Binh Tay Market
Binh Tay Market in China Town
Located on Hau Giang Street in District 5, Binh Tay Market is situated in a beautiful and elegant building of Chinese design.
Binh Tay Market’s beautiful facade has made it popular with tourists, as the distinctive reddish-brown roof tiles, and the yellowy colored central clock tower make Binh Tay Market one of the more attractive and photographic markets in Saigon.
Binh Tay Market is also informally known as Cho Lon Market, while District 5 is also informally known as Cho Lon. The Cho Lon area is essentially Saigon’s Chinatown, and the Chinese facade of Binh Tay Market reflects the long historical Chinese influence that Chinese culture has had in the area. The area was originally a separate city from Saigon, about 11 kilometers south-west of Saigon.
Over time as the two cities grew larger and crept together, the decision was made to officially merge them together, and the French colonial government officially merged Cho Lon and Saigon on the 27th April 1931… not that you would be able to guess that they had been two separate cities today.
Cho Lon itself was settled in the 18th century by the Hoa tribe, a Chinese minority living in Vietnam. They had fled their village of Thanh Ha in the Cu Lao Pho region; they were escaping the violence in the Cu Lao Pho region that had erupted as a result of the Tay Son uprising.
Tay Son forces had marched south, and in 1777 they fought against the forces of the Nguyen Court in Cu Lao Pho. The local Hoa Chinese was in turn persecuted for their support of the Nguyen Court. As a result many Hoa Chinese fled and settled in Minh Huong Village, the site of today’s Cho Lon Market. Settling in their new area they built a market on the site of today’s current post office in Cho Lon.
The new market was bigger than the preexisting market, and hence was given the name Cho Lon which literally means “Big Market,” Big(Lon) Market (Cho). The Cho Lon Market became a center of commerce for the area, with merchants and traders coming from far afield to sell all types of goods from chinaware, paper, and jewelry to books, medicines and tea, a victim of its own success, though, this lead to a problem of overcrowding in the area.
This lead to an enterprising Chinese entrepreneur by the name of Quach Dam (1863-1927) to step in.
Quach Dam bought 25,000 square meters of marshland in Binh Tay Hamlet, which he had filled in with earth. He then proposed to the local authorities that on this newly bought land he would build a new market for the province made of reinforced concrete, if the authorities agreed that he could build streets with rental houses near the market. The authorities agreed, the merchants would get a new larger and cleaner market, and Quach Dam would regain his investment through the surrounding rental properties. The market built by Quach Dam is the market you see today, and was finished in about 1928.
The reason that I like Binh Tay Market so much though is that, even though the streets outside the market are hectic and filled with motorbikes, once you are inside Binh Tay Market, all that noise can seem a world away.
This is because right in the middle of Binh Tay Market there is a rather peaceful little courtyard. The courtyard is centered on a memorial stone surrounded by four large fierce bronze lions and four large bronze dragons. Initially when the monument was first built there was a statue instead of the memorial stone. The statue was of Quah Dam, the Chinese business man who had heavily financed the building of Binh Tay Market.
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