History of Hoi An – Vietnam: From the Champa Kingdom Till Now

Knowing the history of a country is the first step to discover the foundations of how it was built and how it looks today. For those of you who are planning a trip to Hoi An, you have arrived at the right starting point. So here I am today, guiding you through the history of Hoi An, a small city in an area with great historical richness. With your current national heritage and foreign influences, you will surely be surprised at what has created such an interesting combination.

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Before the 18th century: a small empire of commerce, culture and people

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The 18th century was an important milestone in the history of Hoi An, as it witnessed so many radical changes in the overall growth of the city. But even before the eighteenth century, there is much to talk about and understand. We will discover how it all began, first with its prosperity in commerce, which finally gave way to a rich culture.

Historical settlement: from Lam Ap to Hoi An

Before Hoi An once belonged to Vietnam or even obtained a legitimate Vietnamese name, it depended to a large extent on the Kingdom of Champa, since the Vietnamese had not yet extended their territory to the area. During this time, Hoi An was called “Lam Ap” and also had the distinctive culture of the Cham people. These people later became one of our distinctive ethnic groups and their history plays an important role in the cultural movement of Vietnam. This highly spiritual society placed the first brick in the great wall of Hoi An history. Today, the remains of Cham culture and art have become famous tourist attractions of central Vietnam, presenting a touch of Hinduism to through the statues and temples.
It was not until the early seventeenth century that a famous Vietnamese emperor subdued the Champa people, and the city of Lam Ap legitimately became the city of Hoi An, a land of Vietnam. Luckily, Hoi An not only absorbed a vibrant culture, it also gained the unique advantage of being a seaport. The impressive brick relics that remain of this enchanting kingdom are more than just physical sites, however, they became a powerful test of how the whole province was formed and how Hoi An became part of it.

Civil war as … Boosting the economy?

Due to its geographical location, the city of Lam Ap focused its growth on the activities of the seaport and when it became Hoi An, commerce flourished. This economic advance was actually triggered by our Civil War between the feudal lords of the north and south in Vietnam at that time. Now is the time for some historical events.


After annexing Lam Ap and changing its name to Hoi An in the late sixteenth century, the Le dynasty was the ruler of this small city. However, a talented but ambitious politician named Mac Dang Dung overthrew and took over the long-standing reign of Emperors Le. Nearly a decade passed, and supporters of the Nguyen family united against the so-called act of treason and succeeded. The tables turned, the old Vietnam was under the control of new rulers after the brief reign of the Mac family. But the drama did not stop there.

The Civil War began shortly after Nguyen Kim, the leader of the Nguyen family, passed away, prompting his son-in-law Trinh Kiem to take power. But another great event occurred, when Nguyen Kim’s son decided not to bend his knee and led his supporters with soldiers to retreat to the center of Vietnam in 1558. From that moment, Vietnam split into two territories with the Trinh lords ruling from the north to the upper center. zone; and the Nguyen lords who govern the lower central zone and the southern zone of Vietnam.
That was a whole story, right? But how did this war have something to do with the development of Hoi An?

Hoi An Prosperity

Conveniently, the ruling territory of Nguyen included Hoi An. And the Nguyen gentlemen knew the best way to make this city prosper. Taking into account the advantage of Hoi An as a coastal city, the necessary facilities were built and many new economic schemes promoted international trade. This greatly expanded the commercial activities of Hoi An and became one of the busiest port cities in Southeast Asia at that time. The economy of Hoi An did very well with the Nguyen rulers and is considered the peak of the Hoi An timeline.

Foreign trade activities in Hoi An led to a cultural integration of Vietnam with other nearby countries, especially China and Japan. This eventually led the Japanese and Chinese families to Hoi An, under the permission of Mr. Nguyen to help the city’s businesses. His settlement played an important role in stimulating the economy of Hoi An, as well as in the promotion of many traditional Vietnamese occupations thanks to his well-known skills. As expected, this also shaped the culture of the area. Today you will see the Japanese architecture that has stood the test of time and war. One of them is the most visited attraction in Hoi An: the Japanese covered bridge.
The beginning of the seventeenth century marked the prosperous era of the Japanese community and, several decades later, the rise of the Chinese people emerged, marking another important milestone in the cultural progression of Hoi An. China was familiar with this city long before Japan, partly due to the close geographic distance of the two countries. At first, the Chinese came here simply to trade. Everything remained simple until the chaotic political status of his dynasty emerged. A large wave of immigrants moved to Vietnam, and they chose Hoi An as one of their dominant residences across the country.


At this point, Hoi An witnessed another cultural integration (in addition to Champa and Japanese), which later became the most influential for the Vietnamese people. Many Chinese started businesses after marrying locals, which explains why Hoi An today has a large Chinese-Vietnamese community. More houses were built, which means that more Chinese customs were adapted. They are most clearly reflected in the traditional festivals held in Hoi An each year, incorporated along with the traditional customs of Vietnam.

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