Hanoi Ancient House 87 Ma May is a classic example of late 19th-century housing in Hanoi's Old Quarter. It was renovated by a UNESCO-funded organization to a close approximation of its original condition. The house is now a tourist attraction provide a glimpse into a rich merchant's lifestyle a hundred years back. If you are keen on history and vernacular architecture, then it is a must for your Hanoi tour.
Covering an area of 157.6 square meters, the house is 28 meters long, 5 meters wide in the front and 6 maters wide at the back. As the owner of the house was a trader, he designed the house in the “Mo Hau” style (narrow in the front and wide in the back) believing that he would be lucky in business.
Many houses in the Old Quarter are known as "tube houses" since they can be as long as 70 meters and as narrow as two meters--this developed as an attempt to minimize taxes, as each property was taxed according to the width of the street-facing facade. To allow for sufficient light in these narrow dwellings, it was necessary to design multiple courtyards along the length of each house. Although the 87 Ma May house is comparatively wide, it was designed along the same principals.
It has three apartments. Each apartment is separated by a small space called “Gieng Troi” (Well of heaven). The house frame bears the main force of the house. The stair are made of ironwood and carved. The sloping roofs are covered with two layers of tiles: Flat tile inside layer and toe- cap tile outside layer.
In the past, the first apartment on the first floor had trade exhibits and produced traditional handicraft products. The well of heaven in the middle was used to grow plants to make the house more spacious. The second apartment provide a relaxation space and place for storage of goods. The well of heaven on this floor was used to cook and wash clothes. The final apartment was used for sanitation and storage.
The second floor of the house is the place where the owners live. The first apartment is used for welcomed guests and placing the ancestral altar. There are wooden statues, bronze objects, horizontal lacquered boards, an incense burner and parallel sentences on the altar. The second apartment is the living place of the house’s owner. There is a carved settee made of ironwood and an old tea chest, the final apartment is the place for study and relaxation. It has stone and wooden chessboards, pipes made of bamboo, bronze or aluminum in the late 19th century, dusty embroidered frames and looms.
The harmonious decoration creates more space for the house, though it preserves its original state, with regard to both family and commercial life in the capital city.
Built at the start of the 19th century, the old house at no 87 Ma May street is one of the oldest houses in Hanoi built in the old pipe- shaped architecture. This was a very popular architectural style in the past. The house has had a number of owners, but the original architectural style is still preserved.
Before 1945, the owners of the house was famous rice trader in Hanoi. The house welcomed many traders from all over the country. After 1945, the owners sold this house to a rich Chinese family who specialized in selling and filling prescription medicines. The owners lived in the house for less than ten years, and then moved with his family to the South, leaving the house without a real owner for a long time. In 1954 the Hanoi Real Estate Department took it over and allocated it to five- holds who all lived there together.
How to get there
The ancient house sits at 87 Ma May street, a popular street in Hanoi Old Quarter. You can easily walk there for less than 10 minutes from Hoan Kiem lake.
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