The Ancient Town of Hoi An is an exceptionally well-preserved example of a South-East Asian trading port. Its rustic charms date back to the 15th century, when indigenous and foreign influences were combined to produce this once bustling trading city. Located in the heart of the Town, the Museum of Sa Huynh Culture is home to numerous artifacts and materials of the Sa Huynh civilization, the very first traders of the port town.
- Location: 149 Tran Phu St., Hoi An
Opening hours: 7:00 - 21:00 everyday (except the 10th day of the month)
I. History of the Museum of Sa Huynh Culture
The Sa Huynh people, known as the first settlers to have trades with merchants from Southeast Asia, South India and China, is yet known little about. The civilization is claimed to have developed in the Hoi An region from 1000BC to 2C AD, prior to the appearance of the Chams. Being in existence for more than 5000 years, the culture extended from the Neolithic period to the beginning of the Iron Age in provinces in Quang Binh to South Central Coast and Central Highlands. With Sa Huynh in the Central, Dong Son and Oc Eo in the north, these three major cultures were the cradle of civilization in Vietnam.
Sa Huynh economy was contributed from many sectors: agriculture (wet rice), forestry, fishery and traditional crafts. By the end of the era, sea trading was booming. During the first centuries AC in the Central, some harbor cities were formed along the coast line, including Hoi An. Since, the Sa Huynh Culture had had cultural and commercial exchanges with numerous regions in Southeast Asian, ancient China and ancient India.
Archaeologists and scientists have been studying this culture very closely, hence the foundation of the Museum of Sa Huynh Culture in 1994. Housing 971 artifacts of a civilization that flourished 2000 years ago, the museum mainly featured terracotta and metal work found in the Hoi An area. All the objects on display are original artifacts.
II. Highlights of Museum of Sa Huynh Culture
Owning a good mix of Chinese, Japanese and Southeast Asian architecture styles, the Museum of Sa Huynh Culture represents the distinctive vibe of Hoi An. The museum converges the architecture of a national-calibered museum in the Central.
The museum provides visitors with useful information about the ancient Sa Huynh culture’s inhabitants, regarding their burial customs, conceptions of life/death, the history of the region and relationships with other cultures.
Being one of the three major cultures in Vietnam during the Iron Age, the Sa Huynh culture specialized in metal wares (bronze and iron), as well as ceramics. The majority of the displays comprises articles such as jewellery, weapons and useful implements. The jewellery collection primarily consists of stone earrings in various shapes: lion’s head shape, beast shape and bronze three-pin shape, etc. The utensil collection features ceramic housewares, onyx rings, copper axes and iron axes.
Another feature that the Sa Huynh residents had perfected to the level of art is the funerary rituals and rites. The Museum of Sa Huynh Culture showcases 200 funerary jars from 50 different sites, most of which date back to the 1st Millenium BC. These gourd-shaped terracotta jars in multiple sizes were used by ancient Champa residents for burial purposes.
The most noticeable artifacts include Linga – a symbol usually located in the main hall of Cham towers, and a Western Han Dynasty bronze mirror. Dating from the 1st century BC and engraved with numerous sophisticated patterns, the mirror symbolizes the culture and power of the tribe. It is one of the two extremely valuable mirrors unearthed by the Sa Huynh Culture archeologists. Religious works such as sandstone statues of Vishnu, Nadin, Shiva, Makara and Garuda also fascinate international tourists.
Not only providing articles from Hoi An region, the Museum of Sa Huynh Culture also displays iron tools from the region of Oc Eo in the south and Dong Son in the north. These objects testify to a flourishing trade between Sa Huynh and North and South of Vietnam.
In total, the museum has more than 200 funerary jars as well as ceramic and bronze objects, many of which remain intact till the current day. A total of 216 exhibits were acquired from Hau Xa, Thanh Chiem, An Bang and Xuan Lam villages. Descriptions are given of each item on display. The museum also provides detailed archeological explanations with documents and photos that show their exact locations underground. These artifacts and documents are considered the most unique collection of the Sa Huynh Civilization in Vietnam.
III. What to See and Do in The Museum of Sa Huynh Culture?
As mentioned before, the Museum is a must-visit for history buffs. Touring around the museum and taking photos will usually take one hour. The friendly staff will help you understand more about the burial custom, aesthetic awareness and exchange relations of this lost culture.
On the second floor of the building, the Museum of the Revolution includes portraits of war heroes, as well as more modern objects such as grenade launchers and AK-47s.
IV. How To Get To The Museum of Sa Huynh Culture
The Museum of Sa Huynh Culture is located at 149 Tran Phu Street, in the center of Hoi An Ancient Town, making it easily reachable from anywhere in Hoi An. You are advised to combine the visit to the museum with a tour around the ancient Hoi An Town, which contains a plethora of historical attractions such as the famous Japanese Bridge.
V. Tips on Visiting Museum of Sa Huynh Culture
- Although the museum itself rarely gets too busy, Hoi An Ancient Town becomes very crowded during the morning and afternoon. For a tranquil personal experience, please visit the museum early in the morning.
- The museum is best visited as part of a cultural tour of Hoi An Ancient Town.
- The museum is closed on the 10th day of each month for conservation purposes and specific professional research and development.
- Entrance ticket is included in the ticket to Hoi An Ancient Town.
- The museum is suitable for group tours, solo, family and education private tours in Hoi An.
Every year, the Museum of Sa Huynh Culture welcomes nearly 200 visits of both domestic and outlander tourists. Visiting the museum, tourists will have the opportunity to embark on a historic journey dating back thousands of years in time, into the life of the ancient Vietnamese people in the Central. Located in the heart of the picturesque UNESCO Hoi An Town, a visit to the Museum of Sa Huynh Culture will leave you valuable insights into one of the most unique and long-established ancient cultures of prehistoric Vietnam.