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The Spirit of Vietnam Through the Bình Chuẩn Brand Over Three Centuries

Tinh thần Việt Nam qua thương hiệu Bình Chuẩn suốt ba thế kỷ qua

平準“, “bình chuẩn” according to the Hán-Nôm dictionary means equality and fairness. “Bình Chuẩn Ty” was established by the progressive Confucian scholar, Dr. Đặng Huy Trứ, during the reign of Emperor Tự Đức of the Nguyễn dynasty (1802-1945), with the aim of comprehensive reforms, focusing on commerce, business, and modernization of the country. He advocated for the construction of ships using European techniques and the expansion of trade with foreign countries.

By applying advanced shipbuilding techniques, they were able to build Western-style ships. In the 20th century, “Bình Chuẩn Ship” became a brand that the patriotic entrepreneur Bạch Thái Bưởi named for the largest ship he designed, built, and successfully launched in Hải Phòng in 1919, which then docked in Saigon in 1920, continuing to promote national modernization and the “Movement to Revitalize the Commercial Market and Promote Practical Industries.”

Exactly 100 years later, a unique masterpiece inspired by the legendary ship and ship king Bạch Thái Bưởi emerged. A new Heritage Cruises brand was born, reviving the heritage and continuing the story of made-in-Vietnam cruises: “Heritage Bình Chuẩn” of the 21st century.

Bình Chuẩn Ty in the 19th Century

According to Wikipedia, the progressive Confucian scholar, Dr. Đặng Huy Trứ, during Emperor Tự Đức’s reign, established Bình Chuẩn Ty to develop the economy and foreign trade for the Nguyễn dynasty. He was a reformer who sowed the seeds of modernization and enlightenment during the mid-19th century with ideas for economic development (mining, expanding handicrafts and commerce, developing transportation).

He advocated for military science development (proposing people’s war strategies, sending people to learn Western techniques such as shipbuilding and weapon crafting); social reform (opposing the disdain for martial arts, fighting corruption, emphasizing the virtues of thrift, integrity, and impartiality in officials).

He established trading posts like Lạc Sinh Điếm, Lạc Thanh Điếm, and Bình Chuẩn Ty to trade with the West, creating financial and military foundations for the Nguyễn dynasty in the 1850s-1870s. Unlike other reformers of his time, Đặng Huy Trứ was a bold reformer who relied on the people and benefited the people (public-private dual benefits), fully committing to modernization.

Bình Chuẩn Ship in the 20th Century

An event that brought glory to the Vietnamese shipbuilding industry occurred on September 7, 1919, when the Northern industrialist Bạch Thái Bưởi (1874-1932) successfully launched the Bình Chuẩn ship at his private shipyard on the Cấm River (Hải Phòng), Northern Vietnam. This ship was praised as the largest steamship at the time.

The pride was that this steamship was entirely designed, constructed, and launched successfully by Vietnamese people at the first shipyard owned by Vietnamese. The ship was 42 meters long, 7.2 meters wide, 3.6 meters high, with a capacity of 600 tons, a 450-horsepower engine, steam-powered, and a speed of 8 nautical miles per hour.

This was a source of pride not only for the ship’s owner in Northern Vietnam but also for the Vietnamese commercial and industrial sectors, and the emerging middle class at the time for the significant achievement in indigenous shipbuilding technology.

The Bình Chuẩn ship made its successful maiden voyage along the Vietnamese coast from Hải Phòng on August 20, 1920, and docked in Saigon on its first trip on September 17, 1920, amid warm welcomes from the commercial and bourgeois circles, honoring the first Vietnamese ship to dock in Saigon. It was likely from here that the title of “King of Ships” in Vietnam was given to Bạch Thái Bưởi.

Regarding the naming of the ship to match its significance and grandeur, Bạch Thái Bưởi pondered deeply. According to Ms. Bạch Quế Hương, he thought it would be awkward to name the new ship after himself. After many nights of deliberation with family members and close associates, Bạch Thái Bưởi decided on the name “Bình Chuẩn.” So, what does Bình Chuẩn mean?

As mentioned earlier, “Bình Chuẩn Ty” originated during the reign of Emperor Tự Đức (1829-1883), proposed by the progressive Confucian scholar, Dr. Đặng Huy Trứ (1825 – 1874). He was a Vietnamese reformer, the pioneer of photography in Vietnam, and the first to introduce Western shipbuilding techniques to Vietnam.

In 1866, Đặng Huy Trứ was appointed as Biện lý of the Ministry of Revenue. He proposed to the court to establish Bình Chuẩn Ty in Hanoi to manage commerce and finance for the nation. His proposal was approved by Emperor Tự Đức. He was assigned to Hanoi to establish Bình Chuẩn Ty, holding the title of Bình chuẩn sứ, with the task of managing commerce and finance for the nation, trading goods domestically and internationally.

Researchers have discovered a meaningful fact: despite frequent contact with the French and learning advanced Western techniques, Bạch Thái Bưởi always cherished and continued the spirit of his predecessors’ reforms in line with the times, emphasizing practical industries and trade. This is reflected in the name Bình Chuẩn.

The name “Bình Chuẩn Ship” encapsulates the entire intention of revitalizing commerce, promoting practical industries, and developing commercial and industrial sectors of Bạch Thái Bưởi according to the Duy Tân movement, following the example of Phan Châu Trinh, to enlighten the people, invigorate the nation, and ensure the well-being of the people, striving for peaceful reforms, national prosperity, and independence. He aspired for a prosperous and unified nation with Vietnamese and noble values: integrity, righteousness, and responsibility.

Heritage Bình Chuẩn Cruise of the 21st Century

Ms. Bạch Quế Hương mentioned that she felt chosen by Bạch Thái Bưởi to inherit his legacy. It could be a coincidence of history, a person born exactly 100 years after Bạch Thái Bưởi. I fulfilled my childhood dream of a cruise ship by launching the largest ship of my life, also the largest overnight cruise in the Gulf of Tonkin. Remarkably, this new ship was launched exactly 100 years after the Bình Chuẩn ship in the historical waters of Hải Phòng. A century ago, the father of the overnight cruise service launched the Bình Chuẩn ship.

What is special is that the name Bình Chuẩn was given to me by Ms. Bạch Quế Hương, the great-granddaughter of entrepreneur Bạch Thái Bưởi. Ms. Hương named it while following my passionate journey, with the aspiration to conquer the rivers of Northern Vietnam and reach the open sea, following the legacy of Bạch Thái Bưởi, emphasizing the spirit of business, honoring heritage values, and the Vietnamese spirit. She humorously called me Bạch Thái Hà.

From the conception to the construction of the Heritage Bình Chuẩn cruise ship, Ms. Bạch Quế Hương has been enthusiastically supportive and served as the godmother of the ship when it was launched. Therefore, the Heritage Bình Chuẩn cruise brand – Bình Chuẩn Heritage of the 21st century was officially established in July 2019 in Hải Phòng. It is the largest ship in the Gulf of Tonkin, reviving a significant national heritage and closely associated with the miraculous number 7.

I am very proud to name the Heritage Bình Chuẩn, carrying on the legacy of the famous ship of “King of Ships” Bạch Thái Bưởi, with the hope of continuing the Vietnamese cruise dream to reach the five continents, bringing pride to Vietnamese people and fulfilling Bạch Thái Bưởi’s dream of “Vietnamese people traveling on Vietnamese ships.”

I genuinely hope that when Vietnamese people hear the name Bình Chuẩn, it will evoke a proud historical memory of the first “made-in-Vietnam” ship in history by the revered industrialist and nobleman Bạch Thái Bưởi. For foreign tourists, they will be impressed by the distinctive cultural, artistic, heritage, historical, human, and Vietnamese spirit displayed on the unique heritage space of the Heritage Bình Chuẩn cruise.

Travel nowadays is all about destinations, experiences, and memories. Each destination has its secrets, stories, treasures of cuisine, nature, culture, art, heritage, history, and people of that land. These are the attractions that draw travelers to explore, enjoy, relax, and immerse themselves in the cultural and natural heritage.

Like the name Bình Chuẩn, which has much to explore, this is also the boutique concept, where every detail has a story to tell. This unique difference is why the Heritage Bình Chuẩn has been highly rated by luxury magazines domestically and internationally as a “unique masterpiece within the heritage“, a “wonder amid wonders“, and a “one-of-a-kind cruise in paradise“, “World’s best boutique cruise line”, bearing a century-old historical brand spanning three centuries.

A cruise on the Heritage Bình Chuẩn ( brings you a sense of pride and a deeply emotional experience on a journey to discover cultural and artistic heritage and profound national pride. A heritage story and a Vietnamese cruise dream are being continued.

Dr. Pham Ha is the Chairman and CEO of LuxGroup (, a conglomerate of prestigious companies and a leading expert in the luxury tourism industry. Besides his business endeavors, he has a passion for collecting paintings and antiques. He also writes about branding, economics, business management, and cultural heritage, including books on history and art.

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