History and Background of Hanoi’s 36 Streets, the Old Quarter

Vietnam’s capital city, Hanoi has thousands of years of history embedded in every corner. Its history and stories will enrich your trip and understanding of this country and its people. While there are fascinating legendary myths of the city itself as well as the infamous Hoan Kiem lake, there is a great history behind the Old Quarter, also named as “36 ancient streets” of Hanoi.

The Old Quarter was located in the outer layer of the main central layer of citadel, the Forbidden city where the royal families of Ly and Tran dynasties resided. It was where middle and upper-class citizens lived and was established as the centre of commercial and trading activities. So the history of the Old Quarter goes back centuries when Hanoi was formerly named as Thang Long. 

Although the name indicates the number 36, it is a rather poetic and metaphorical number that has different interpretations of its true meaning. Some say it is derived from the famous book called “Hanoi – 36 streets” by Thach Lam and some say 36 is a lucky number that brings fortunes. In reality, there were more than 70 streets in the area.

Each of these streets had their own characteristics and specialities of handicraft goods. Craftsmen from villages outside Thang Long city came here to open their shops next to one another and built the street of their craft products. 

Most of the street names begin with ‘Hang’, followed by the word indicating the specific product sold on the street. Hàng means a store or a series of store. For example, Hàng Cá is a fish street and Hàng Bạc is silver street. There are other streets that do not start with the word ‘Hang’ such as Chả Cá (grilled fish) and Mã Mây (rattan).

Nowadays, this tradition of selling the same goods as the street name is not true for most of the shops. But there are some that is still doing so. Check out the list of streets and its meanings below. You can use this as a reference to explore Hanoi’s history and culture more in-depth.

Meanings of Streets

Street name / Meaning:

Bat Dan / Wooden Bowls 

Bat Su / China Bowls 

Cha Ca / Roasted Fish 

Chan Cam / String Instruments 

Cho Gao / Rice Market 

Gia Ngu / Fisherman 

Hai Tuong / Sandals 

Hang Bac / Silver 

Hang Be / Rafts 

Hang Bo / Basket 

Hang Bong / Cotton 

Hang Buom / Sails 

Hang But / Brushes 

Hang Ca / Fish 

Hang Can / Scales 

Hang Chai / Bottles 

Hang Chi / Threads 

Hang Chieu / Mats 

Hang Chinh / Jars 

Hang Cot / Bamboo Latices 

Hang Da / Leather 

Hang Dao / (Silk) Dyer 

Hang Dau / Beans 

Hang Dau / Oils 

Hang Dieu / Pipes 

Hang Dong / Copper 

Hang Duong / Sugar 

Hang Ga / Chicken 

Hang Gai / Hemp 

Hang Giay / Paper 

Hang Giay / Shoes 

Hang Hanh / Onions 

Hang Hom / Cases 

Hang Huong / Incense 

Hang Khay / Trays 

Hang Khoai / Sweet Potato 

Hang Luoc / Comb 

Hang Ma / Votive papers 

Hang Mam / Pickled Fish 

Hang Manh / Bamboo-screens 

Hang Muoi / Salt 

Hang Ngang / Transversal Street 

Hang Non / Hats 

Hang Phen / Alum 

Hang Quat / Fans 

Hang Ruoi / Clam Worms 

Hang Than / Charcoal 

Hang Thiec / Tin 

Hang Thung / Barrel 

Hang Tre / Bamboo 

Hang Trong / Drum 

Hang Vai / Cloth 

Lo Ren / Blacksmiths 

Lo Su / Coffins 

Ma May / Rattan 

Ngo Gach / Bricks 

Thuoc Bac / Herbal Medicine

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