The second home in Viet Nam

Chinese people in Viet Nam, known as Nguoi Hoa, constitute the largest single minority group in Viet Nam. Today, most Chinese live in and around Cho Lon in HCMC, Hoi An, or Ha Noi, although by far the greatest number of Chinese living in Viet Nam reside in Cho Lon.

Dragon Dance, a special culture of Chinese Community. (Photo: T.L)

Cho Lon is a bustling commercial center in HCMC with more than half a million Chinese Vietnamese. Cho Lon became a prominent area for Chinese at the end of the 18th century when the Ming Dyanasty in China was overthrown. Many Chinese faithful to the Ming Dynasty came here to escape persecution.

The first Chinese immigrants into Viet Nam declared themselves as the Minh Huong, which means the people of the Ming Dynasty. They came mainly from the maritime provinces in the southern parts of China. The Cantonese and Fujian arrived first, followed later by the Chaozhou, the Hainan, and the Hakka. Once in Viet Nam, the Chinese set up themselves into communities, known as “congregations”. Major congregations in Viet Nam today include Cantonese, Fujian, Hainan, Chaozhou, and Hakka. Cantonese style cookery is a distinctive form that is highly appreciated around the globe. The Fujian, on the other hand, became successful merchants. Meanwhile, the Hainan are experienced fishermen and sailors because of their past proximity to the ocean. The Chaozhou rely on farming for subsistence and commercial purposes, while the Hakka have a rich tradition using Chinese traditional herbal medicines.

Thanks to the proximity of Viet Nam to China’s mainland, the Chinese Vietnamese have retained strong ties and greater affinity to traditional Chinese culture. Many different traditional Chinese festivals are practiced today in Viet Nam. The most popular and important one is the Chinese New Year celebration with the Dragon Dance. The Dragon Dance is believed to bring good luck throughout the year. The Chinese also celebrate the springtime Ching Ming festival which involves visits to the graves of the late family's members where offerings are made, incense sticks are burnt, and respects are paid. This occasion is a great time for the descendants to do something in commemoration of their ancestors.
In Cho Lon, there is an array of fantastic pagodas and temples dedicated to gods and goddesses from ancient Chinese mythology. The Thien Hau Temple, also known as the “Goddess of the Sea”, located at 710 Nguyen Trai Street, District 5, was built by the Cantonese congregation over 200 years ago, and is a popular pagoda . Many sailors, fishermen, and travelers pray to Thien Hau for safety at sea.

Thien Hau Temple in District 5. (Photo: T.L)

Another temple frequently visited by the Chinese is the Kuan Kung Temple at 678 Nguyen Trai Street, Disrict 5. This temple was built by the Chaozhou congregation in China Town and dedicated to Kuan Kung, known as the God of the War, a famous figure during the period of the Three Kingdoms in ancient China (around AD 220- AD 265).

Commercial activities by Chinese Vietnamese are today blooming everywhere, as they are very resourceful and resilient people. The Chinese traditionally set up markets wherever they settled. In Cho Lon, the Binh Tay Market was built in 1928. Today, the market is used primarily for wholesale, although throngs of people from early morning until late day cram onto the narrow walkways looking for consumer items and exotic foodstuffs. After seven decades in operation, the Binh Tay Market still looks beautiful and remains one of the busiest markets in HCMC.

For generations, the Chinese Vietnamese have focused on the pursuit of a happy existence. Happiness as defined by the Chinese must include the five integral elements: PHU (wealth), QUY (nobility), THO (longevity), KHUONG (good health) and NINH (security). It is in Viet Nam that many Chinese people have found a happy life and now consider Viet Nam as their beloved second home.

By Martin Pham

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