Known as “the road of heritage sites”, Tran Phu Street in Hoi An, Quang Nam attracts visitors with unique age-old works of art and buildings. The Assembly Hall of the Cantonese Chinese Congregation (Hoi Quan Quang Dong) is definitely one of the most prominent spots to discover while wandering on this historic road.
Conveniently situated in the proximity of Bridge Pagoda (Chua Cau), this style-mingled assembly hall welcomes flocks of visitors on a daily basis, adding a dash of color to the multicolored Hoi An.
I. History of Assembly Hall of the Cantonese Chinese Congregation
The Assembly Hall of the Cantonese Chinese Congregation was erected in the late 18th century (often recorded as 1885) by overseas Chinese from Guangdong Guangzhou region.
As in the period of 15th 19th century, Hoi An was one of the major trading ports in Vietnam, Hoi An City has become one of the first centers for Chinese people to do business and settle down. Since then, a variety of assembly halls were established for gathering and trading purposes. Among 5 assembly halls of Hoi An today, this place has its distinctive magnetism.
Initially, the Assembly Hall of the Cantonese Chinese Congregation was adopted to worship Mazu goddess (Thien Hau Thanh Mau) and Confucius. However, since 1911, it has been transformed into honoring Guan Yu and respectable characters in history.
Apart from being dedicated to spiritual beliefs, this assembly hall enables the Cantonese community to organize periodic meetings so as to support each other in business activities and daily stuff.
Today, this place is also known as Ong Pagoda or Guangzhao Assembly Hall (Hoi Quan Quang Trieu in Vietnamese).
II. Architecture & Structure of Assembly Hall of the Cantonese Chinese Congregation
This hall has an interesting constructing process, because each part of this building was initially made in China, then transferred by boat and assembled completely in Hoi An.
The Assembly Hall of the Cantonese Chinese Congregation was built from mostly stone and wood, based on the shape of 囯 (meaning “nation”). It is a closed campus with a three-door gate and spacious gardens peppered with bonsai trees. A communal temple lies in the middle, along with a main hall and a backyard, which shares a common feature with other assembly halls in Hoi An.
The three most conspicuous areas of the Assembly Hall of the Cantonese Chinese Congregation are the public campus, the main hall and the backyard:
1. The Public Campus
As soon as reaching this assembly hall, visitors can notice a three-door gate overlooking Tran Phu Street. The gate is made of stone and intricately carved with mascots like dragons, phoenixes, unicorns,… Contemplating these eye-catching images, visitors can’t stand admiring the talents of craftsmen dating back to hundreds of years before.
Stepping inside, travellers can see a fountain right in the heart of the courtyard. It is decorated with a majestic dragon statue symbolizing the legend “Carp jumps over the dragon gate”. On the Eastern and Western side lie two rows of buildings connecting the main hall with the prior hall. Here, you would be overwhelmed by glamorous paintings on the surrounding walls.
2. The Main Hall
An extremely large main hall is divided into 3 altars. The middle one is used to worship Guan Yu and his legendary mount the Red Hare. The two remaining altars worship the god of Earth (Phuoc Duc Chanh Than) and the god of Wealth (Tai Bach Tinh Quan).
3. The Backyard
Situated behind the main hall, the backyard is accessible to visitors by the side path of the main hall. Here, you can easily see a very large picture of Guan Yu on the wall.
III. What to See & Do in the Assembly Hall of the Cantonese Chinese Congregation?
1. Contemplate Precious Antiques
There are still many valuable historical artifacts kept in the state of preservation, including:
- A pair of celadon-glazed porcelain
- 4 large horizontal lacquered boards
- A copper censer which is 1.6m high and 0.6m wide
- Images depicting various plays and documents about Guangdong community’s daily life
These artifacts will offer visitors an insight into the history of a group of people in the ancient Hoi An. It’s also an occasion for tourists to dig deep into cultural interference between Vietnam and China.
2. Join The Festivities
If you would like to have exotic experiences here, partaking in its annual festivals is a great choice. Here, the festivals are frequently celebrated to commemorate legendary characters, as well as boosting community bonding and preserving traditional culture.
In particular, the Lantern Festival takes place every full moon of the first lunar month. This festival aims at praying for a new year of health, fortune and wealth, attracting myriads of globetrotters to take part in.
On the 24th of June (according to the lunar calendar), there will be the Guan Yu Birthday Festival to pay homage to this talented general as well.
IV. How to Get to the Assembly Hall of the Cantonese Chinese Congregation?
For the ultimate convenience, you can book a flight to Da Nang and come to Hoi An after that. You can also select to go by train or coach to reach Da Nang as well.
As soon as you get to Da Nang, there are two common ways to get to Hoi An Ancient Town:
- Taxi: It is very easy to catch a taxi at Da Nang airport. It only takes you 45 55 minutes to move to Hoi An. The cost for a taxi ride is around 350.000 450.000 VND, depending on the company.
- Bus: suitable for backpackers. You can catch bus number 1 (Da Nang central bus station Hoi An bus station) for just 25.000 VND/way.
To travel around Hoi An, you can rent a motorbike or a bike. You can also catch a cycle rickshaw a noteworthy feature of Hoi An to penetrate into the vibrant life of this city.
V. Extra Tips
The best time to pop into the Assembly Hall of the Cantonese Chinese Congregation is either mid-morning or mid-afternoon. Then you can continue your exhilarating journey towards other assembly halls in Hoi An.
The Assembly Hall of the Cantonese Chinese Congregation is the sort of place that holds great appeal for culture vultures. Not only can you acquire a good knowledge of history but you can also reminisce about the golden age of Hoi An Town.
So in your next trip to Hoi An, don’t forget to pay a visit to this assembly hall to enjoy equanimity at each and every moment.
Keyword: Assembly Hall of the Cantonese Chinese Congregation, Hoi An