“Heaven tells the Moon secrets and asks how it’s been; ／ Scenes of Lake and scenes of Mountain welcome each other.” － Couplet, Inscription at Ngoc Son (Jade Mountain) Temple
Hanoi is the 9th stop of my Grand Tour. And as of this point, I’m no longer posting my tour-stop articles in full because I’m hard at work editing everything I’m written so far, for something more.
I came to Hanoi ostensibly seeking out the vestiges of French colonialism. I found evidence everywhere of a far older colonial power – China. China ruled Northern Vietnam for a cool 1000 years, from the time of the Eastern Han Dynasty (sometime around 100 B.C.) to the end of the Tang Dynasty (900 A.D.).
That’s when Emperor Ly Thai To comes into the picture. He, it was, who declared Vietnam’s Independence from the Northern Empire (Vietnam literally means “Empire of the Viets to the South). Hanoi, called Thang Long (昇龍) at the time – meaning “Dragon Ascending” – was his capital city. And remained the capital for about 800 years, until the early 1800s when the Nguyen Emperors moved the capital to Hue.
Hanoi celebrated its 1000th birthday in 2010, and I was there to celebrate it with the Hanoi-ans. This time, three years later, I returned to find a city still in transition. It’s French colonial past had (almost) all been set aside. And it was taking the cue yet again from its ancien colonial master – the Middle Kingdom.
The Dragon ascends once again, but this time, it hopes, it will do so through economic growth, Chinese-style. That doesn’t bode well.