Ho Chi Minh City

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(Redirected from Saigon)
Name:Thnh Phố Hồ Ch Minh
Meaning:Named after Ho Chi Minh
Ethnicities:Viet, Hoa
Missing image

Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnamese: Thnh Ch Minh) is the largest city in Vietnam, located near the delta of the Mekong River. Under the name Prey Nokor (Khmer: Missing image

), it was the main port of Cambodia, before being conquered by the Vietnamese in the 17th century. Under the name Saigon (Vietnamese: Si Gn), it was the capital of the French colony of Cochinchina, and later of the independent state of South Vietnam from 1954 to 1976. It is situated on the western bank of the Saigon River. Ho Chi Minh City is located at 10°45' North, 106°40' East (10.75, 106.667). [1] (http://earth-info.nga.mil/gns/html/cntry_files.html)


Origin of the name

Original Khmer name

The city was known by its original Khmer inhabitants as Prey Nokor (Missing image

). Prey Nokor means "forest city", or "forest land" in Khmer (Prey = "forest"; Nokor = "city, land", from Sanskrit nagara). The name Prey Nokor is still the name used in Cambodia today, as well as the name used by the Khmer Krom minority living in the delta of the Mekong.

Traditional Vietnamese name

After Prey Nokor was settled by Vietnamese refugees from the north, in time it became known as Si Gn. There is much debate about the origins of the Vietnamese name Si Gn, whose etymology is analyzed below.

It should be noted, however, that before the French colonization, the official Vietnamese name of Saigon was ' (chu nom: 嘉定). In 1862, the French discarded this official name and adopted the name "Saigon", which had always been the popular name.

From an orthographic point of view, the Vietnamese name Si Gn is written in two syllables, which is the traditional convention in Vietnamese spelling. Some people, however, write the name of the city as SiGn or Sign in order to save space or give it a more westernized look.

Sino-Vietnamese etymology

A frequently heard etymology is that Si is a Chinese loan word (Chinese: 柴, pronounced in Mandarin) meaning "firewood, lops, twigs; palisade", while Gn is another Chinese loan word (Chinese: 棍, pronounced gn in Mandarin) meaning "stick, pole, bole", and whose meaning evolved into "cotton" in Vietnamese (bng gn, literally "cotton stick", i.e. "cotton plant", then shortened to gn).

Some people say that this name originated from the many cotton plants that the Khmers had planted around Prey Nokor, and which can still be seen at Cy Mai temple and surrounding areas. …

Trương Vĩnh K, "Souvenirs historiques sur Saigon et ses environs", in Excursions et Reconnaissances, Imprimerie Coloniale, Saigon, 1885.

Another explanation is that the etymological meaning "twigs" (Si) & "boles" (Gn) refers to the dense and tall forest once existing around Saigon, a forest to which the Khmer name Prey Nokor already referred.

It should be noted that Chinese people both in Vietnam and in China do not use the name 柴棍 (pronounced Chaai-Gwan in Cantonese and Chign in Mandarin), although etymologically speaking it is the Chinese name from which the Vietnamese name Si Gn is derived (if the theory here is correct). Instead, they call the city 西貢 (pronounced Sai-Gung in Cantonese and in Mandarin), which is a mere phonetic transliteration of the name "Saigon".

Khmer etymology

Another etymology often proposed is that "Saigon" comes from "Sai Con", which would be the transliteration of the Khmer word prey kor (Missing image

) meaning "forest of kapok trees" (prey = forest; kor = kapok tree). The Khmer word prey kor should not be confused with the Khmer name "Prey Nokor" discussed above (kor is a Khmer word meaning "kapok tree", while nokor is a Khmer word of Sanskrit origin meaning "city, land").

This Khmer etymology theory is quite interesting given the Khmer context that existed when the first Vietnamese settlers arrived in the region. However, it fails to completely explain how Khmer "prey" led to Vietnamese "Si", since these two syllables appear phonetically quite distinct.

Cantonese etymology

A less likely etymology was offered by Vuong Hong Sen, a Vietnamese scholar in the early 20th century, who asserted that Si Gn had its origins in the Cantonese name of Cholon (Vietnamese: quoc ngu ; chu nom Missing image

) , the Chinese district of Saigon. The Cantonese (and original) name of Cholon is "Tai-Ngon" (堤岸), which means "embankment" (French: quais). The theory posits that "Si Gn" derives from "Tai-Ngon".

Current Vietnamese name

On May 1, 1975, after the fall of South Vietnam, the now ruling communist government named the city after the pseudonym of their beloved leader Ho Chi Minh (chu nom: 胡志明). The official name is now Thnh Ch Minh, often abbreviated TPHCM. In English this is translated as Ho Chi Minh City, abbreviated HCMC, and in French it is translated as H Chi Minh Ville (the circumflex is sometimes omitted), abbreviated HCMV. Still, the old name Si Gn/Saigon is widely used by Vietnamese and is found in company names or on book titles.


Ho Chi Minh City began as a small fishing village known as Prey Nokor. The area that the city now occupies was originally swampland, and was inhabited by Khmer people for centuries before the arrival of the Vietnamese. It grew to become a trading post and the main port of the Kingdom of Cambodia.

In 1623, King Chey Chettha II of Cambodia (1618-1628) allowed Vietnamese refugees fleeing the Trinh-Nguyen civil war in Vietnam to settle in the area of Prey Nokor, and to set up a custom house at Prey Nokor. Increasing waves of Vietnamese settlers, which the weakened Cambodian kingdom could not impede, slowly vietnamized the area. In time, Prey Nokor became known as Saigon.

In 1698, Nguyen Phuc Chu, a Vietnamese noble, was sent by the Nguyen rulers of Hue to establish Vietnamese administrative structures in the area, thus detaching the area from Cambodia, which was not strong enough to intervene. He is often credited with the expansion of Saigon into a significant settlement.

Conquered by France in 1859, the city was influenced by the French during their colonial occupation of Vietnam, and a number of prominent buildings in the city reflect this.

In 1954, the French were defeated by the Communist Viet Minh in the Battle of Dien Bien Phu, and withdrew from Vietnam. Rather than recognise the Communists as the new government, however, they gave their backing to a government established by Emperor Bao Dai. Bao Dai had set up Saigon as his capital in 1950. When Vietnam was officially partitioned into North Vietnam (the Democratic Republic of Vietnam) and South Vietnam (the Republic of Vietnam), the southern government, led by President Ngo Dinh Diem, retained Saigon as its capital.

At the conclusion of the Vietnam War in 1975, the city came under the control of the North Vietnamese Army and its allies. In the U.S. this event is commonly called the "Fall of Saigon," while in Vietnam it is called the "Liberation of Saigon."

In 1976, upon establishment of the unified Socialist Republic of Vietnam, the victorious Communists renamed the city after socialist Vietnam's founding father, Ho Chi Minh. The former name Saigon is still used by most Vietnamese, especially in informal contexts. Officially, the term Saigon refers only to District One of Ho Chi Minh City.

Ho Chi Minh City is home to a well-established ethnic Chinese population. The Cholon district serves as its Chinatown.


City center of Ho Chi Minh City
City center of Ho Chi Minh City
Missing image
Municipal theatre

Ho Chi Minh City is a municipality that exists at the same level as Vietnam's provinces. As such, it has a similar political structure to provinces, with a People's Council and a People's Committee being the principle administrative entities.

The municipality is divided into twenty-two districts. Five of these are designated as rural districts, covering the farmland around the city which is included in the municipality's official boundaries. These districts are named Nha Be, Can Gio, Hoc Mon, Cu Chi, and Binh Chanh. The remaining seventeen districts are found in the city itself. Only five of the urban districts have names (Tan Binh, Binh Thanh, Phu Nhuan, Thu Duc, and Go Vap) - the remainder are simply numbered from one to twelve.


The population of Ho Chi Minh City (as of 2003) is believed to be around 6 million, making it the most populous city in the country. It is also the most populous of Vietnam's province-level administrative units. Ethnically, the majority of the population is either Vietnamese (Kinh) or Hoa (overseas Chinese), although people from other Vietnamese minorities have also moved to the city.


Medical care is limited and usually of poor quality. Medical facilities usually require cash payment for medical treatment.

The following medical facilities are located in Ho Chi Minh City:


Tan Son Nhat Airport is located 4 mi/7 km north of Ho Chi Minh City. Taxi and bus services are available for travel from and to the airport and within the city. Buses, however, are generally in poor condition, making them unsafe to ride. While most of the city's taxis are metered and usually in good condition, very few drivers speak English (although some older drivers may speak French). Some drivers refuse to use their meters in order to obtain a higher fare. In July 2000, reports emerged that armed men were stopping taxis in Ho Chi Minh City and robbing passengers. There have not been any recent reports of such criminal activity. Visitors should not use motorcycle taxis (cyclos) or three-wheeled cabs (pedicabs) as they leave passengers vulnerable.;

Ho Chi Minh City's transportation system is in poor condition, and many of its streets are riddled with potholes. This is especially true in the city's numerous back streets and alleyways, which are sometimes little more than dirt paths. Visitors should consider the city's streets dangerous due to motorists' general disregard for pedestrians and the constant presence of thousands of motorbikes on the roads. However, drivers adhere strictly to Vietnam's driving laws for fear of punishment. Visitors should note that they must obtain a Vietnamese driver's license should they wish to drive in Vietnam as an International Driver's License is not accepted.

Vietnam Airlines is the national carrier of Vietnam. The airline currently operates a modern fleet of Western-built aircraft, but suffered several fatal mishaps prior to phasing out its aging Russian-built fleet. The airline has experienced numerous hijackings, all but one of which occurred during Vietnam's civil war. The most recent occurred in 1992, and did not result in any injuries.

External link


es:Ciudad Ho Chi Minh fr:H Chi Minh Ville ga:Cathair Ho Chi Minh id:Kota Ho Chi Minh it:Citt Ho Chi Minh nl:Ho Chi Minhstad ja:ホーチミン (市) no:Ho Chi Minh-byen pl:Ho Chi Minh (miasto) fi:Ho Chi Minh sv:Ho Chi Minh-staden vi:Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh zh:胡志明市


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