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