Also known as 鳳城, Fengcheng, or Phoenix Citadel.|
Photo of Hoàn Kiếm Lake in the centre of Hanoi, with the streets of the old town in the background (1999). Tháp Bút (pen tower) next to Hoàn Kiếm Lake (2007)
Hanoi (Vietnamese: Hà Nội, Chinese: 河内), estimated population 3,398,889 (2007), is the capital of Vietnam. From 1010 until 1802, it was the political centre of an independent Vietnam with a few brief interruptions. Hanoi was eclipsed as the capital of Vietnam by city of Huế during the Nguyen Dynasty and then by Saigon during the French Indochina period. From 1954 to 1976, it was the capital of North Vietnam.
The city is located on the right bank of the Red River 1760 km (1094 mi) north of Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon).
Hanoi has been inhabited since at least 3000 BC. One of the first known permanent settlements is the Co Loa citadel founded around 200 BC.
Hanoi has had many names throughout history, all of them of Sino-Vietnamese origin. During the Chinese domination of Vietnam from the Han Dynasty until 1010, it was known as Tống Bình (宋平) and later Long Đỗ (龍肚; literally "dragon's belly"). In 866, it was turned into a citadel and was named Đại La (大羅).
In 1010, Lý Thái Tổ, the first ruler of the Lý Dynasty, moved the capital of Đại Việt (大越, the Great Viet, then the name of Vietnam) to the site of the Đại La Citadel. Claiming to have seen a dragon ascending the Red River, he renamed it Thăng Long (昇龍, Ascending dragon) - a name still used poetically to this day. It remained the capital of Vietnam until 1397, when the capital was moved to Thanh Hóa, also known as Tây Đô (西都, Western Capital). Thăng Long then became Đông Đô (東都, Eastern Capital).
Vietnam was invaded by Chinese forces many times, in the Mongol Yuan Dynasty and then in 1408, by troops from the Ming Dynasty. In 1428, Vietnam was liberated again from Chinese rule by Lê Lợi, the founder of the Le Dynasty and Đông Quan was renamed Đông Kinh (東京, Eastern Capital - the name known to Europeans as Tonkin. The same characters are used for Tokyo, Japan). During the Tây Sơn Dynasty, it was named Bắc Thành (北城, Northern Citadel).
In 1802, when the Nguyễn Dynasty was established and then moved the capital down to present-day Huế, it was renamed Thăng Long ( "ascending dragon"). However, the second syllable of the toponym is actually a homonym of the word long, and so, actually suggests “to flourish” as opposed to “dragon”. Therefore, the name would then have appeared as 昇隆, roughly to ascend and flourish. In 1831 the Nguyen Dynasty renamed it Hà Nội (河内, can be translated as Between Rivers or River Interior) .
Hanoi was occupied by the French in 1873 and passed to them ten years later until 1940 when it was occupied by the Japanese. "Liberated" in 1945, it was briefly the seat of the Viet Minh government when Hồ Chí Minh proclaimed the independence of Việt Nam. But the French came back and reoccupied the city in 1946. After nine years of fighting between the French and Viet Minh forces, Hanoi became the capital of an independent North Vietnam in 1954.
At the end of the Vietnam war, Hanoi became the capital of Vietnam when North and South Vietnam were reunited on July 2, 1976.