My Son Sanctuary
At the 23rd session of the World Heritage Committee held in 1999, My Son Relic Complex was recognized as a world cultural heritage site by UNESCO. It is an exceptional example of cultural interchange, with the introduction of Hindu architecture, and the only evidence of an Asian civilization that disappeared.
My Son Sanctuary is set in a small valley belonging to Duy Phu
Commune, Duy Xuyen District, Quang Nam Province, 69km southwest of Da Nang
City, 42 km from Hoi An City and 30km from the ancient Tra Kieu Citadel. It is
a large complex of religious relics, including temples, shrines and towers of
the capital of the Champa Kingdom. It is surrounded by high mountains with the
only path between two hills that is blocked by a stream like a deep and large
trench, hindering anyone from going into the holy land.
My Son Sanctuary was the worshipping place of the Champa Kingdom and the place where tombs of kings or members of royal families were built. It is one of the major religious sanctuaries of Hinduism in the Southeast Asian region.
According to documents, My Son was built in the 4th century and many large and small towers were built in the area in the following centuries, helping it become the major relic of Champa culture in Vietnam. The first king of the Champa Kingdom, Bhadravarman (Pham Ho Dat), who ruled the Champa Kingdom from 381 to 413, ordered a shrine built to worship Linga and Shiva, genies who are considered the tutelary genies of the Cham people. The buildings of the shrine were influenced by Hinduism in both architecture and culture. However, by the end of the 6th century, the temple was destroyed by a big fire. In the early 7th century, King Sambhavarman (Pham Phan Chi) who ruled from 577 to 629, re-built the temple using bricks. The successive Champa dynasties continued preserving and building more beautiful and splendid shrines. Under the dynasties of Vikrantavarman I and Vikrantavarman II, many large-scale shrines were built.
In the sanctuary, the towers and tombs were mainly built from the 7th to the 14th centuries. However, the excavations show that Cham kings’ tombs were built here from the 4th century and the sanctuary had more than 70 architectural works. Throughout history, My Son Sanctuary was destroyed several times by wars until 1470 when the Champa Kingdom completely collapsed. It was deserted and not preserved by the Cham people for many centuries. In 1885, My Son Sanctuary was discovered by C. Paris, a French explorer, and ten years later scientists started researching the relics. In the early 20th century, the area attracted the attention of French scientists.
In 1904, after conducting many surveys and excavations, two archeologists Launet Finot and H. Parmentier announced the most basic documents on My Son. Research by H. Parmentier showed that 100 years ago My Son had 68 architectural works and these works were restored many times by the Far Eastern Research Institute. In 1945 when war broke out, My Son was seriously destroyed by bombs and in late 1969 it suffered the heaviest destruction. The entire area of magnificent stone towers, 30m in height, the last stone example of the Cham relics, was ruined by US carpet-bombing. According to the collected documents, this stone tower was probably built in the 4th century and according to epitaphs in My Son it was restored for the last time in 1224.
At present My Son still has 20 brick-built towers but most of them are in ruins. Although the architecture and sculpture in My Son are influenced by the Hindu style, Buddhist icons are still seen in the area because Mahayana (one branch of Buddhism) became the main religion of the Cham people in the 10th century. The towers in My Son were built with bricks, stone and sandstone with traditional architectural style. The towers were built on a quadrangular space with three floors, the upper being smaller than the lower. The lowermost floor symbolizes the earth and the body of the tower symbolizes the world of genies. The highest floor is built in a pyramid shape, symbolizing the Genie Meru Mountain - the resident place of Hindu genies. The entire tower was sculptured carefully with delicate, lively and lissome images of birds, animals, flowers, leaves and Apsara dancing girls.
Although there are not many towers left like Angkor (Cambodia), Pagan (Myanmar) and Borobudur (Indonesia), My Son is still the most important shrine and tower area of the Cham people and plays an important role in the art and culture of the Southeast Asian region. For its great values, My Son Relic Complex deserves to be present on the world cultural heritage list.