Ben Thanh Market ThenBen Thanh Market Now

Ben Thanh Market - About

Established in the 17th century as a meeting place for local merchants, Ben Thanh Market in Ho Chi Minh City has evolved into a historical landmark. The iconic clock tower, erected in 1914, symbolizes its enduring presence through wars and economic changes.

This name is related to the Bat Quai Citadel built by Nguyen Vuong Nguyen Phuc Anh (King Gia Long). In 1788, Nguyen Vuong recaptured Gia Dinh from the Tay Son army, and immediately built a citadel to stop the Tay Son army. In 1789, Bishop Ba Da Loc (Pigneau de Behaine) returned to Gia Dinh with his donation and 15,000 Francs to buy guns, ammunition and warships, recruiting about 20 French people who were good at weapons technology and technology. turmeric… to help Nguyen Vuong. Bagua Citadel (because the citadel has 8 sides) was built in 1789 with a workforce of 30,000 people, designed by architect Theodore Lebrun and French engineer Victor Olivier de Puymanel.

In 1790, the citadel was completed with a circumference of about 4,176 meters, bordering the river on three sides. Ben Nghe River has a river wharf located near Bat Quai Citadel, this wharf is used for visitors and soldiers entering the citadel, so it is called Ben Thanh (the wharf before entering the citadel). Near this wharf there is a market, so this market is also called “Ben Thanh market”. The name “Ben Thanh Market” originated from here.

This original Ben Thanh market was built of bricks, wooden ribs, and thatched roofing. This river wharf is convenient for domestic and foreign boats to visit, so trade becomes busy. Many foreign goods appear in the market, attracting people and French people to come here to shop.

In 1833, Le Van Khoi used Bat Quai citadel as a base for an uprising against the royal court. In 1835, the court defeated Le Van Khoi, King Minh Mang destroyed this entire citadel, then built a new, smaller citadel in the northeast of the old citadel, called “Phung Citadel” or Gia Dinh Citadel.

Ben Thanh Market is still there but it is not as busy as before, although it is still the most crowded place.

In February 1859, the French and Spanish alliance captured Gia Dinh citadel, and Ben Thanh market was burned. So around 1860-1861, France built another market farther from the river, located next to the canal that famous historian Trinh Hoai Duc called Sa Ngu canal, running from Ben Nghe canal to the location now known as Nguyen Hue intersection. – Le Loi. This market has 5 compartments, built mainly of wood and thatched roof. In 1870, a fire broke out and destroyed a section of the market and the case was brought to the meetings of the Saigon City Council for decision. In the spirit of the decrees, the Governor of Cochinchina banned the thatching of structures built in the inner city of Saigon for public security reasons, the City Council decided to set aside a budget of 70,000 Francs to rebuild the market. Ben Thanh is located near the Sa Ngu River, with architecture made of brick columns, wooden ribs, and tiled roofs, except for one room with a corrugated iron roof. On November 30, 1870, the project was assigned to contractor Albert Mayer and construction began on December 27, 1870. After completion, this market will also have 5 compartments, divided: the first compartment is for dry food, the second compartment sells fish, the third compartment sells meat, the fourth compartment sells food and the fifth compartment sells goods. grocery. Regarding roofing, four compartments are tiled, only the butcher compartment is roofed with corrugated iron. The market floor is paved with granite.


Old Ben Thanh Market near Sa Ngu canals
Old Ben Thanh Market near Sa Ngu canals


In 1887, the Saigon city government filled up Sa Ngu river, also known as Kenh Lap, to create Charner street (now Nguyen Hue street). Thanks to Ben Thanh market, on both sides of the road, houses of Vietnamese, Indians, Chinese, Cambodians… are built close together, and trading activities take place bustlingly. By 1894, after more than 20 years, the market had shown signs of deterioration and could not meet business requirements, so during City Council meetings, councilors discussed rebuilding. market along with the construction of a new theater and City Hall (West Palace – Ho Chi Minh City People’s Committee today). The cost to build the theater was 800,000 Francs, the Town Hall was 600,000 Francs, and the new market was 400,000 Francs. However, due to many obstacles in choosing locations, mainly due to many low-lying land areas, and especially lack of funding, the construction of these three works dragged on, with the earliest completion being the Theater, on the first day. first of the 20th century (January 1, 1900), followed by Tay Xa Palace in 1909.


Ben Thanh Market on Charner Street (Nguyen Hue Street nowadays)
Ben Thanh Market on Charner Street (Nguyen Hue Street nowadays)


Regarding Ben Thanh market, in the meeting on May 21, 1908, the Council decided to choose the land located between 4 streets: Némésis (now Pho Duc Chinh), Roland Garros (Thu Khoa Huan), Espagne (Le Thanh Ton) and Amiral Courbet (Nguyen An Ninh). This is a low-lying, swampy area called Bo Ret pond (Marais de Boreses). After deciding to build a new Ben Thanh market, the French government demolished most of the old market, keeping only the meat stall roofed with corrugated iron.

The new market was built by the contractor Brossard et Maupin in 1912, and completed in 1914. The market is more than 13,000 square meters wide with laterite soil. The opening ceremony took place over 3 days from March 28 to 30, 1914 with many cultural and culinary festivals and booths, attracting 100,000 people from Saigon and neighboring provinces to have fun. There are 4 big gates:

– South Gate: Located on Place Cuniac Street, named after Xa Tay (Councilmember) Cuniac, who proposed the work of filling the pond. Vietnamese people often call it Ben Thanh Market Roundabout. During the time of the Republic of Vietnam, the street name was changed to “Cong Hoa Square” and “Dien Hong Square”. To this day, it has been changed to “Quach Thi Trang Square”.

– North Gate: Located on Espagne Street. During the time of the Republic of Vietnam, the name of that street was changed to Le Thanh Ton Street and has kept the same name to this day.

– East Gate: Located on Viénot street. During the time of the Republic of Vietnam, the street’s name was changed to Phan Boi Chau Street and has kept the same name to this day.

– West Gate: Located on Schroeder Street. During the time of the Republic of Vietnam, the street was renamed Phan Chu Trinh street and has kept the same name to this day.

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