When in Hoi An, there is one place you should not miss: Diep Dong Nguyen, an ancient house located at 82 Nguyen Thai Hoc street. This is considered the first private museum in the central part of Vietnam, and many tourists and researchers, both foreign and native, consider it an invaluable antique museum.
The Diep Dong Nguyen house is open 8:00 – 12:00 and 14:00 – 16:30 daily. It was built in the late 19th century for a Chinese merchant, Diep Dong Xuan, native of Gia Ung District, in Guangdong Province. In the mid-19th century he opened a Chinese pharmacy in Hoi An, and after building this house he developed his business, trading in many commodities such as high-quality materials, jewelry, ceramics, books, and others.
The front room on the ground floor was once a dispensary for “Thuoc Bac” (Chinese medicine); the medicines were stored in the glass-enclosed cases lining the walls. The owner’s private collection of antiques – which includes photographs, porcelain and furniture – is on display upstairs. Two of the chairs were once lent by the family to Emperor Bao Dai. Diep Dong Nguyen house is a two-storey building, with a roof frame of high made quality wood. Its wood-en plank-doors can be easily removed whenever there is a family gathering.
The rear room followed by a yard kitchen is intended for the family’s daily activities. On the second floor, with a lower ceiling, are the worshipping place, bedroom and sitting room. Near the stairs there is a hole through which goods were loaded and unloaded. In the house, many parts are carved with a Chinese motif of “dragons-carps,” symbol of strength. The house contains many precious objects, high-quality wooden furniture, paintings and statues, books, ancient ceramics, etc. In the near future, the family’s collection of antiques will be displayed here and the house will become the first private museum in Hoi An.
Today, the house is a famous tourist attraction thanks to its original architecture, style, structure building materials, and interior decoration. Every day, Diep Dong Nguyen ancient house opens its doors to welcome its visitors who don’t need a ticket, are not bothered by security guards, and can freely and safely see and touch the objects in the house. Quite a privilege!