Tan Ky House
Tan Ky House, Hoi An
We stepped into Tan Ky House.
On the notice board beside Bear were sheets telling of the Architecture of the house and its History, they read as follows:
The Tan Ky House traded in agricultural products in the 18th and 19th centuries, Its owners had boats sail up the Thu Bon River and buy and carry the products home. Goods ready for sale were kept in the ground floor; those to be sold later were moved upstairs by means of pulleys. Its customers consisted of local and foreign merchants who came mainly from South-East Asia and Europe.
About the end of the 18th century, thanks to the rapid development of local business, the owner was able to rebuild the house on its own base as we can see today. Generation after generation, the Tan Ky family has made untiring attempts to keep the house in good condition, despite time and weather. The name Tan Ky came from the second generation, which means “Progress Shop”. It expresses the owner’s wish for a prosperous business. The Thu Bon River gradually silted up due to continuous floods and this made it impossible for big ships to enter the port. This is one of several reasons for a recession that started in the early 19th century. By the beginning of the 20th century, very few ships from other parts of the world came to Hoi An and the town ceased to be one of the mot important business centres of the region.
Until now, the house has been the home of seven generations of the same family. It offers evidence of the period when trade with foreigners flourished in this important port from the 18th century to the first half of the 19th century, a time when wealthy merchants built such imposing houses.
At the bottom of the steep staircase (the wood looked amazing for its age) was a sign that read: Tan Ky shop-house was built by a Chinese in the late 18th century. It is one of the most beautiful architectural projects in Hoi An. The house has two two-storey apartments connecting the front and the back streets. The front house looking to Nguyen Thai Hoc Street served as a shop whereas the rear house faced Bach Dang Street, also the riverbank, so convenient for loading and unloading commodities. The interior of the house was divided into functioning parts: worship, business doing, guest receiving, commodity storage, family activities.... Carvings on the wooden beams, rafters, pillars in the house are very refined and excellent. The precious antiquities of the house can, to some extent, prove the prosperity of the former Tan Ky shop-house in particular and Hoi An in general. The house is now one of the laces of interest of many VIP’s, both domestically and internationally.
Bear waiting for his cup of tea, sitting grandly in the reception room.
Bear, tea in hand. A glass cabinet filled with antique plates and superposed beams in ironwood.
The stunning ceiling.
A cross section of the Tan Ky House.
Design features of the house.
Architecture: The design of the Tan Ky house shows the cultural influences that Chinese and Japanese styles had on local architecture at that time. The beams and roofs and ceilings, for example, are typical of these architectural styles.
Although suffered from the devastation of time and floods, the house has remained almost unchanged thanks to the good materials it was built with. The inside wooden framework is joined with wooden pegs and rests on marble bases. The outside structure is made of thick bricks and tiles, This design helps to keep the house cool in summer and warm in winter.
Many of the building materials were brought from other areas of Vietnam. The paving stones and floor tiles, for example, come from Northern areas. The old furniture and works of art in the house are typical of the period, many are original.
The Tan Ky House has been listed in the top category of old houses by the National Ministry of Culture. It has been filmed and shown on television and become the best known and most visited house in Hoi An since 1983.
The house has the honour of receiving thousands of visitors every year. It is the only one in Hoi An visited by international and Vietnamese leaders such as Secretary General Truong Chinh, Secretary General Le Kha Phieu, President Tran Duc Luong, Prime Minister Phan Van Khai, President Jiang Zemin (China), Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra (Thailand) etc.
In pride of place – Greetings from the State President of Vietnam for the 1996 traditional New Year and a visit note from the Prime Minister in 2009.
A Translated Excerpt from the Stele at the Grave of Le Tan Ky, the builder of Tan Ky Merchant Heritage House.
Born an orphan at a very early age, luckily, the poor little boy, Le Tan Ky, was brought up by his uncle Truong and soon became a well-known, independent-minded young man living in Minh Huong commune. He owned vast ricefields, gardens and farms with horses. The richer he became, the more generous he became. He was always ready to share food and drink with friends who frequently came to stay with him.... He was always always ready to help anyone, including his workers and peasants in need, no matter how much it might cost him....
After the age of sixty, he asked his eldest son to take over his business and moved to Thu Bon village (Duy Xuyen District, Quang Nam Province) where he lived amongst nature, moonlight and trees, avoiding trivial things. He considered this the most pleasant way of life....
At the news of his death, many poor peasants cried and said “Since Tan Ky’s arrival, we’ve been treated well and eaten well. Thanks to his virtue, we’ve had neither floods nor droughts for many years.... Whenever we wanted to block a cave or widen a stream, he always helped us with rice and corn. Such a man of virtue we have never seen in our lives.” Reported by Regent Nguyen Thien Quan.
Bedside table with lantern, bed of third generation lady made around 1878, with air panels head and foot end. Prayer shelf.
A small shop in the back corner.
Out in the lean to were these farming tools, they were used after harvest between 1950 and 1972, when the family donated all their ricefields to peasants under the scheme of the then government “Peasants Own Their Land”.
Nia: a large flat winnowing basket.
Sang: a flat bamboo woven basket used for the separation of different types of grains.
Du’ng: a bamboo woven basket with holes large enough for small or broken grains to pass through but bigger grains do not.
Thung: a deep bamboo basket for holding rice.
Rice Huller: several human-powered rice hullers similar to this last one were used to remove the chaff of the grains, the family’s peasants used this one until the middle of the 20th century.
Our house tour over, we could potter through more slowly, we began with the china displays. In the second cabinet an interesting little cup sat in the centre of the middle shelf.
Known as a ‘greedy cup’, this 16th century china piece was made in Fujian, China. It is called the Cup of Confucius and has a small hole in the bottom, if you fill it to eighty per cent all is well, if you fill it any more all the contents leak out.
The next cabinet held an interesting story. The lighting was awful so we had to take a picture straight on. The top shelf held a picture and a written card standing behind a tortoiseshell box and a betel spittoon, part of an areca set given to Ms Thai thi Lan, the third Tan Ky House owner. The set was a gift from Dr. Pham Tuan on her 60th birthday in 1917.
Dr. Pham Tuan is an eminent figure of the Five Flying Phoenixes, a phrase denoting the five successful doctorate candidates from Quang Nam Province who attained their degree at the same time. Dr. Pham Tuan’s daughter, Pham thi Thuan, became Ms Thai thi Lan’s daughter-in-law in 1908 and she had four children, of whom the eldest son, Le Hien (1910-1986), was an excellent student of Buoi High School (also called the College du Protectorate). Always first in his class, he passed the graduation exam with high distinction. He also won the King’s scholarship to study in France in 1933. He was awarded a doctorate degree and later became the founder of Le Pacific, a journal, and a consultant for the Vietnam Delegation at the Franco-Vietnam Fontainebleau Conference (1946). He was also among the few Vietnamese who took part in the compilation of the Larousse dictionary.
Gorgeous ceiling with a little bit of Ms Thai thi Lan’s portrait.
Near the front entrance Chinese lettering and portraits of the 5th generation owners of the house.
Standing in the connecting corridor and looking up, we see the moss on the side wall, wonder just how damp it is on the second floor where the family live.
Inlay in one of the ironwood pillars, a bird pattern on another. Mother of Pearl inlay on a table.
Coffee table and chairs.
Bear stands beside yellow markers with dates showing water levels during various floods and typhoons. The top three read: 30th of September 2009, 12th of November 2007 and the 5th of November 2017.
Tan Ky House in a mess after a flood. The 1999 flood. Picture taken in front of the Japanese Covered Bridge.
1964 flood, 2007 flood and a boy rescuing his dog.
Tan Ky House during the flood of 2013 and Bear standing outside today – the water level rose to just above Bear’s elbow.
ALL IN ALL AN ELDERLY GEM
A WELL PRESENTED AND VERY OLD HOUSE SO REGULARLY UNDER WATER