Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Vietnam: The History of Ho Chi Minh City

I believe that you can develop a better appreciation of the present with a proper understanding of the past. Therefore, I have set out a brief history of Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) to help you better appreciate the amazing city that is today.

HCMC has certainly come a long way, in both name and culture, from its original beginning as a small fishing village, to the bustling metropolitan city that it is today. Originally inhabited by the Khmer people for centuries, ruled by the Vietnamese, and then conquered by the French in 1859, HCMC has a many cultural influences. HCMC was originally named Prey Nokor, which roughly means “god” or “heavenly” in Khmer. After Prey Nokor was settled by Vietnamese refugees from the north, the name was changed to Saigon.

Port of Saigon circa 1862

From 1859 to 1954, the French ruled HCMC. In 1954, the French were defeated by the Communist Viet Minh in the Battle of Điện Biên Phủ, and withdrew from Vietnam. Rather than recognizing the Communists as the new government, they gave their backing to a government established by Emperor Bảo Đại. Bảo Đại had set up Saigon as his capital in 1950.

At the conclusion of the American/Vietnam War on April 30, 1975, the city of Saigon came under control of the Vietnam People’s Army. American’s typically know this as the “Fall of Saigon.”

President Ho Chi Minh

In 1976, upon the establishment of the unified communist Socialist Republic of Vietnam, the city of Saigon, the province of Gia Ðịnh, and 2 suburban districts of two other nearby provinces were combined to create Hồ Chí Minh City in honour of the late communist leader Hồ Chí Minh. The former name Saigon is still widely used by many Vietnamese, especially in informal contexts.