In its heyday (from the 16th to the 18th centuries), Hoi An Old Town was a bustling trade town that did brisk business with locals and foreign traders from China, Japan, and Europe.
Until Hoi An's eclipse in the 19th century by the nearby town of Da Nang, local trading families like the masters of Tan Ky House thrived on the exchange of goods and culture. As a side result of this booming international business, many houses like Tan Ky incorporate Vietnamese, Chinese and Japanese cultural elements into their design.
In those days, agricultural products were the Tan Ky family's stock in trade. The house's location on the edge of the Thu Bon River facilitated trade - shipments could simply be brought up the river and deposited at the back door.
The house extends from the street lining the river quay (Bach Dang Street) to Nguyen Thai Hoc Street on the opposite side of the block. The front of the house - at 101 Nguyen Thai Hoc Street, the side facing away from the river - serves as the entrance for visitors. Guests come in through the door at the exact center.
The horizontal wooden beams that make up the façade are actually loosely slotted in, and can be removed to transform the front of the house into a storefront.