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Can Tho History

Can Tho was formally proclaimed and put on map of Vietnam in 1739, named Tran Giang. Along with vicissitudes in national history, it experienced changes in appellation and administrative territory. Every historical stage elapsed with new progresses made in Can Tho, which is believed the forging process of its today’s inherent strength. Such element resulted in its recognition of a Central-governed city now, known as the engine-city of Mekong river delta.
Tran Giang in initial establishment development.

Can Tho was later-born than the upper region (Dong Nai – Saigon) and lower region (Ha Tien) in the southern fresh land breaking process of our ancestors. In later century XVII, Mac Cuu, born in Guangdong of China, took his followers and other people to Ha Tien by sea and settled there under the reign of Lord Nguyen.

In August 1708, Lord Nguyen Phuc Chu appointed Mac Cuu the division commander of Ha Tien. He had his palace built in Phuong Thanh with increasing number of people coming here settling.

In 1732, the entire southern land was specified into 03 dinh (administrative unit then) and 01 division by Nguyen Lord. They were Tran Bien (Bien Hoa), Phien Tran (Gia Dinh), Long Ho (Vinh Long) and Ha Tien division.

In 1735, Governor Mac passed away and his son Mac Thien Tich (formerly named Mac Thien Tu) was made new governor, carrying on his father career. From Ha Tien, he pushed the land expansion towards the right bank of Hau river. He completed the effort in 1739 with the proclamation of 04 new zones (dubbed ‘dao’ in ‘Gia Dinh Thanh general chronicle’). They were Long Xuyen (Ca Mau), Kien Giang (Rach Gia), Tran Giang (Can Tho) and Tran Di (northern Bac Lieu), which were annexed to Ha Tien.

Realising the important location of Tran Giang as the firm rear of Ha Tien – Rach Gia in struggle against Siem and Chan Lap hostile forces, which were always encroaching and stirring troubles, Mac Thien Tich poured his efforts to develop Tran Giang in military, economic, commercial and cultural aspects. High-rank mandarin Nguyen Cu Trinh, who was sent southwards by Lord Vo Vuong Nguyen Phuc Khoat in 1753, strongly sided with Mac Thien Tich’s scheme after meeting him. Ever since, Tran Giang was thriving and became a strong “defence service” in Hau Giang region. More than being a defensive post in an important waterway location, Tran Giang, on the west bank of Can Tho river, was also the place, where people from all corners of the country came and settled their lives. Due to its important position, Tran Giang was developing under chaotic changes of history from 1771 to 1787. After occupying Phu Xuan (1774), in March 1777, Tay Son insurgents launched attack in Gia Dinh.

In April of the same year, Nguyen Lord was guarded on a four-wheel carriage to dao Tran Giang. In August 1777, Tay Son troop came down the West and Tran Giang. In January 1785, Nguyen Hue in person led his troop wrecked 20,000 invaders and 300 warships of the enemy. This battle was known as the famous Rach Gam – Xoai Mut (Tien Giang) victory. In 1787, Tay Son troop got away from the West and Nguyen Anh and his soldiers came out, taking over the land, including Tran Giang.

Tran Giang from 1788 to French invasion

In 1803, King Gia Long adjusted the map of western are of Hau river, renaming dinh Long Ho into Hoang Tran, later Vinh Tran. In 1808, the area was called Vinh Thanh division with Tran Giang being situated in Vinh Thanh division.

In 1813, King Gia Long took part of Hau river right bank, including Tran Giang – Can Tho in the past – and induce Vinh Dinh district (under Dinh Vien chief town, Vinh Thanh division).

In 1832, King Minh Mang released the Royal proclamation, replacing “tran” with “tinh” then Nam Ky Luc Tinh (Six Provinces of the South) was introduced. King Minh Mang split Vinh Dinh (Can Tho in the past) from Dinh Vien chief town (Vinh Long province) and placed it under Tan Thanh chief town (An Giang province).

In 1839, King Minh Mang renamed Vinh Dinh district into Phong Phu counterpart under Tinh Bien chief town (An Giang province) and took Tan An village as the chief of Phong Phu district. Later on, Phong Phu district kept on its prosperity and became well-known for its proliferation and peace completely different from other provinces in the West at the time. Tan An and Thoi Binh villages was introduced early here. People came to settle in Binh Thuy soon due to its gentle condition of river network. They then became indigenous of Can Tho. Since human appearance, natural landscape here was felt more poetic, civilised, which also explains why later generations dubbed it Long Tuyen.

In Tran Giang, river is the principal way to travel. Hence, boats were critically important. Villages were built-up on and stretching along rivers, irrigation ditches (later canals). Market places were set up there, too. There were good sections of rivers near rivulet mouth, confluence, which gradually became trade convergence, cultural – commercial centre of a whole region. So old marketplaces and town lets located inner, away from rivers were presumably appeared when roads had been built and cars were the popular mean of transport.

These characteristics may have been present in Binh Thuy – Can Tho in later century XVIII in combination with other places stretching over mid and lower land of Hau river. Early century XIX, in “Gia Dinh thanh general chronicle”, some trading centres were described, for instance, that on the western bank of Tran Giang’s chief office (on Can Tho river), that on Tra On river (Binh Chanh sub-district), Truong tau Ba Thac (lower Hau river) as big as those on the right bank of Tien river, named Sa Dec and Long Ho. This is considered the most prominent feature which called “waterway civilisation” or even floating markets in waterway nodes like Tra On, Phong Dien and then Cai Rang.

Community in Tran Giang was on one hand made up of soldiers and families of soldiers in Ha Tien, Rach Gia, on the other hand, migrants from the north, down from the West. Thereof, it is possible to see clearly cultural traditions which lasted for long time in the worshipping customs of the northern migrants within the region. Can Tho in process of independence quest, development.

Office of province chief in 1925

It is rational to argue that this is the time when Tran Giang – Can Tho entered its construction of peace, enhancing administrative – governance system. Accordingly, Confucian ideology and cultural-educational institutions, morale and etiquette were reinforced.

In later century XIX and earlier century XX, this is the period with tremendous changes of history in 06 southern provinces. The French colonialism occupied 03 provinces in eastern region under the accession agreement by Hue court in 1862. On 20th, 22nd and 24th June 1867, the French colonialists broke 1862 peace treaty, taking possession of three other provinces in western region, namely Vinh Long, An Giang and Ha Tien.

1st January 1868, governor of Cochin-China Bonard made up his decision on putting Phong Phu district (Tran Giang – Can Tho) and Bai Sao (Soc Trang) into an single administrative unit called quan (district), at the same time introducing toa bo in Sa Dec.

On 30th April 1872, governor of Cochin – China announced his decree on putting Phong Phu and Bac Trang (a region in Lac Hoa chief town, Vinh Long province) into a single administrative unit called arrondissement with toa bo in Tra On. One year later, toa bo was removed to Cai Rang (Can Tho).

On 23rd February 1876, Saigon Headquarters of the general released new decree on taking Phong Phu district and parts of An Xuyen and Tan Thanh districts to form arrondissement de Can Tho with its centre of Can Tho (Tan An village, the chief village of former Phong Phu district). In 1889, the French replaced arrondissement by province and huyen with quan (district).

From 1876 – 1954, Can Tho’ s administrative territory under the French ruling remained unchanged. Nonetheless, during the war against the French colonialism, the resistance regime made certain adjustments to its administrative territory. It was then added with Thot Not district (Long Xuyen province), Long My, Go Quao, Giong Rieng district, Rach Gia town (Rach Gia province), Ke Sach district (Soc Trang) with 02 districts of Tra On and Cau Ke being returned back to Vinh Tra (Vinh Long – Tra Vinh).

After the signing of Geneva Agreement in 1954, the American imperialism planned to turn South of Vietnam into so-called USA new type colony. From such moment, there went with several changes in Can Tho’s administrative territory set up under the old regime of the South. In 1956, Ngo Dinh Diem administration decided to rename Can Tho into Phong Dinh. In 1961, parts of Long My, Vi Thanh were taken to form Chuong Thien province. Later, districts, sub-districts, and communes in Phong Dinh and Chuong Thien province were also changed.

On the part of revolutionary regime, Can Tho appellation remained the same with slight change in administrative territory. In November 1954, Long My, districts of Go Quao, Giong Rieng, Rach Gia town were annexed back to Rach Gia province, Ke Sach district back to Soc Trang province, Thot Not district back to Long Xuyen province. Can Tho was then added with two new districts of Tra On and Cau Ke like before. In 1956, Tra On and Cau Ke districts were put back to Vinh Long province (when American imperialism and its puppets introduced their new province named “Tam Can”). In 1957, Long My district was placed back to Can Tho province again and Ke Sach district (Soc Trang province) was also annexed again to Can Tho province in 1958.

In 1963, Thot Not district (Long Xuyen province) was returned to Can Tho again. Vi Thanh commune was introduced in 1966 in Can Tho province. Can Tho town was split away from Can Tho province in 1969 and placed under the West of Southern Vietnam. In 1971, the town again came back to Can Tho province. In 1972, it was announced the city of Can Tho province, under the West of Southern Vietnam. After the South liberation, then national reunification, our government issued Decree No.03/ND-76 dated March 24th 1976 on merging Can Tho, Soc Trang and Can Tho city altogether into the new province dubbed Hau Giang, with its capital of Can Tho city.

In December 1991, the Democratic Republic of Vietnam’s National Assembly (tenure VIII) released a decree on parting Hau Giang province into two provinces of Can Tho and Soc Trang.

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