When you travel on Hoian group tours, you will easily notice that a program of discovering ancient “community houses” in the town is attached as an intriguing part of the trip. What makes Hoian cultural tour become attractive to tourists from all over the world is not just the beauty of an ancient town but all the wonders hidden in every corner that you can find without losing so much effort. And “hội quán” or “community house” is an example. If you are ready to be mind-opened, follow us to discover what these must-see destinations in Hoian are.
1. The history of “community houses” in Hoi An
As most of you have been told about the history of Vietnam, our country was once under the savage and consistent domination of the Chinese for over 1000 years. This, as a result, has left dozens of consequences, including the cultural effect of the Chinese over ours. It is not hard for you to notice this in almost everything in our country including constructions such as Huế Citadel with Chinese style, or even our language is also profoundly affected. The fun fact is that, after the domination, as Vietnam and China “cool down” the heat in their relationship, a part of the Chinese come to Vietnam for living and of course, vice versa. However, the Chinese influence is undeniable.
The gorgeous Hoian in the purple shade
During the century of 16th and 17th, parts of the Chinese and Japanese came back to Vietnam post-war and afterward gradually built their own “community” there. And Hoian was also in the list of their “inhabitance”. Apparently, this is not something bad and it is not like that they were going to build another empire for the next invasion or something. There can be many reasons for this such as they enjoyed living in Vietnam more than their own countries due to several personal issues or the boom in the cultural integration in the Medival period that led to the immigration of massive parts of Chinese to other countries around the world.
The breathtaking beauty of Hoian at night
However, the most pre-eminent reason for this is that in the past, China used to be one of many developed countries with an excessively developmental and intensive sea-trading activity. In addition, Hoian at that time was a very famous seaport for trading in Vietnam and this apparently led to such massive influxes of Chinese to the city. Therefore, back to the track, it is this community of Chinese and Japanese, mostly Chinese, which immigrated here that led to the appearance of what you usually hear being introduced during Hoian day tours as “hội quán”.
The beauty of Hoian exposed in another angle
2. General features of ancient “community houses” in Hoi An
So the question is: What is “Hội Quán”? Basically, “hội quán” is like another “ancient version” of clubs that we see these days with similar organizing method and establishing purpose, except for the fact that there are somehow lots of things not in common. First of all, hội quán is created based on the idea that this is the community of the Chinese, where they can freely live and fully inherit the right that they own as being Chinese. Hội Quán in some ways is like a mini version of China in which the Chinese live a normal life amongst Vietnamese and are protected and guaranteed both mental and material life.
Dreamy Hoian by day
Secondly, a reason also derived from the first reason is the construction of these houses. In most Western countries, even developed Asian ones, “club” is a term regarded as where people with the same habits, hobbies or anything in common can come to have a chat or building plans and personal projects. Hội Quán is mostly nothing in common because it is not only a place where the Chinese come for fun to express their desire or emotion but also where their most basic daily activities take place. This is why most Hội Quán are built with the typical oriental architectural style of the Chinese in the expression of curved-roof buildings, which bears resemblance to Asian temples and the like. The design is not just planned to resemble Asian style but also to remind the Chinese of their hometown and make them feel like home.
The glowing lantern street at night
Despite having been under several reconstructions, these Hội Quán still own their unique designs and are all under the most restricted rules of the Chinese buildings. Each Hội Quán has a large entrance bearing resemblance to that of temples or shrines with curve roof and extraordinary oriental patterns such as stylized clouds, flowers, dragons, or “qílín” – the Southern Dragon. Behind the main gate is a big yard with trees and flowers planted, which is quite typical and can be seen in many movies about ancient China. On the two sides are shrines used to worship the Left-sided God and the Right-sided God, which are compulsory and very fundamental in Chinese house design. Going slightly farther is “phương đình” where ceremonial offerings usually take place and the main worshipping house, which is also the most magnificent construction of the whole house.
On your Hoian group tours, you will likely come across some ancient buildings covered outside with the most typical Chinese architectural style that you can ever find and they are all located along Trần Phú Street of Hoian. This makes them easier to be found despite whatever corner you are wandering to. The great thing about this is that it only takes you about an hour to discover the top 5 Hội Quán mentioned below.
3. Top 5 “community houses” in Hoi An
In the past, Hoian was the living place of the largest 5 parts of Chinese immigrants including Phúc Kiến, Trung Hoa, Triều Châu, Quỳnh Phủ, and Quảng Đông. This is why Hội Quán of these 5 communities are also the longest and the most pre-eminent found in the region. As you take Hoian group tours, you will be introduced more closely to these five must-see destinations in Hoian. There is a small reminder that you will be charged the admission fee around 80.000vnd for 3 out of 5 clubs here including Phúc Kiến, Quảng Đông, and Triều Châu. However, compared to what you will receive during the trip, it is a very reasonable price.
Phuc Kien Community House
Located in 46 Trần Phú Street, Phúc Kiến or Phước Kiến Community House is the biggest and most widely known by foreign tourists among the five. There are many mysterious things surrounding the existence of this house and the most famous deals with its deep-down origin. It is rumored that this area in the past was covered in trees with a huge river in the front. One day, the locals found a Buddha statue floating on the stream. As they opened it, they discovered there was lots of gold inside and so they decided to use the gold to build a wooden pagoda worshipping the Gods. Not until 1759 when some Phúc Kiến businesspersons came here for the first time, they bought the pagoda back from the locals as it got old and rundown and restored the place to worship Thiên Hậu Goddess.
The mighty Phuc Kien Community House
Until 1792, the place was changed into Hội Quán Phúc Kiến where Phúc Kiến people have their usual communal meetings. In 1990, the house was recognized and entitled as national historic heritage with the very special “三” (san) design expresses the meaning of happiness, which deals with the ancient intellection about “the Three Perfect”.
- Address: 46 Tran Phu Street, Hoian Ancient Town
Quang Dong Community House
The second house introduced in Hoian group tours is Quảng Đông Community House. This is also known under the name Quảng Triệu as it was built to serve Quảng Đông community. The place was first built in 1885 to worship Thiên Hậu Goddess and Confucius (Khổng Tử). Until 1911, based on the adaption of the time, it was then changed into the worshipping place of Quan Công (Zihuang) and Tiền Hiền.
The beautiful Quang Dong Community House under the sun
What makes people remember about Quảng Đông Hội Quán is the exceptionally astounding art in the design of the house, which is filled with delicate stylized patterns carved over the perfectly harmonizing wood and stone. The beauty expressed is taken over to a level of complete state-of-art where the bolt and strong craft lines are put to place with the smooth and elegant drawing lines. The most noticeable feature of the whole house probably lies in the Dragon statue of heavenly beauty situated in the main yard. The statue, which bears the image of many dragons flying to the sky expressing the process of “Carp jumping the Dragon gate” in which the carp is regarded as a symbol of strength and perseverance.
- Address: 176 Tran Phu Street, Hoian Ancient Town
Hai Nam Community House
Hải Nam Hội Quán is the community house of Quỳnh Phủ people in Hoian. The house is called Hải Nam because it was formed by people of Hải Nam Ward in China around 1875. The existence of the house is attached with a hurtful truth of history. In the past that the year was unknown under the Nguyễn Dynasty of Vietnam, there used to be a mistaken shooting occurred between the Nguyễn military seaforce and a ship of Chinese businesspersons. As Nguyễn soldiers spotted the ship, they thought it was of the enemies from across the border so they started shooting and killing all the people on the boat. It was counted that there were a total of 108 businesspersons were killed in the shooting and they are now worshipped and praised in Hải Nam Community House under the name “Nghĩa Liệt Chiêu Ứng” granted by Tự Đức Emperor after discovering the truth.
Inside Hai Nam Community House
The house is built in a very special architecture symbolizing the word “国” (guo), which means “the country” in Chinese. The outstanding feature turning heads of visitors is the drawing in the main worshipping compartment. The painting has successfully and artistically described an image of a normal day in “三界” (san jie) – the Three Worlds, which includes the Sky, the Earth, and the Water.
- Address: 10 Tran Phu Street, Hoian Ancient Town
Trieu Chau Community House
Triều Châu Community House is the only one located in Nguyễn Duy Hiệu compared to the four others, which are situated in Trần Phú Street. However, from Trần Phú, going straight to Cửa Đại Sea direction in a short distance, you can easily see Triều Châu House. The house was built by Triều Châu people of the Chinese in 1845 as a place of gathering for their community. In addition, the house was also built to worship Phục Ba God – the God of Wind and Waves with a purpose of asking for a safe and lucky voyage.
Trieu Chau Community House with the outstanding red poles
Triều Châu is one of the five community houses that own a delicate design built from wood and hand-drawn patterns expressing significant cultures of the ancient Triều Châu. On the 16th of January according to the Moon Calendar every year, people both Chinese and a part of Vietnamese will gather at Triều Châu House to celebrate Nguyên Tiêu Festival, which is similar to Tết in Vietnam.
- Address: 157 Nguyen Duy Hieu, Hoi An Ancient Town
Duong Thuong Community House
The last one brought to you in Hoian group tours is Dương Thương Community House. The house is quite special compared to the first four since it was built based on the contribution of all five Chinese communities including Phúc Kiến, Triều Châu, Quảng Đông, Hải Nam and Gia Ứng in 1741. For that reason, the house is also known under the name Ngũ Bang Hội Quán – the Five-Group Community House.
The entrance of Duong Thuong Community House
Apart from the extraordinary architecture, what distinguishes Dương Thương from the four community houses is the firm existence of the 500-year-old Tripod Cauldron in the main yard, also known as “Đỉnh” in Vietnamese. There are even steles inside the house, which were carved with the history and the growth of the house itself. Besides these interesting things, you can also find a few ship models that the Chinese used sailing on their voyage of sea-trading to other countries.
- Address: 64 Tran Phu Street, Hoian Ancient Town