A story about the richest man in Cholon Saigon
Discover Chinese history Cholon Saigon
A quick brief about Quach Dam – a business Chinese man in Cholon
Quach Dam was a Chinese man who lived in the Cholon area. He was a scavenger and homeless before he became rich. He is known for his intelligence and acumen which helped him become one of the richest men in Saigon in the 20th century. He played a crucial role in the establishment of the Binh Tay Market
Quach Dam – who laid the foundation to build Binh Tay market is still a rather strange name for many young people in Saigon because although he is rich, because he was born late, this Chinese billionaire has not been popularized by folklore. listed as one of the four great riches of Saigon in the early 20th century (including Huyen Sy – Le Phat Dat; Governor-General Phuong – Do Huu Phuong; Ba Ho Xuong – Ly Tuong Quan and Chu Hoa – Hui Bon Hoa).
Quach Dam (1863-1927) real name is Quach Diem, originally from Chaozhou (China). As noted in the book “Anecdotes About the billionaires of old Saigon” by Thuong Hong, Quach Dam was an orphan of his parents and had no home. As a child, he had a miserable life and had to live on the streets of the market.
When he was young, Quach Dam used to buy bottles during the day and sleep on the porches of houses at night. Despite living such a precarious life, he still had the will to get rich. A few years later, although he still had no home, he had accumulated a small amount of capital for his business. He bought and sold rare and strange items such as buffalo skin and fish fin. At that time, these items were mainly sold abroad.
Because he had to sleep in the market, he was often stalked by bad guys who tried to steal the capital hidden in his wallet. Although he lost money many times, Mr. Dam was still not discouraged and persevered to start over. Only a few years later, Quach Dam had a decent amount of capital.
He decided to rent a house in today’s Kim Bien market area (at that time the entire area was still a canal flowing into the Tau Hu canal). Taking advantage of the location of the house right next to the canal, Quach Dam turned to trade agricultural products and food, mainly buying rice in the western provinces. Initially a small business, it grew to become the largest rice supplier in Saigon – Cho Lon.
The history of Binh Tay – Cholon market in Chinatown
In 1925, the chief counsel of Cho Lon saw that the city area was crowded with people, so he wanted to expand the border to the suburban area. He asked the owner of a land area of tens of acres adjacent to it and received a very expensive price. As a smart businessman who knew how to seize opportunities, Quach Dam quickly grabbed the lucrative bait as soon as he knew the information. He then made a proposal to donate a 17,000-square-meter piece of land in Binh Tay hamlet and spent his pocket money to build a huge market for the city government.
However, there were two requirements attached. First, Quach Dam asked to build two blocks of townhouses around the market and secondly, to erect a statue of himself to place in the middle of the market. In fact, the second claim is difficult because only famous people can erect statues. But eventually, the colonial government also approved because the statue was only placed in the market.
Quach Dam spent a lot of money to build the market. His deep intention was to move the trading center of Cho Lon city to Binh Tay market to make a profit. Unfortunately, when all the preparations for the construction of the market were completed, Quach Dam died in 1927. The construction of the market was postponed for 1 year. In 1928, his children replaced their father to build Binh Tay market.
In 1930, the market was completed on a larger scale and higher than the Ben Thanh market. The market is built according to modern Western technology but has oriental architecture with yin and yang tile roofs and dragons on the roof. In the middle of the market, there is a small park where the statue of Quach Dam is cast in bronze with a lake and a stone pedestal made of white marble with four dragons and two large bronze lions spouting silver water.
Cholon – Binh Tay market then and now
After 1975, the statue of Quach Dam in Binh Tay market was dismantled. After many years in storage at the Culture and Information Office of District 6, in 2003 the statue was moved to the Museum of Fine Arts.
To commemorate the merits of Quach Dam, the small traders in the market raised money to build a new statue to put in the old position. However, the new statue is only a portrait, quite small, and disproportionately placed. So it is placed right on the old wall pedestal.
Although he did not witness the completion of Binh Tay Market with his own eyes, he believed that Quach Dam would always be proud of the work he had dedicatedly left behind. Nearly 100 years have passed, Binh Tay market still stands tall with time and is always the pride of the Chinese community in Saigon.