My Son Holy Land: a Masterpiece of Cham Architecture

My Son Sanctuary - UNESCO World Heritage Site near Hoi An

Linh
Linh | Published: October 25, 2019

My Son Holy Land was the capital of Cham Pa Kingdom from the 4th to 5th centuries. Exemplifying the height of Cham architectural achievement, The My Son Sanctuary is a large complex of religious monuments originally consisting of more than 70 structures; the 25 vestiges of which remain today.

The builders of My Son were the nobility of the Cham Pa Kingdom who derived their cultural and spiritual influences almost exclusively from India.

    Location: Quang Nam Province, 69 km southwest of Da Nang city
    Opening hours: 6am to 5pm
    Entrance fee: 150,000 VND / foreigner tourist; 100,000 VND / Vietnamese tourist

My Son Sanctuary History

If you are enjoying a tour to My Son Holy Land, what can not be missed is the historical story of the sanctuary to be told to you by guides. The Cham people belong to an ethnic group in Southeast Asia. They formed the core of the Muslim communities in both Cambodia and Vietnam. Cham is a remnant of the Cham Pa Kingdom (7th to 15th centuries), closely related to the Malay race.

From the 4th to 15th centuries, a unique culture which owed its spiritual origins to Indian Hinduism of Cham developed on the coast of contemporary Viet Nam. This is graphically illustrated by the remains of a series of impressive tower-temples located in a dramatic site of My Son Holy Land, which was the religious and political capital of the Chăm Pa Kingdom for most of its existence.

According to records on the stone stele, the prime foundation of the ancient My Son architectural complex was a wooden temple to worship the Siva Bhadreshwara genie. In the late 16th century, a big fire destroyed the temple. Step by step, historical mysteries were unveiled by scientists. 

Through stone stele and royal dynasties, they proved My Son to be the most important Holy Land of the Cham people during the mentioned centuries, reflecting the style and history of them.

Cultural Values Of My Son Holy Land

Honorably recognized as a World Heritage site in 1999, My Son Holy Land is captivating in various cultural values.

1. Religion 

It is the religious role of My Son Holy land that draws people’s curiosity. This archeological site represents the longest continuous occupation for religious purposes, not only of the Cham Kingdom, but also within Southeast Asia as a whole.

Situated inside the 2-kilometer wide valley in Quang Nam province, the My Son Sanctuary temple complex was ever the central praying and worshiping ceremony place of Cham Pa reigns. My Son is also a tool to assist the reigns to contact with God and Saints. The land accordingly becomes 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, or Ayutthaya in Thailand.

2. Cham-style architecture

The other foremost absorbing element of My Son Sanctuary, besides religious element, is its unique Cham-style Art of Architecture, which was comprehensively affected by Indian style. Each historical period has its own identity so that each temple worshiping a genie or a king of a different dynasty has its own architectural style of different impressions. 

All of the Cham towers were built on a quad-rate foundations and each comprises three parts: a solid tower base, representing the world of human beings, the mysterious and sacred tower body, representing the world of spirits, and the tower top built in the shape of a man offering flowers and fruits or of trees, birds, animals, etc., representing things that are close to the spirits and human beings.

According to many researchers of the ancient Chăm towers, the architectural art of the Chăm towers at Mỹ Sơn Sanctuary is the convergence of different styles, including the continuity of the ancient style in the 7th-8th centuries, the Hoa Lai style of the 8th-9th centuries, the Dong Duong style from the mid-9th century, My Son and My Son-Binh Dinh styles, etc. 

Among the remnants of many architectural sites excavated in 1898, a 24 meters high tower was found in the Thap Chua area and coded AI by archaeologists and researchers on My Son. This tower is a masterpiece of ancient Cham architecture. 

There are two doors inside the tower, one in the east and the other in the west. The tower’s body is high and delicate with a system of paved pillars; six sub-towers surrounding the tower.

This two-story tower looks like a lotus flower. The top of the upper layer is made of sandstone and carved with elephant and lion designs. In the lower layer, the walls are carved with fairies, water evils and men riding elephants. Unfortunately, the tower was destroyed by US bombs in 1969.

The sanctuary comprises more than 70 architectural works. They include temples and towers that connect to each other with complicated red brick designs. The main component of the Cham architectural design is the tower, built to reflect the divinity of the king. Bricks are main material for the construction of the Cham Towers. 

However, it has yet been unable to figure out the reasonable explanation for the linking material, brick baking method, and construction method of the Cham Pa. Even these days, this still remains an attractive secret to contemporary people.

Although there are not many remnants left, those that remain display the typical sculptural works of the cultural value of the Chăm nationality. They are also vivid proof, confirming the history of a nationality living within the Vietnamese community boasting of a rich cultural tradition.

How to Get There

1. Taxi

It is the fastest transportation to go from Da Nang to My Son. However, the price is quite expensive, ranging from 700,000 VND to 800,000 VND one-way. So, it may not suitable for those having a low budget. 

2. Bus

Unlike taxi, bus is the cheapest kind of transportation. But the disadvantage of it is that the waiting time for a bus is quite long. Thus, you need to be very patient. The right bus leading you to My Son is bus number 06, which departs from Da Nang Central Bus Station directly to My Son. The price is between 8,000 VND to 30,000 VND.

3. Motorbike

Someone loving to explore the roads in Vietnam may opt for this means of transportation. There are 2 ways to reach My Son. The first route starts at National Highway 1, through Nam Phuoc Town, Tra Kieu and T-junction. The remaining one begins at Hoa Cam Bridge, across Kiem Lam Wharf, Nam Phuoc and Choice 1 at T-junction.

If you want to save time and gain much experience, the best option is to book a tour from Da Nang to My Son. Nowadays, there are numerous travel agencies selling excursions here. You can take some of the best suggestions below.

  • Tuan Nguyen Travel

Contact: (+84) 972 595 693

Price: 733,000 VND

  • Da Nang Xanh

Contact: (+84) 974 818 106

Price: 680,000 VND

  • VietSense Travel

Contact: (+84) 949 148 228

Price: 750,000 VND

What to Eat near My Son

Apart from marveling at the architectural beauty of My Son Holy Land, you will have a chance to try lots of tasty food here.

1. Quang noodles

Once coming to Danang, the first dish you should not skip is Quang noodles. It is made of many different ingredients such as seafood, meat, chicken, egg, crispy girdle, and peanuts. When tasting, you should eat with some fresh herbs like bean sprouts, basil or laksa leaves.

2. Fishball noodles

This is also one of the most special dishes in Danang. There are a lot of restaurants and stores serving this kind of food. You will not find fishy smell because local people add a little aroma inside to make the dish more delicious. 

3. Pork girdle cake

Of course, the main ingredients of this dish are girdle cake and seasoned pork. The chef will slice the pork thinly and boil in medium heat to maintain the sweet taste. The dish is eaten with onion, basil, bean sprouts, banana blossom as well as many other fresh herbs. And people will dip it into a special fish sauce.

Tips on Visiting My Son Holy Land

  • In order to avoid extreme heat, you should come to visit in the early morning
  • Visit the museum to find English wall posters that explain the history of My Son Holy Land before entering the other sites, or else, you need a tour guide to tell you about this information.
  • Don’t forget to watch the weather forecast before going and bring some essential items like hat, water or sport shoes with you

You can fulfill your trip to Vietnam when spending a day at My Son Holy Land in Quang Nam Province.

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