Hanoi has been inhabited since at least 3,000 BC, ( when Vietnam was called Au Viet), and the town has since been known by many different names. During the Chinese domination, it was called Long Do ( Dragon’s Belly) and then in 866 it was turned into a citadel (fortified town) and named Dai La (Big Citadel).
In 1010, Hanoi became the capital and was renamed Thang Long(Ascending Dragon) by Emperor Ly Thai To, and this name is still used poetically to this day. It remained the capital until 1397 and then went through a series of different names, changing in accordance with the dynasties and battles with China. In 1408 the Chinese Minh Dynasty named it Dong Quan (Eastern Gateway) for 20 years until the victorious Vietnamese emperor Le Loi renamed it Dong Kinh (Eastern Capital) and then Bac Thanh (Northern Citadel).
The capital was moved to Hue 1802 during the Nguyen Dynasty, and Hanoiwas again Thang Long. Then 1831 the Nguyen emperor Minh Mang named the city Hanoi (Between River). The French arrived in Hanoi in 1873 and by 1887 it became the capital of French Indochina.
In 1940 the Japanese occupied Hanoi until its liberation in 1945 when it briefly became the seat of the Viet Cong government after Ho Chi Minh proclaimed the independence of Vietnam. However, freedom was brief, and the French reoccupied the city in 1946. After nine years of fighting between Viet Minh and French forces, Hanoi became the capital of North Vietnam in 1954 when the country was split in two.
During the American War, Hanoi suffered many bombing raids. In 1966 the restriction against bombing Hanoi was lifted, and it was bombed during the aerial campaign Operation Rolling Thunder. Bombing continued in 1972 from 18 to 29 December with Operation Linebacker 2, (the largest heavy bomber attacks launched by the US Air Force since the end of WW2), which became known as the Christmas Bombing. In these raids, 1,600 local people in Hanoi and Hai Phong died.
On 30 April 1975, the war in Vietnam finally drew to a close and South and North Vietnam were reunited on July 2, 1976, with Hanoi becoming the capital once again.
Hanoi – Today
As the capital city of Vietnam for almost a thousand years, Hanoi is considered one of the main centres of a culture where most royal dynasties have left their imprint. A combination of 1,000 years of history and the influence of French architecture have produced a charming old-world city rich in cultural relics.
At the beginning of the 20 Century, the city consisted of only 36 streets with each street specialising in a particular trade, such as silk, jewellery, Chinese medicines, bamboo, etc. The street names still reflect the names of the merchant’s specialisation, although few of them retain their original commerce exclusively.
Hanoi has many scenic lakes, the most famous being Hoan Kiem, (also known as Sword Lake), which is the historical and cultural centre of Hanoi. No visit to Hanoi is complete without a stroll around the Hoan Kiem lake, preferably in the early every morning to see the Hanoians practising Tai Chi at the water’s edge.