MY SON SANCTUARY HISTORY

Mỹ Sơn is a Hindu temple complex built by the Champa, a united kingdom of various tribes of the Cham ethnic group

HIGHLIGHTS

Highlights best summed up by UNESCO – The My Son Sanctuary is a remarkable architectural ensemble that developed over a period of ten centuries. It presents a vivid picture of spiritual and political life in an important phase of the history of South-East Asia.

The monuments are unique and without equal in Southeast Asia.

Criterion (ii): The My Son Sanctuary is an exceptional example of cultural interchange, with an indigenous society adapting to external cultural influences, notably the Hindu art and architecture of the Indian sub-continent.

Criterion (iii): The Champa Kingdom was an important phenomenon in the political and cultural history of South – East Asia, vividly illustrated by the ruins of My Son.

HISTORICAL PROCESS

Mỹ Sơn is a Hindu temple complex built by the Champa, a united kingdom of various tribes of the Cham ethnic group. The Champa ruled South and Central Vietnam from the 3rd century until 1832. Upon their succession, Champa kings would build temple complexes at Mỹ Sơn.

The Champa people were predominately Hindu, and the temples at Mỹ Sơn are dedicated to the Hindu deity Shiva. These structures were decorated with sculptures of gods, priests, sacred animals (dragons, snakes, lions, elephants), and scenes of mythical battles. In addition to being a place of worship, kings and religious leaders were interred here.

The Champa were annexed by the Vietnamese Emperor Minh Mang in 1832, and the Mỹ Sơn temple complex was largely forgotten and was reclaimed by the jungle. In 1898, the Frenchman M.C. Paris rediscovered the complex during the French occupation of Vietnam.

This led to the study and partial restoration of the site by the École française d’Extrême-Orient and other scholarly societies. Frenchmen Henri Parmentier and M.L. Finot are credited with extensively documenting the site as it existed at the time, including copious photographs.

Today, efforts are under way to preserve and restore the temples to the conditions documented by the French in the early 20th century. These restoration efforts involve the use of materials that are as similar as possible to those used by the original Champa architects. The restored sections of temples are readily visible and obviously distinguishable from the original sections, as the modern bricks are cleaner and a noticeably different colour

HISTORY OF THE PEOPLE

The Chăm people belong to an ethnic group in Southeast Asia. They formed the core of the Hindu communities in both Cambodia and Vietnam. Chăm is a remnant of the Chăm Pa Kingdom (7th to 15th centuries), and closely related to the Malay race.

The Cham had a vast trade network, with routes extending northeast to China, Taiwan, and Japan and south to Malaysia and Indonesia. Their wealth—gold and silver, gems, spices,  exotic animals, and slaves—was renowned all the way to India, the Middle East, and even the farthest reaches of North Africa. Malayo-Polynesian-speaking ancestors of the Cham are thought to have arrived in Vietnam by sea from Borneo. Most scholars believe the Cham are descendants of the Sa Huynh, who occupied the same area from roughly 1000 B.C. to the second century A.D., when the Cham culture began flowering.

Sa Huynh relics have been found as far away as Taiwan, the Philippines, and Malaysia, indicating that the people sailed, traded, and settled around what was then the Champa Sea.

RELIGIOUS SITE

This My Son site represents one of the longest continuous occupations for religious purposes, not only of the Chăm Kingdom, but also within Southeast Asia as a whole.

The My Son Sanctuary temple complex was the central praying and worshiping focus of Cham Pa rulers, and was also a tool to assist the rulers to contact with the Gods and Saints. The land accordingly become the significant religious and cultural center of Cham Pa reigns.

The site was inhabited from the 4th to the 15th century AD, far longer than any of the other Indian-influenced sites in the region including the famous sites of Angkor Wat in Cambodia, Borobudur in Indonesia, Pagan in Myanmar, and Ayutthaya in Thailand.

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