Hội An (Vietnamese: [hôjˀ aːn] (listen)), formerly known as Fai-Fo or Faifoo, is a city with a population of approximately 120,000 in Vietnam's Quảng Nam Province and is noted as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1999. Along with the Cu Lao Cham archipelago, it is part of the Cu Lao Cham-Hoi An Biosphere Reserve, designated in 2009.
Old Town Hội An, the city's historic district, is recognized as an exceptionally well-preserved example of a Southeast Asian trading port dating from the 15th to the 19th century, its buildings and street plan reflecting a blend of indigenous and foreign influences. Prominent in the city's old town is its covered "Temple Bridge", dating to the 16th–17th century.
Between the seventh and 10th centuries, the Cham (people of Champa) controlled the strategic spice trade and with this came tremendous wealth.
The early history of Hội An is that of the Cham. These Austronesian-speaking Malayo-Polynesian peoples created the Champa Empire which occupied much of what is now central and lower Vietnam, from Huế to beyond Nha Trang. Various linguistic connections between Cham and the related Jarai language and the Austronesian languages of Indonesia (particularly Acehnese), Malaysia, and Hainan have been documented. In the early years, Mỹ Sơn was the spiritual capital, Trà Kiệu was the political capital and Hội An was the commercial capital of the Champa Empire - later, by the 14th century, the Cham moved further down towards Nha Trang. The river system was used for the transport of goods between the highlands, inland countries of Laos and Thailand and the lowlands.Vietnamese period
In 1306, the Vietnamese and the Cham signed a land treaty, in which Cham king Jaya Simhavarman III gave Dai Viet the two provinces of Ô and Lý in exchange for a long-term peace and marriage with king Trần Nhân Tông's daughter Huyền Trân.: 86–87, 205 In 1471 Emperor Lê Thánh Tông of Đại Việt annexed Champa and Hội An became a Vietnamese urban, also the capital of province Quảng Nam.: 23 In 1535 Portuguese explorer and sea captain António de Faria, coming from Da Nang, tried to establish a major trading centre at the port village of Faifo. Since 1570, Southern Vietnam had been under control of powerful Nguyễn clan, established by governor Nguyễn Hoàng. The Nguyễn lords were far more interested in commercial activity than the Trịnh lords who ruled the north. As a result, Hội An flourished as a trading port and became the most important trade port on the South China sea. Captain William Adams, the English sailor and confidant of Tokugawa Ieyasu, is known to have made one trading mission to Hội An in 1617 on a Red Seal Ship. The early Portuguese Jesuits also had one of their two residences at Hội An.
Hội An was a divided town with the Japanese settlement across the "Japanese Bridge" (16th-17th century). The bridge (Chùa cầu) is a unique covered structure built by the Japanese merchants, the only known covered bridge with a Buddhist temple attached to one side. In the 18th century, Hội An was considered by Chinese and Japanese merchants to be the best destination for trading in all of Southeast Asia, even Asia. The city also rose to prominence as a powerful and exclusive trade conduit between Europe, China, India, and Japan, especially for the ceramic industry. Shipwreck discoveries have shown that Vietnamese and Asian ceramics were transported from Hội An to as far as Sinai, Egypt.
Hội An's importance waned sharply at the end of the 18th century because of the collapse of Nguyễn rule (thanks to the Tây Sơn Rebellion - which was opposed to foreign trade). In 1775, Hội An had been the battleground between Trịnh army and Tây Sơn rebels, and the city was destroyed.: 28 Then, with the triumph of Emperor Gia Long, he repaid the French for their aid by giving them exclusive trade rights to the nearby port town of Đà Nẵng. Đà Nẵng became the new centre of trade (and later French influence) in central Vietnam while Hội An was a forgotten backwater. Local historians also say that Hội An lost its status as a desirable trade port due to silting up of the river mouth. The result was that Hội An remained almost untouched by the changes to Vietnam over the next 200 years. The efforts to revive the city were only done in 1990s by a Polish architect and conservator from Lublin and influential cultural educator, Kazimierz Kwiatkowski Kazik, who finally brought back Hội An to the world. There is a statue for the Polish architect in the city, and remains a symbol of the relationship between Poland and Vietnam, which share many historical commons despite its distance.
Today, the town is a tourist attraction because of its history, traditional architecture, and crafts such as textiles and ceramics. Many bars, hotels, and resorts have been constructed both in Hội An and the surrounding area. The port mouth and boats are still used for both fishing and tourism.
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