My Son Sanctuary site: Echo of a glorious past

By DOAN HOANG |

(QNO) - My Son Sanctuary is located in Duy Phu commune, Duy Xuyen district, Quang Nam province (Central Vietnam), about 70km southwest of  Da Nang city and 45km west of Hoi An ancient town.

My Son landscape
My Son landscape

From the first centuries AD, a unique and bright kingdom appeared and improved on the land of contemporary Central Vietnam. And Amaravat - the former name of Quang Nam province – was engraved in the literary stelae as the Heart of the Cham Kingdom in a long period.

The earliest stelae found at My Son holly land showed that in the 4th century, King Bhadresvara built a temple to worship Shiva (one of the three Supreme Gods of Hinduism). After a fire, however, it was destroyed. From those days to the 8th century, the kings of the Sambhuvarman reign paid much effort to repair it and built 70 towers and sanctuaries more, created them to become a group of majestic and dramatic Cham’s architectural constructions in a beautiful forest.

 Hundred of tourists visited My Son Sanctuary Site everyday
Hundred of tourists visited My Son Sanctuary Site everyday

The ancient My Son Sanctuary was discovered in the 19th century (1898) by Maxen Paris, a French scholar. Realizing this was the core of a golden age in the history of Cham kingdom, Paris immediately carried out inventory of the whole towers and temples in the sanctuary area. He classified them into artistic groups according to ages and art styles following historical period. The study about and restoration of this heritage have been continued since 1975, after Vietnam liberation and reunification. At that time, only 32 temples and towers left its initial posture, most of them were destroyed in the  war by US bomb.

Remaining vestiges of the stone towers at My Son.
Remaining vestiges of the stone towers at My Son.

The present towers and temples of My Son Sanctuary were classified into many artistic groups based on the style of construction, such as Binh Dinh style, Dong Duong style, Hoa Lai style, My Son A,B,C…style.

Viewing generally, most of these towers and temples were built on the hills and facing directly to the east. The central arrangement was a tower shape, square trunk building with an sanctuary at the center. Looking from outside, the temples are multi-storey constructions and were decorated with flower patterned or human bodies praying friezes to raise the solemn of the sanctuary.

Male’s reproduction organs.
Male’s reproduction organs.

The Cham people called these towers Kala (a brick-built sanctuary, typically in the form of a tower) , most of them were spiritual places where the kings had done worship. According to the Hinduism’s conception, temples or chancels are God’s buildings. They were holy places to worship of Brahmannism. This custom explained why the temples in the Kalan always narrow are! The square worship places with straight, smooth, undecorated walls and curved up roofs were built  unevenly  from the floor to the top. Some panes were made along the wall axis to put the lamps. At the center of temples was a worship statute or a  Linga ( a symbol of the vitality of Shiva ).

Decorative motif on the tower’s body
Decorative motif on the tower’s body

Observing the whole constructing group of My Son Sanctuary from the highest point of  My Son valley, we can classify the temples and the whole heritage according to the geomancy of Asian civilization: the east direction is main axis, south-north direction is the sub-axis; high hills, mountain position and underground water springs are the standards in designing and building the capital, temples, mausoleum, houses…

There are two hills in the valley, in which the eastern hill is higher than the western one. They are face-to- face at the center point of the intersection of a spring. The branches of the spring covered four areas of the sanctuary:

Area A: Temples, towers and vestiges built on the eastern hill

Area B: Temples, towers and vestiges built on the western hill

Area C (with 2 sub-area C1 and C2): Temples, towers and vestiges built on the eastern hill

Area D: Temples, towers and vestiges built on the northern hill

The My Son Sanctuary is a remarkable architectural ensemble that developed over a period of ten centuries. It presented a vivid picture of spiritual and political life in an important period in the history of South East Asia. My Son Sanctuary was recognized as a National Cultural Heritage in 1979 by the Ministry of Culture (now is Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism) and as a Special  National Cultural Heritage in 2009 by Vietnam government. All local authorities and state agencies must act according to the provisions of the Cultural Heritage Law (2001, amended 2009). A strategy for the revision of the Conservation Master plan of My Son has developed as a part of the current UNESCO Asia-Pacific World Heritage Site project for My Son, and should be integrated within a Master Management Plan for the site.

The outside decorative motif of a boat-shaped tower at My Son Sanctuary Site
The outside decorative motif of a boat-shaped tower at My Son Sanctuary Site

Many years have elapsed with the up and down of the world’s life, the strong Cham Kingdom collapsed, but left behind them was My Son Sanctuary Site - a priceless spiritual and cultural heritage . In December 1999, at the 23rd meeting of  World  Heritage Committee of  UNESCO held in Marrakesh, Marocco, My Son Sanctuary Site was recognized “The World Cultural Heritage” based on two prominent criterions: typical example about cultural exchange and unique evidence of disappeared Asian civilization.

By DOAN HOANG