At Cai Lan the local people have created a small shrine to Tran Khanh Du. Click on the image to zoom in for a closer look at the shrine (photo by Mark Staniforth, courtesy of the Bach Dang River and Van Don Research Team).


Today Van Don is a local district within Quang Ninh province, covering an area of archipelago adjacent to Halong Bay. Its name, however, appears in the historical records as early as 1149 A.D. and subsequently it became one of the most flourishing trading ports in the South China Sea. However, from the fifteenth century with the establishment of international ports further south on the mainland of Vietnam, Van Don gradually faded into history. Tatsuro Yamamoto, who was a Japanese historian, initially pointed out that the possible location of Van Don could be in the area nearby Minh Chou Village on Quan Lan Island. More recently, researchers cooperating with local government officials attempted to locate the exact position of the historical port, which is believed to be at Cai Lan near Quan Lan Island.

The historical significance of Van Don can be seen not only as a trading port but also its historical role during the Yuan Dynasty invasion when the Tran Dynasty navy of Dai Viet counter-attacked the supply ships of the Khublai Khan’s fleet. Shipping was critical in terms of logistics and carrying food for the Yuan forces in the campaign of 1288 A.D. and supply ships attempted to reach the trapped Mongol army by way of Ha Long Bay. According to Đại Việt Sử Ký a Mongol resupply fleet of 70 or more storeships (commanded by Truong Quang Ho) was sent to resupply the Mongol army that had captured Thang Long (now Hanoi). Tran Khanh Du was the local commander of the military/naval forces in the Van Don area at the time. This fleet was attacked and burned by Dai Viet naval forces based in the port of Van Don. This battle took place somewhere in the channels and bays to the west of Quan Lan island possibly starting in the channel known as Luong Song Mang. Tran Khanh Du is worshipped by some of the local people in the area today.