

Ha Noi’s Old Quarter was designated a National Historic Relic at a magnificent carnival around the capital’s Hoan Kiem lake last night.

At the function, Minister of Culture and Information Pham Quang Nghi awarded a certificate confirming the status to chairman of the Ha Noi People’s Committee, Nguyen Quoc Trieu.

Conferring the status on the Old Quarter is an acknowledgement of its architectural importance and history and serves to raise people’s awareness of its antiquity. The area consists of six wards – Hang Bac, Hang Buom, Hang Bo, Hang Ma, Cua Dong and Ly Thai To.

The occasion also served to raise the curtain on a series of cultural activities celebrating 50 years of the city’s liberation from the French – on October 10 – and to designate some pedestrians-only streets in the area.

The Old Quarter Culture Festival started with an incense offering ceremony at King Le’s statue on Le Thai To Street. Then, a procession of dragon and unicorn dancing troupes and traditional music bands performed around the lake.

Walking only

The newly-earmarked roads, for pedestrians only until December, are Hang Dao, Hang Ngang, Hang Duong and Dong Xuan. From 8pm every Friday, Saturday and Sunday, no vehicles will be allowed to enter them. Local officials have put up 76 stalls along these roads to sell traditional handicrafts and food and promote tourism.

People walking on these streets can see old architecture, visit the Cau Dong Pagoda, built in the 11th century, and Bach Ma (White House) Temple, one of four temples for the guardians protecting the Thang Long Citadel.

"We have a lot of things to do to improve the pedestrian route," Hoang Cong Khoi, chairman of Hoan Kiem District, where the Old Quarter is situated, admitted.

"We have to take care of infrastructure like drainage systems and ensure the quality of goods served in the stalls along the route."

Khoi said in future, if the model proved successful, the pedestrian zone would be expanded to the whole Old Quarter and areas surrounding Hoan Kiem Lake. The festival closed with prayers at the Bach Ma Temple, where the certificate will be kept.

Brief history

Hang Dao street is one of the oldest in the Thang Long citadel. Its residents used to trade in dyed cloth (dao refers to the colour red) until, at the beginning of the 20th century, they turned to silk and wool, prompting the French to call it Street of Silk.

Hang Ngang street was inhabited mostly by Cantonese that the French called it Cantonese Street. Hang Duong, or Sugar Street, used to be a place for sugar, jams and sweet shops.

Dong Xuan, a trading street, houses Dong Xuan market, one of Ha Noi’s biggest, built in 1890. It was also called Hang Gao, or Rice Street, during French times.

VNS - (05/10/2004)

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