History of Halong Bay - World Natural Heritage Site
History of Halong Bay - World Natural Heritage Site
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In 1994, Halong Bay has been recognized as a World Natural Heritage Site by UNESCO, and also being 1 of 7 New Wonders of Nature of the world in 2011. As we can see, the history of Halong Bay with natural beauty from 500 million years ago, not only amazed people from all around the world, but also being a true pride to Vietnamese. Halong Bay, without a doubt, has such a formation! But how about the history of Halong Bay? Why the place named “Halong Bay”? Is it a myth? or just a meaningless name? Let’s take a deep understanding about the history of Halong from beginning till today.
I. The history of Halong Bay - How was it named?
Do you know, “Halong Bay” is not the first name of this area? As we doing some research, Halong was first named “An Bang” from the beginning of the 19th century. After that, many different names were born, such as: “Luc Thuy”, “Van Don”, etc. Until the late 19th century, the name “Halong Bay” first appeared on the world’s map. As we come to visit Halong, nearly everyone is curious about the name “Halong” and the story behind it. We decided the best way to answer this question is by asking the local people of Quang Ninh. What we got is not just only extremely surprised us, but also made us have to show respect to this mythical land.
In 1898, when a French Lieutenant named Lagoredin, who was the captain of the Avalangso ship, was sailing on Halong Bay of today, he saw a couple of giant sea snake rising up and down parallel to the ship. Not only just him but also all the cruise members saw them, too. To Europeans, these creatures were the same as the mythical dragon from Eastern culture. Possibly, the existence of these couple of giant sea snake has decided the name of “Halong”.
In Vietnamese, “Ha” means down, “Long” means dragon, “Halong Bay” means the place for legendary dragons to perch down and rest. Not just that, the story behind it even more attractive and fascinating. The legendary dragon did not just perch down to rest, but to help Vietnamese defeating the aggression. As the battle was going to end, Vietnam’s people were going to end up losing not just the fight, but also their home country, a couple of dragons was sent to come down from the sky, creating a strong, strict wall made of rare pearls blocked aggressions’ army. After the fight end, seeing the peacefulness of the land, the dragons decided not to go back to where they came from, but stay here as a place to live and protect citizen here. The land where the big dragon lied called “Halong”, which is our beautiful area nowadays; and the other is called “Bai Tu Long”. In my perspective, I have never believed in the mythical creature as a dragon or unicorn, however, it’s still fascinating to hear such an incredible and exciting story about the history of Halong Bay.
II. The formation of Halong Bay
The history of Halong Bay, especially geological form, as we have known, has been opened 500 million years ago, with different and exceedingly complicated old situation geographical. The appearance of Halong Bay nowadays is the result of many historical developments on earth, influenced by number of factors. The first periods commenced the beginning of Halong called Cambrian Era, which happened 500 to 570 million years ago. From other periods, creating mountains deep under the sea to raising from the depth due to the erosion of hot and dry climate, Halong has been through diverse phases and end up with the beauty of a perfect formation in Holocene Period. Nowadays, the formation of Halong has been formed in 3000 to 4000 years ago, as it is today: amazing, tremendous and truly no words to describe.
Thousands of islands, hundreds of beautiful caves have created the value of Halong Bay. From 3 elements: water, rock and sky, the structure of Halong Bay was said to change continuously from times to times. Inside these big mountains, individuals will be charmed by “weird” caves. Some caves create the feeling of amazed, some make you feel peaceful and soft, each large or small cave has its shape and feature.
III. The foundation of Halong Bay
The history of Halong Bay has over 500 million years of age as we have mentioned above. So, how Halong Bay grew over those years of life? And when people know about this giant piece of art? To answer this question, it takes us to have to go back to 7000 years ago, where people still use the bare hand as a way to survive, named: Soi Nhu Period.
1. Soi Nhu Period (7000 years ago)
The study of Halong Bay begins in 1967, in the middle of American War, Vietnam’s archaeologists began the research about finding their ancestor. In this excavation, they found more than 400 pieces of fish’s bone and some different shellfish were assumed to be leftover of digging and hunting. Therefore, people proved that citizens from Soi Nhu period lives leaned on the ocean, they lacked the development of tools and equipment. Their main ways were to collecting fruit, digging for bulb and roots, catching fish and shellfish to maintain their lives. Of course, it was impossible for people to live like that forever, but how could the individuals of Soi Nhu grow and change? Archaeologist, in another excavation, defined a new period called: Dau Ram period, which is the biggest change in people’s lives, also a revolution impacted deeply to the ancient Halong citizen.
Read more: How to get to Halong bay, Vietnam
2. Dau Ram period (3500 years ago)
This period is the beginning of the old Bronze Age. In 1998, archaeologists, when excavated, has found multiple of bronze fish – hook with diverse sizes. Besides, they also found other tools which made their lives more advance and easier like fishnet, or raft. All of the above shows that this period is the largest period of fishing and sea exploitation from Halong citizens. They discovered how to make a fishhook to catch fish, make fishnet to get fishes in huge numbers and less time. However, these tools and rafts could not help them to go further, yet still, enough for them to maintain their lives near the edge of the ocean. Maybe that’s what they happy with; at the times, the resource from the ocean was richer and more diverse than at the moments, people did not have to go further to get more food. We can see that, the evidence shows that they already had different kinds of seafood to lives through the days. Dau Ram period is the link between the Halong ancestor – Soi Nhu period and Halong nowadays.
3. Halong Period (1500 years ago)
Through times, with the rise of population, people were getting much more in numbers, still, the resource had remained the same. Even though lives had been become more advance and improve, modern tools and equipment only make the progress of catching and wasting natural resources faster and easier. Sea creatures were decreased by numbers, especially sea turtle. At the time, sea turtles became extremely rare, they could only be found at Coto island, near Bai Tu Long. Furthermore, people in this period began to know how to make stone tools and pottery. They also use these stone tools and pottery as a trading market to other regions. As a result, we can conclude that people live changed day by day, the development of tools, technique and economics may cause a huge impact to the resource of nature. We can see the issue in many different ways, was it good or bad? Who can tell?
IV. Halong Bay during historical wars.
1. Chinese and 1000 years of domination
Vietnam has been through multiple wars, also Halong Bay. In this part, the history of Halong Bay will be made more specific and clearer, showing how Halong Bay is amazingly important to Vietnam. Halong Bay is famous and well – known for its crazy limestone beauty which never has been seen in the world; however, to Vietnamese, especially the northern, Halong was one of the factors that made us come so far as today, freedom and happiness.
With a great and vital strategic position, right in the 12th century (about the year of 1149), the Van Don harbor was made in the area of Halong Bay. This harbor was not only a regular one, but it was also actually a secret harbor for all of the trading boats to come, creating a floating trading market around Bai Tu Long area. Till nowadays, we still can see lots of old signs about ancient harbor pretty complicated, such as Cong Dong, Cong Tay, Van Hai, Quan Lan, etc. Those names are from the area which was a detailed place for boats and ships to come from the old time. Back to the day of Ly, Tran, Le, Mac period, not only signs in the harbor of Van Don, a huge number of old building project still maintained till today, they created great cultural value to not just Halong Bay citizens, but also Vietnam in general. The great part of these buildings mainly are temples, such as Lam Temple, Trong Temple, Cat Temple and Quan Lan Temple.
To speak about the history of Halong Bay, it will take forever. Therefore, I will only show you some of the greatest battles in Vietnam history that Halong had been a part that cannot be missed. It will be a shame if we do not mention the battle of Ngo Quyen in the year of 938, which he won against the aggression Nam Han from China. He stopped the ship of the enemy from sailing up the nearby Bach Dang River by making a trap from wood. When the time comes, the tide rises, the trap will be hidden, the enemy will unable to see what is waiting for them underneath the deep sea. Ngo Quyen just needed to wait for the enemy’s ships to approach, and when they come close to the edge, those ships were sunk and destroyed by the hidden trap. Other great examples would be Le Hoan won against the aggression called Tong in 981, and Tran Hung Dao defeated Nguyen Mong aggression in 1288. All of the battles were being valued and stayed in the heart of every single Vietnamese’s heart. Every year, people still have ceremonies to remind us about the victories which brought us freedom, happiness and independence.
Especially, Halong Bay citizens still can keep the beautiful traditional value from old times, it could be festival, experiences, stories, songs that share from generation to generation. These traditions are said to be the most precious thing, a great potential for researchers, for people who admire and love Vietnam’s culture.
2. The signature ending France War.
Have you ever heard about a great battle between France and Vietnam? Vietnamese had been dominated for more than 80 years by French. At the end of this historical fight, one signature has ended it all, of course, Halong Bay was the place of the signature.
I will not talk fully about the fight between France and Vietnam; however, the main part is still going to be said: how the history of Halong Bay has contributed to the war?
At the time, there was a cave called Duc Tien Cave, which located on the South East side of Van Gio island (Sign: 376 on World Map). This cave was a military base for Vietnamese to produced guns, grenades, weapons and money to serve for the war. Needless to say, Vietnamese had to lie on the cave not only as a hidden place but also as a preparation for the conquest of the French. Not just that, besides being a great strategic location to hide and prepare, Halong Bay also inspire some of the great poems of Vietnam to create poetry with realistic, beautiful images. For example, on the 1st of May, 1930, a red flag of Vietnam was rise high and full of pride on the top of Bai Tho Mountain, marking a beginning of a new era. The era encourages people of Vietnam, from young to adult, male to female, to break the chains of domination and fight to protect the home country.
You must be wondering, all of the stories above but I have not mentioned anything about a signature that changes everything. The reason is that the signature happened at the end of the war when our greatest leader – Ho Chi Minh participated in Congress. The Congress happened on Eminbectan Ship, which was sailing on the Bay of Halong. In this Congress, Ho Chi Minh and the General of French Army – Mr DacGiangLio had signed the contract to end the war between Vietnam and France for more than 80 years in 1946.
As you can see, Halong Bay has become a historical location to Vietnam, where people can now live happily and conventionally as today. That is why Halong Bay is Vietnam’s heritage of value as a symbol of courageous and union.
3. American war – an important factor
After a battle with France which ended in 1945, Vietnam never had been so proud and full with the smile all over the country. However, from 1946 till 1975, American army became our enemy, Vietnamese had to fight with honor to keep the country safe and peaceful, again. The war was harder and harder every day, as American divided our country into 2 parts: The South and the North. Therefore, Vietnam Government and our great leader – Ho Chi Minh, decided to free the North first, as a base to save the South later. In the progress of transport weapons, food, material from the North to the South, Halong was a vital factor, which indispensable to lead us to the goal. In the years of 1960s of the 20th century, ships and boats from Halong Bay continue to go straight forward to the South (as Saigon today), brought guns, ammo, first aid kit, bandage, etc. to support for the war. As a big contribution, the history of Halong Bay was far more than just a location. Halong Bay, in each Vietnamese heart, became a historical heritage, as a savior for the winning of our country against America.
Furthermore, not only a great supporter of the war but the history of Halong Bay also was a witness for the first launching of the airstrike from the American army, also its first failure. On the 5th of August, 1964, America launched the first airstrike, trying to attack the North of Vietnam from the sky with a huge number of military aircraft, loaded with bombs and rockets. Needless to say, the attack was straight to where Halong Bay is located nowadays. Yet, the attack was not successful, the Vietnamese army stopped the airstrike attack, destroyed all the aircraft, and also caught an American pilot named Alvarez. Therefore, we can see that, the history of Halong Bay has seen our first winning against the aggression from America, also became a place where history lied on forever.
With all of the historical events Halong Bay has gone through, it will be a pity if we skip Halong when coming to Vietnam. Halong has determined its culture value, a historical proof for courageous and union of Vietnamese in general, Quang Ninh individuals in particular.
V. Halong Bay today: 1 of 7 Wonders of Nature.
Through many different events, from the beginning of Vietnamese ancestor to watching 2 amazing memorable wars of Vietnam, Halong Bay nowadays has become 1 of 7 Wonders of Nature of the World.
What Halong Bay has achieved is not only because of the beauty of this land, but it is also because of the cultural value which Halong Bay brings to the World. Manager of Representative of UNESCO – Mrs. Katherine Muller Marin said she could not resist from the perfection of the fascination of Halong, where all the limestones are growing on the surface of pure water. Moreover, she compared the water of Halong Bay is as clear as crystal, adding with the fresh environment and friendly people around. “The beauty of the Bay is not only a symbol of the success of reservation, developing the heritage of nature – Vietnam’s true value, but also a perfect example of a unique, treasury ecosystem in Vietnam”, Mrs. Katherine said.
As a result, the manager of Halong Bay concluded that with a huge achievement of Halong Bay as 1 of 7 Wonders of Nature confirmed by UNESCO, it will be more pressure for him to keep preserving the history of Halong with the best condition. The reason why is because the history of Halong Bay has become more and more attractive to tourists all over the world, which makes stores, shops, traders are being more complicated in the core of Halong. Accordingly, in each of the meeting, UNESCO encouraged to upgrade the potential of managing, strictly conserve the natural beauty of Halong. It is clear to see that, the most dangerous threat to Halong Bay at the moment is tourism. With an average of 3 million guesses every year, some location at Halong being overloaded, impact seriously to the environment. Furthermore, the environment also being damaged by garbage and waste is thrown into the beach and littered everywhere. Hence, the best way to keep Halong as appealing as it should be, the manager of Halong has to tighten the rule for tourists, both local people and foreigners, when visiting Halong. Answering to the Press, Mr. Dang Van Bai – Vice President of Board of Vietnam’s Valued Heritage said that: “Vietnam will not let UNESCO take away the title of 1 of 7 Wonders of Nature” and “If we do not obey the recommendation from UNESCO, Halong will be out of the list, give place to others heritage of other different countries”. In addition, The Ministry also evaluates how the history of Halong Bay has brought to Vietnam not only the growth in culture value but also the sharp rise of economic of Quang Ninh. Then, it certain that the history of Halong Bay needs to be preserved as harsh as possible, decreasing the negative impacts happen because of tourism, give Halong Bay lives forever as pride of Vietnamese.
Coming to Vietnam, we cannot miss Halong Bay as a must-go place. With many stories showing courageous of Vietnam, numerous events happen, Halong Bay definitely one of the places in your bucket list. All I can say is that Halong is indescribable; I have visited Halong when I was a kid with my family and Halong amazed me by each of my breath. Go to Halong, sleep on a cruiser, eat local food, and enjoy the view, what could be better? Come to Halong Bay to enjoy and experience the impossible