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[Maps] A Brief Cartographic History of Hai Phong 1898–1968

Known today by the moniker "City of Red Flamboyant Trees," Hai Phong has always been one of Vietnam’s most prominent port cities ever since its establishment in 1888.

On March 15, 1874, the Nguyen Dynasty signed the Second Treaty of Saigon, which opened the Red River and Ninh Hai Port for commerce. Ninh Hai was once part of Hai Duong Province, and the old name of Hai Phong. In 1887, the French administration took some coastal districts in Hai Duong and merged them with Ninh Hai Port to form Hai Phong Province. On July 19, 1888, the city of Hai Phong was officially formed. In the 1940s, it was estimated that the population of Hai Phong neared 73,000 citizens, the fourth-most crowded city in the country after Saigon, Cho Lon and Hanoi.

This collection of old maps reflects the development of Hai Phong throughout its time under French control, with the earliest map dating back to 1898, and the latest drawn in 1968. The city is located at a strategic intersection of the Cam River in the north, Lach Tray River in the south and the open sea on its eastern side, making it perfect for trade and seaport activities. Similar to its Saigon and Hanoi counterparts, the Hai Phong Opera House is an iconic landmark with French architecture.

In today’s Hai Phong, some geographical features in the old maps have been modified to fit the modern population. Tam Bac Lake in Le Chan District, for example, used to be a canal connected to the Tam Bac and Cam rivers. This is evidenced in the maps created in the 1910s, but in the 1925 map, it's already been partially filled in, cutting the water off from the Cam River. Now, the other side, where the canal connects with the Lach Tray River, has also been filled in to make room for the Tam Ky Garden. New infrastructure projects have also popped up, such as two major bridges linking the two sides of the Cam River.

Peruse these amazing old maps below:

1898

1910

1915

1925

1925

1926

1928. Tourane is the old French name of Da Nang.

1929

1934

1937

1968

1968

[Images via Flickr user manhhai]