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Hanoi has been inhabited since at least 3000 BC. One of the first known permanent settlements is the Co Loa citadel (Cổ Loa) founded around 200 BC.

Hanoi has had many names throughout history, all of them of Sino-Vietnamese origin. During the Chinese domination of Vietnam, it was known as Tống Bình () and later Long Đỗ (; literally “dragon’s belly”). In 866, it was turned into a citadel and was named Đại La ().

In 1010, Lý Thái Tổ, the first ruler of the Lý Dynasty, moved the capital of Đại Việt (大越, the Great Viet, then the name of Vietnam) to the site of the Đại La Citadel. Claiming to have seen a dragon ascending the Red River, he renamed it Thăng Long (昇龍Ascending dragon) – a name still used poetically to this day.

As a way of celebrating Hanoi’s history Philippe Chaplin has researched a wide range of images of Hanoi,from the last 150 years, most of which  are photographs. What is interesting is that although Hanoi is rapidly developing many of the scenes  represented in the photos can be seen today.

For example the pousse pousse

Bonze En Pousse Pousse

This is Hanoi 1862 while the cyclo is still a common site in Hanoi in 2009 (however with the rapid rise in 4 wheel traffic it is probably an endangered species.


Barbiers Et Cureurs D Oreilles

The street barber (who also manicures the ears and nose with the deftness of a surgeon) is another common sight in Hanoi in 2009. A tree is normally all that is needed or corner of a building -enough to hang a mirror (and sometimes steal some electricity from an overhead cable) and to place a chair.

street barber Hanoi 2009


Barber,Hanoi. Ray Harris

Coiffeurs Dans La Rue

The conical hat is still very common even in central Hanoi in 2009


Hanoi-2009-Ray Harris

Fabricants De Chapeaux


Ray Harris - brickworkers,Vietnam

Singers may not be a common sight on the streets of Hanoi today but he Cheo performers (traditional opera) still perform twice a week in th newly upgraded theatre.

Cheo -Ray Harris


Avenue De La Cathedrale

and the Cathedral still packs them in at Christmas and Easter!