History of Hoi An
It is recognized as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1999. Hoi An Ancient Town is an exceptionally well-preserved example of a South-East Asian trading port dating from the 15th to the 19th century. Its buildings and its street plan reflect the influences, both indigenous and foreign, that have combined to produce this unique heritage site.
The city possessed the largest harbour in Southeast Asia in the 1st century and was known as Lam Ap Pho (Champa City). Between the seventh and 10th centuries, the Cham (people of Champa) controlled the strategic spice trade and with this came tremendous wealth.
In 1535 Portuguese explorer and sea captainAntónio de Faria, coming from Da Nang, tried to establish a major trading center at the port village of Faifo. HoiAn was founded as a trading port by the Nguyen Lord (Nguyen Hoang) sometime around 1595. The Nguyen Lords were far more interested in commercial activity than the Trinh Lords who ruled the north. As a result, Hoi An flourished as a trading port and became the most important trade port on the South China Sea. Captain William Adams, the English sailor and confidant of Tokugawa Ieyasu, is known to have made at least one trading mission to Hoi An (around 1619).The early Portuguese Jesuits also had one of their two residences at Hoi An.
In the 18th century, it was considered by Chinese and Japanese merchants to be the best destination for trading in all of Southeast Asia, even Asia. Japanese believed the heart of all of Asia (the dragon) lay beneath the earth of Hoi An. The city also rose to prominence as a powerful and exclusive trade conduit between Europe, China, India, and Japan, especially for the ceramic industry. Shipwreck discoveries have shown that Vietnamese and Asian ceramics were transported from Hoi An to as far as Sinai, Egypt.
The city’s importance waned sharply at the end of the 18th century because of the collapse of Nguyen rule (thanks to the Tay Son Rebellion - which was opposed to foreign trade). Then, with the triumph of Emperor Gia Long, he repaid the French for their aid by giving them exclusive trade rights to the nearby port town of Da Nang. Da Nang became the new center of trade (and later French influence) in central Vietnam while Hoi An was a forgotten backwater. Local historians also say that Hoi An lost its status as a desirable trade port due to silting up of the river mouth. The result was that the city remained almost untouched by the changes to Vietnam over the next 200 years.
Today, the town is a tourist attraction because of its history, traditional architecture and crafts such as textiles and ceramics. Many bars, hotels, and resorts have been constructed both in Hoi An and the surrounding area. The port mouth and boats are still used for both fishing and tourism.