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    The changing names of Ha Noi

    1. Long Đỗ

    Legend has it that the Tang Dynasty Governor Gao Pian dreamed he saw a genie called Long Đỗ while building the Đại La Citadel on the current site of Hà Nội. Based on this story, Hà Nội is sometimes called Long Đỗ in historical records. For example, in 1397, under Trần Thuận Tông’s reign, Hồ Quý Ly wanted to move the capital Thăng Long to Thanh Hóa Province because he intended to usurp the throne.


    2. Tống Bình

    The Chinese used Hà Nội as their administrative headquarters to rule over Việt Nam and called the city Tống Bình during the Sui and Tang Dynasties. Before that, their headquarters had been located in Long Biên (across the river from present-day Hà Nội).


    3. Đại La

    The capital used to have three encircling walls. Within the inner wall was the Purple Citadel or the Forbidden Citadel, where the King and royal family lived. The area between the inner and the middle walls was called Kinh Thành (the Royal Capital), and the area between the middle and outer walls was called the Đại La Citadel. In 866, Gao Pian enlarged and reinforced the Đại La Citadel. From then on, the capital was officially called Đại La. For instance, King Lý Thái Tổ’s Royal Edict on the Transfer of the Capital in 1010 said, “The Đại La Citadel, Governor Gao Pian’s old capital lies in the centre of the universe…”


    4. Thăng Long

    Meaning “Rising Dragon,” this is the most literary and meaningful name among the names of Hà Nội. According to The Complete History of Đại Việt (printed the first time in 1697), “In July, Canh Tuất Year (1010), King Lý Thái Tổ transferred the capital from Hoa Lư to the Đại La Citadel. When his boat stopped outside the citadel, he saw a golden dragon appearing above the royal boat. He then decided to change the capital’s name to Thăng Long.”


    5. Đông Đô

    The Complete History of Đại Việt says, “In April of the Đinh Sửu Year (1397), General Hồ Hán Thương was appointed to rule the area called Đông Đô.” Or, as a Nguyễn Dynasty writer explained in An In-depth History of Việt Nam, “By then Thanh Hóa was called Tây Đô (Western City), and Thăng Long, Đông Đô (Eastern City).”


    6. Đông Quan

    The Ming Dynasty of China called Hà Nội “Đông Quan” to humiliate Việt Nam after they defeated Hồ Quý Ly in 1408. Đông Quan means “the eastern gate” of the Chinese empire.


    7. Đông Kinh

    The Complete History of Đại Việt relates: “In April of the Đinh Mùi Year (1427), King Lê Lợi moved from the Bồ Đề Place to Đông Kinh (the Eastern Capital). He named his reign “Thuận Thiên” and the country “Đại Việt” (Great Việt), and used Đông Kinh as the capital. On the 15th day, he acceded to the throne in Đông Kinh, also known as Thăng Long.

    Since Thanh Hóa already had Tây Đô, Thăng Long was then called Đông Kinh.”


    8. Bắc Thành

    During the Tây Sơn period, under the rule of Nguyễn Huệ (Quang Trung), 1787–1802, the capital was located in Phú Xuân (present-day Huế). Thăng Long was renamed Bắc Thành (the Northern Citadel).


    9. Thăng Long

    In The History of the Hà Nội Capital (1960), Trần Huy Liệu wrote: “In 1802, King Gia Long decided to continue to use Phú Xuân as the capital instead of Thăng Long. He appointed Nguyễn Văn Thành as Governor of the North, and turned Thăng Long into a regional citadel to control the North. However, King Gia Long decided to keep the name Thăng Long unchanged as it was very popular among the people. He therefore, in 1805, changed only the word “Long” (Dragon) into its homophone “Long” (Prosperity) [written with a different Chinese character]. His argument was that the King no longer lived there, so “Long” (Dragon), which was the King’s symbol, could not be used.” Gia Long also ordered the size of the Hà Nội Citadel to be reduced, because it was too large and grand for a regional city.


    10. Hà Nội

    The History of the Hà Nội Capital also explains, “In 1831, King Ming Mạng merged Thăng Long with surrounding districts such as Từ Liêm, Ứng Hòa, Lý Nhân and Thường Tín to establish the province of Hà Nội, and used the former area of Thăng Long as the provincial capital.


    phoco_hanoi* Unofficial names

    These include names used in literary works, popular sayings and spoken Vietnamese to refer to Thăng Long (Hà Nội).

    1. Trường An (or Tràng An)

    Trường An (in Mandarin, “Chang’an”) was the capital of China during the powerful Han and Tang dynasties (present day Xi’an, Shanxi Province). Vietnamese Confucian scholars therefore used Tràng An to denote “the capital.” Common in popular sayings and proverbs to refer to Thăng Long (Hà Nội), such as the following:

    Nothing can equal the fragrance of jasmine flowers

    No one can surpass the refined lifestyle of the people of Tràng An


    2. Phượng Thành (or Phụng Thành)

    Doctoral laureate Nguyễn Thanh Giản Thanh wrote a famous poem in Nôm script about Thăng Long in the early 16th century entitled The Spring Scenery of Phượng Thành (Phoenix Citadel). The name Phoenix Citadel was therefore used in Vietnamese literature to refer to Thăng Long.


    3. Long Biên

    From the 3rd to 6th centuries, Chinese rulers used Long Biên as their administrative headquarters for governing Việt Nam. The name “Long Biên” continued to be used in literary works to refer to Thăng Long–Hà Nội. King Tự Đức expressed his grief at the death of Hà Nội governor and doctoral laureate Trần Bích San (1838-1877) in The Book of Royal Examinations as follows:

    I still remember you had just returned to the capital from the Long Biên Citadel.

    I was about to summon you to a discussion in the court when you suddenly parted forever.


    4. Long Thành

    Long Thành (Dragon Capital) is an acronym for the City of the Flying Dragon (Thành phố Thăng Long). A Tây Sơn Dynasty poet, Ngô Ngọc Dụ, followed his paternal grandfather to Thăng Long where the family opened a school and practiced traditional medicine. After witnessing King Quang Tring’s great victory over the Qing invaders in Đống Đa, Ngọc Hồi in 1789, Ngô Ngọc Dụ wrote The Notes on the Restoration of the Dragon Capital (Hà Nội).


    5. Hà Thành

    Similar to Long Thành, this is an acronym for the City of Hà Nội. It was frequently used in literary works to refer to Hà Nội, such as in the anonymous Song of the Fall of the Capital, and The Song of the Indomitable Capital by Nguyễn Văn Giai.


    6. Hoàng Diệu

    The name of commander Hoàng Diệu, who led his soldiers to defend the Hà Nội Citadel against the French attackers in 1882, was sometimes used to refer to Hà Nội immediately after the August 1945 Revolution.


    7. Kẻ Chợ, Thượng Kinh, Kinh Kỳ, and Kinh

    These are other informal names for Thăng Long – Hà Nội sometimes found in literary works and popular sayings. There are many other names for Hà Nội of this type, of which this is only a partial list.

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