Cholon, Ho Chi Minh City

Cholon, Ho Chi Minh City

Cholon is the name of the Chinese district of Ho Chi Minh City (the former Saigon), the largest such Chinatown district in Vietnam. It lies on the West bank of the Saigon River, having Binh Tay Market as its central market. Cholon spans across, and consists of, Districts 5 & 6 of Ho Chi Minh City.

The Vietnamese name Cholon literally means "big" (lớn) "market" (chợ). The Chinese name (and original name) of Cholon is (pronounced Tai-Ngon in Cantonese and in Mandarin), which means "embankment" (French: quais). The Vietnamese reading of the Chinese name is , but this is rarely used. Vietnamese speakers exclusively use the name , while Chinese speakers (both inside Vietnam and in China) are the only users of the latter.

In 1778, the Hoa (Chinese minority of Vietnam) living in Bien Hoa had to take refuge in what is now Cholon because they were retaliated against by the Tay Son forces for their support of the Nguyen lords. In 1782, they were again massacred by the Tay Son and had to rebuild. They built high embankments against the flows of the river, and called their new settlement Tai-Ngon (meaning "embankment" in Cantonese).

Incorporated in 1879 as a city 11 km from Saigon, it had expanded and became coterminous with Saigon by the 1930s. On April 27, 1931, the two cities were merged to form Saigon-Cholon by the French colonial government. By 1956, the name Cholon was dropped from the city name and the city was known primarily as Saigon.

During the Vietnam War, soldiers and deserters from the United States Army maintained a thriving black market at Cholon, trading in various American and especially U.S Army-issue items.

Today, Cholon especially attracts many Mainland Chinese and Taiwanese tourists. The place is also nown as a scenario of Marguerite Duras's autobiographical novel The Lover (1984), where the young French girl makes love for the first time with her Chinese lover.

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