Hoian has a clutch of informative historical museums, kicking off with the Museum of Trade Ceramics at 80 Tran Phu, housed in a traditional timber residence-cum-ware-house. It showcases the history of Hoian’s ceramics trade, which peaked in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Most of the species - and there are some superb examples- are sixteenth- or seventeenth-century from Vietnam, China and Japan, although there are a few Islamic fragments dating from ninth or tenth centuries. The rear room on the ground floor houses a display about the architecture of Hoian, while in the back room upstairs, ceramics from a sixteenth-century shipwreck off the Son Tra Peninsula are on show.
A smaller museum still under preparation is the Museum of Sa Huynh Culture, housed in a two-storey French- era house at 149 Tran Phu. The Sa Huynh Culture, named after the town 130 km south of Hoian where evidence of it was first discovered in 1902, flourished along the coast of central Vietnam between the second century BC and the second century AD. The one- room display comprises a number of meter-high clay funeral urns in which the ashes of the dead were interred, along with a variety of grave goods. Of these, ceramic fragments show trade links to Han dynasty China, while agate jewellery suggests contact with southern India. The museum is planning to expand into rooms on the first floor, and will include what looks to be fairly predictable display about the American Wars.
Further east along Tran Phu, the north side of the market square is dominated by the colorful frontage of Chua Ong, a seventeenth- century pagoda-temple conversion dedicated to General Quan Cong. Exit through the back of the temple and you find Hoian’s Historical and Cultural Museum, attractively housed in another former pagoda. Apart from the copies of ancient maps of Fai Fo, the primary appeal of this small, informative museum is its quiet courtyard and carved, wooden door panel, depicting the four sacred animals: crane, dragon, turtle and the mythical kylan.