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Can Tho area was established 2000-2500 years ago together with the foundation of Mekong delta. After its splendid development of Phu Nam (Phù Nam) kingdom and Oc Eo (Óc Eo) culture lasting for the first six centuries of Christian area, this delta became desert and thinly populated for quite a long time due to historical circumstances plus severe geographical fluctuation.
The name Can Tho and origin of "Tay Do" (Tây Đô)
First legend: Nguyen Anh (Nguyễn Ánh) on the way to the South had passed many places in Mekong delta. One day, his boat got accessed to territory of Tran Giang (formerly known Can Tho) town. At midnight, along the river there echoed poem recitation, song singing, flute playing in a rhythmical harmony. The Lord inwardly complimented a charming landscape and proclaimed this river a poetic name "Cam Thi Giang" (Cam Thi - Cầm Thi - river). The name "Cam Thi" gradually spread and "Can Tho" was the variant spoken by many people at that time.
It was assumed by another legend that people long time ago planted a lot of cresses and herbal vegetable along both sides of Can Tho river. Merchandising of these kinds of vegetables had existed for years by boat. Since then, local residents named this river "Can Thom" (Cần Thơm), then "Can Tho" as its variant.
Regarding "Tay Do", there has not had any records that officially names Can Tho as Tay Do (capital of the West). However, thanks to favorable location in traffic, trading, technology and even military, Can Tho is considered the hub of the whole area.
History of foundation of an area
In 1771, Thai troops attacked Ha Tien without occupying Tran Giang (Trấn Giang). In 1774, Tay Son troops headed for the South to take possession of Gia Dinh, then to the West, and Tran Giang. After the battle Rach Gam Xoai Mut (Rạch Gầm Xoài Mút) in 1787, Tay Son troops withdrew from palaces and towns in the West, Tran Giang returned to be under protection of Nguyen dynasty. During 70s of 18th century, Tran Giang became a significant fort and dramatically developed in a very chaotic historical circumstance.
When the King Gia Long was on his throne, Tran Giang was subordinate to Vinh Thanh town. In 1813, the King Gia Long set up a suburban district named Vinh Dinh (Vĩnh Định) by cutting off a fertile part at the right bank of Hau river (including Tran Giang - Can Tho), this district belonged to Dinh Vien district, Vinh Thanh town. In 1832, The King Minh Mang (Minh Mạng) promulgated an imperial decree to change "town" into "province", and changed Vinh Dinh suburb district into Tan Thanh (Tân Thành) district, An Giang province. Then, Vinh Dinh suburb district was renamed Phong Phu (Phong Phú), well-known for its peace, prosperity, and security, tremendously different from other areas in the West at that time.
During the invasion of the French colony in Vietnam, Phong Phu district was subordinate to Vinh Long. Till 1876, this district was separated to set up the capital of Can Tho. When America empire took over from the French colony, government of Ngo Dinh Diem (Ngô Đình Diệm) decided to change the name "Can Tho" into "Phong Dinh" province. After the unification of the whole country, Can Tho became the township of Hau Giang province. Till 1991, Hau Giang province was separated into two smaller provinces: Can Tho and Soc Trang (Sóc Trăng).
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