Soon after April 30th 1975, Saigon’s name (“Pearl of the Far East”) has changed, but since that fatal day the name of Saigon has still being used when ever needed daily and widely. On this web page you can review a brief history of the name of Saigon and enjoy the slide show of ancient Saigon and the beloved city by 1975 (linked show located at the end of article).
Original Khmer name
The city was known by its original Khmer inhabitants as Prey Nokor (). Prey Nokor means “forest city”, or “forest land” in Khmer (Prey = “forest”; Nokor = “city, land”, from Sanskrit nagara). The name Prey Nokor is still the name used in Cambodia today, as well as the name used by the Khmer Krom minority living in the delta of the Mekong.
Traditional Vietnamese name
After Prey Nokor was settled by Vietnamese refugees from the north, in time it became known as SÃ i GÃ²n. There is much debate about the origins of the Vietnamese name Saigon, whose etymology is analyzed below.
Before the French colonization, the Vietnamese name of Saigon was Gia Äá»‹nh (HÃ¡n nÃ´m: å˜‰å®š). In 1862, the French discarded this official name and adopted the name “Saigon”, which had always been the popular name.
From an orthographic point of view, the Vietnamese name SÃ i GÃ²n is written in two syllables, which is the traditional convention in Vietnamese spelling. Some people, however, write the name of the city as SÃ iGÃ²n or SÃ igÃ²n in order to save space or give it a more westernized look.
A frequently heard etymology is that SÃ i is a Chinese loan word (Chinese: æŸ´, pronounced chÃ¡i in Mandarin) meaning “firewood, lops, twigs; palisade”, while GÃ²n is another Chinese loan word (Chinese: æ£, pronounced gÃ¹n in Mandarin) meaning “stick, pole, bole”, and whose meaning evolved into “cotton” in Vietnamese (bÃ´ng gÃ²n, literally “cotton stick”, i.e. “cotton plant”, then shortened to gÃ²n).
Some people say that this name originated from the many cotton plants that the Khmer people had planted around Prey Nokor, and which can still be seen at CÃ¢y Mai temple and surrounding areas. â€¦ TrÆ°Æ¡ng VÄ©nh KÃ½, “Souvenirs historiques sur Saigon et ses environs”, in Excursions et Reconnaissances, Imprimerie Coloniale, Saigon, 1885.
Another explanation is that the etymological meaning “twigs” (SÃ i) & “boles” (GÃ²n) refers to the dense and tall forest once existing around Saigon, a forest to which the Khmer name Prey Nokor already referred.
Chinese people both in Vietnam and in China do not use the name æŸ´æ£ (pronounced Chaai-Gwan in Cantonese and ChÃ¡igÃ¹n in Mandarin), although etymologically speaking it is the Chinese name from which the Vietnamese name SÃ i GÃ²n is derived (if the theory here is correct). Instead, they call the city è¥¿è²¢ (pronounced Sai-Gung in Cantonese and XÄ«gÃ²ng in Mandarin), which is a mere phonetic transliteration of the name “Saigon”.
Another etymology often proposed is that “Saigon” comes from “Sai Con”, which would be the transliteration of the Khmer words prey kor () meaning “forest of kapok trees” (prey = forest; kor = kapok tree). The Khmer word prey kor should not be confused with the Khmer name “Prey Nokor” discussed above (kor is a Khmer word meaning “kapok tree”, while nokor is a Khmer word of Sanskrit origin meaning “city, land”).
This Khmer etymology theory is quite interesting given the Khmer context that existed when the first Vietnamese settlers arrived in the region. However, it fails to completely explain how Khmer “prey” led to Vietnamese “SÃ i”, since these two syllables appear phonetically quite distinct.
A less likely etymology was offered by Vuong Hong Sen, a Vietnamese scholar in the early 20th century, who asserted that SÃ i GÃ²n had its origins in the Cantonese name of Cholon (Vietnamese: quoc ngu Chá»£ Lá»›n; chu nom ), the Chinese district of Saigon. The Cantonese (and original) name of Cholon is “Tai-Ngon” (å ¤å²¸), which means “embankment” (French: quais). The theory posits that “SÃ i GÃ²n” derives from “Tai-Ngon”.
Current Vietnamese name
On May 1, 1975, after the fall of South Vietnam, the now ruling communist government renamed the city after the pseudonym of their leader Há»“ ChÃ Minh. The official name is now ThÃ nh phá»‘ Há»“ ChÃ Minh, often abbreviated TPHCM. In English this is translated as Há»“ ChÃ Minh City, abbreviated HCMC, and in French it is translated as HÃ´ Chi Minh Ville (the circumflex is sometimes omitted), abbreviated HCMV. Still, the old name SÃ i GÃ²n/Saigon is widely used by Vietnamese and is found in company names or on book titles.
(Source: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)
Click on the two thumbnails to see large images of Saigon topographic map and aerial photo map in details.