Urbanist Hanoi

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[Photos] A Game of Trade: Hanoi’s First International Trade Fair Complex

Hanoi has had many names in its life time; among the lesser-known ones is Ke Cho, which literally means "the market people."

This name came to be because Hanoi was — and, to some extent, still is — the market of the Red River delta. Here, traders came to offer their wares and skilled workers their crafts. The essence of Ke Cho didn’t change even when the French took over and Hanoi became the capital of Indochina.

In 1902, Governor-General Paul Doumer wanted to host a large-scaled world expo in Hanoi to “show off Tonkin’s agriculture and industrial products and the cultural artefacts of Indochina and the Far East.” The expo would need a grandiose location as well, thus architect Adolphe Bussy was commissioned to design the Grand Palais of Hanoi, a homage to the one in Paris.

The Grand Palais upon completion in 1902. Photo courtesy of Cochinchine-Saigon.

In Vietnamese, the Palais was called nhà đấu xảo — đấu xảo means "a display of products competing against one another on their level of craftmanship". The Grand Palais complex covered an area of 17 hectares. Upon completion, it hosted the expo for four months, from November 1902 until February 1903. The cost of it all left the city’s budget in deficit for a decade.

After the fair, the Grand Palais became the Maurice Long Museum, the first and largest economics museum in Indochina. The grounds surrounding the exhibition palace served as prime advertising area for companies and businessmen.

When the Japanese took over Vietnam, they turned the Palais into a military base. At the end of World War II, American bombs reduced the buildings to rubble. The only remnants are two bronze lion statues which are now placed in front of the Vietnam Central Circus building in the Reunification Park. At the palace ground now stands the Friendship Cultural Palace, a concert venue built by the Soviet.

The memory of the Grand Palais of Hanoi lives on in photos, some of which are curated below from RedsVN and other sources. We invite you to take a look at the magnificent of time past:

The front gate Grand Palais in 1928.

The main road in front of the Grand Palais.

The display area of Hanoian merchants.

The display area of Annam.

Inside the display area of Annam.

Annam tourism introduction area.

Tourist learning about Annam.

The display area of East India.

Inside the display area of East India.

The display area of Japan.

Bridge built by Tonkin construction company.

Mechanical product display.

Citroën car display.

Agriculture and ceramics products of Cambodia.

Textile products of Cambodia.

Governor-General Robin and his men at the Grand Palais in 1928.

[Top image via Wikimedia]

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