Market in Hanoi: a market with a past
December 19 market in Hanoi Vietnam is smaller than other markets in the city but it’s very well stocked with fresh vegetables and fruit of high quality plus it’s steeped in history.
According to Phan Khanh, the Vice Chairman of Thang Long-Hanoi Association of Cultural Heritages Preservation, during the war against the US the market was a simple place of trade, which started after some sellers moved from Hang Da and Hang Be markets to avoid bombing. It was dubbed Am Phu (which means the Underworld, like Hades) at the time.
During the resistance war against the French colonialists in 1946 the small market was located along a short street next to Hanoi’s Supreme Court that connected Ly Thuong Kiet with Hai Ba Trung street Hanoi Vietnam.
Under French colonial rule the street was first known as Rue Simoni, the name of the French officer, who was appointed Resident Superior in the North of Vietnam during 1909-1912, then it became Le Chan street in 1945-1946.
In 1946-1947, at the height of the fighting between the resistance movement and French regime, the street was home to a tomb for the people who died in places around Hang Bong street and Cua Nam crossroads.
Over the years the market has became more popular and officially became Cho 19/12 in 1982. This auspicious date is when the War of Resistance against the colonial French officially started, led of course by then President Ho Chi Minh. In 1986, remains of the dead people were removed to another cemetery. The street since then has also been named December 19 street to mark the national war of resistance against the French colonialists and as a tribute to the people who died during the war.
But, despite the grim history, today the market is just a typical place. Perhaps not of interest for foreigners shopping for their Sunday roast, the market is famous for its dog meat! About 500-1,000kg of dog meat arrives at the market every day.
Aware of the history beneath their feet, if you visit the market, you will see vendors burning incense all day long in the hope that the dead people once buried at the market will bless them.
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