Saigon – Cholon Chinese-Vietnamese Cultural Gallery

To conserve and celebrate the culture of people living in Cholon and its surroundings, Phòng trưng bày văn hóa người Hoa Sài Gòn – Chợ Lớn (西堤華人文化陳列室), or Saigon-Cholon Chinese-Vietnamese Cultural Gallery in English, has been established.

Though small compared to other museums in Saigon and privately run, the space has drawn much attention from not only locals but also foreign tourists.

It has up to 2,500 artifacts contributed by the locals

Chinese-Vietnamese exhibits
The gallery currently exhibits around 2,500 artifacts related to the Chinese-Vietnamese community in Cholon
Image credit: Vietnam Record Association

Established in June 2019, this Saigon-Cholon Chinese-Vietnamese Cultural Gallery has gained a special position in the Chinese-Vietnamese community in Cholon. Visiting the gallery, you can see up to 2,500 artifacts from different eras. Some are approximately hundreds of years old, meaning that they are from the time when the Chinese first came to southern Vietnam. 

Unlike other museums in Hồ Chí Minh City, you won’t see any planes or weapons here. Instead, what makes this gallery special are the casual objects that the locals used in their daily lives. At one corner of the gallery, you will catch sight of the scented cloth sachets of different shapes, a mahjong table, old Chinese certificates, traditional clothes, and so on.

 It was established by a former journalist

Duong Rach Sanh interview
Dương Rạch Sanh (right) while doing an interview with a state television channel about the gallery
Image credit: Cholon Downtown

It is worth mentioning that this gallery is privately owned. Its owner is Dương Rạch Sanh (楊迪生), also known as Kỳ Lân (麒麟), a former journalist of the Chinese edition of the Sài Gòn Giải Phóng newspaper. In order to form the gallery, he has reached out to many senior citizens in Cholon to consult them and ask them for artifact contributions.

In an interview, he shared that the locals initially cast doubt on his initiative of a Chinese-Vietnamese museum. However, watching his relentless efforts and commitment to his idea, the locals were gradually persuaded and even supported him by contributing their own relics.

Book about Vietnamese-Chinese Cultural Gallery
Until now, Dương Rạch Sanh’s book on his curation work for the gallery is only available in traditional Mandarin. The cover features a Luban pillow, a special artifact at the gallery.
Image credit: Tiction Yang

To spread his idea to as many people as possible, he also wrote about his curation work in a Chinese-language book named In search of Saigon – Cholon past (西堤的見證).

You can find this book at the old Cholon bookstore Bồi Trí at 120 Triệu Quang Phục Street, District 5, Hồ Chí Minh City.

The gallery owner holds a Vietnamese Guinness record

Vietnamese-Chinese Cultural Gallery Record Ceremony
The record announcement ceremony at the gallery in April 2021
Image credit: Vietnam Record Association

On 17th April 2021, at Saigon-Cholon Chinese-Vietnamese Cultural Gallery, the Vietnamese Guinness Records Committee officially recognized Dương Rạch Sanh as the owner of the biggest collection of pre-1975 Chinese-Vietnamese relics. 

This recognition, along with the government and locals’ support, gives Sanh a huge motivation to collect more artifacts and develop his gallery further. In fact, Sanh is still on his quest to find more artifacts for the gallery.

A quick tour of the Chinese-Vietnamese community in Cholon at the gallery. The video is in Vietnamese and contains some Cantonese.
Video credit: Cholon Downtown

His main goal is to develop the gallery into a proper museum exclusively for celebrating the Chinese-Vietnamese community. If you’re lucky, you will meet him working as a curator himself on random days.

Saigon – Cholon Chinese-Vietnamese Cultural Gallery

Despite its history of merely 300 years, they have become an integral part of the cultural mosaic of Ho Chi Minh City. Saigon-Cholon Chinese-Vietnamese Cultural Gallery is a great place where you can explore the life and culture of this community. 

A visit to this gallery is also a chance for you to meet its owner, a person with a burning passion for conserving his community’s culture and identity.

Phòng trưng bày văn hóa người Hoa Sài Gòn – Chợ Lớn (西堤華人文化陳列室)
Address: 67 An Dương Vương Street, Ward 8, District 5, Ho Chi Minh City
Entry by enquiry or appointment only

Also check out:

Cover image adapted from Vietnam Record Association, Cholon Downtown, and Tiction Yang

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