Let’s take one last look at Quach Thi Trang square, an important part of the iconic Ben Thanh market, before it is demolished in just a few more hours in order to use land for constructing the first metro of Ho Chi Minh City.
Along with over 300 year-old city, this square has witnessed ups and downs of the city called “Pearl of the far East”
Being built in the early 20th century, this area was well-known for the name place du Marché (Market square). In July 1916, it was officially named as place Eugène-Cuniac, in honour of long-serving former Saigon Mayor Eugène François Jean-Baptiste Cuniac. Since then, this site was mainly used to organized many types of entertainment for local people, such as circus, boxing, street performances, etc.
After 1955, the South Vietnamese government renamed place Eugène-Cuniac as công trường Diên Hồng (Diên Hồng square), after the Diên Hồng conference (Hội nghị Diên Hồng) of 1284 – described by some historians as the first democratic gathering held in Việt Nam – which was convened by King Trần Thánh Tông to discuss military strategy in the face of the second Mongol invasion.
In 1964, Dien Hong square was renamed as Quach Thi Trang square. This name is related to a world-famous event happened in 1963. As protests against the anti-Buddhist policies of the Ngô Đình Diệm administration gathered pace in 1963, Diên Hồng square became a popular venue for dissent. Events took a turn for the worse on 25 August 1963, when 15-year-old Quách Thị Trang was shot dead by police while taking part in a student demonstration there. Twelve months later, a memorial bust of Quách Thị Trang, commissioned by the Saigon Students Association, was installed near the centre of the roundabout, on the spot where Trang had died.
In 1965, the authorities installed an imposing equestrian statue of General Trần Nguyên Hãn (1390-1429) in the centre of the roundabout. A great military leader who helped King Lê Lợi (1384-1433) defeat the invading Ming Chinese and establish the later Lê dynasty, Hãn committed honourable suicide when the king unjustly suspected that he might try to take the throne for himself.
Quach Thi Trang square, together with Notre Dame Cathedral and Reunification palace, constituted the “golden triangle”, which are among the most attractive tourist spots. One has said you can’t consider yourself being in Ho Chi Minh City without visiting those sites. For local people, this square is a symbol of the elegance and old charms of Saigon, the place everyone dreams of.
However, in preparation for constructing the first metro of the city, Tran Nguyen Han statue was moved to Phu Lam park (district 6) and Quach Thi Trang bust was moved to Bach Tung Diep park (district 1). And now, the whole square is being demolished to build the Ben Thanh station.
As time goes by, other historic monuments of Ho Chi Minh City may disappear due to many reasons. Therefore, make sure you’re there to experience their beauties before everything is too late.
By TIGER team