Who were the Chams?

There are many excursions one can take from Mui Ne if one gets fed up with lying on the beach, swimming with the waves, tanning oneself, eating at fabulous fish restaurants, enjoying wind-surfing etc.

We hired a taxi this morning to visit the Po Chanu cham towers which date from the 9th century. The beautiful archaeological site consists of the ruins of three towers, some of which are in better shape than others. There’s a very pleasant garden surrounding them.

Th quality of the brickwork of the towers is stunning and the colour is a rich red. Inside the system of vaulting reminded me a little of the ceilings of Etruscan tombs. All the towers had a still-working shrine inside and one of them had an original lingam.

I climbed to the top of the hill where there was a war memorial and some bunkers since this was also the site of an important victory of the Vietnamese against French colonialism.

The views were quite stunning stretching out over the bay of Mui Ne.

There’s a small pagoda on the site, as well as a gallery and shop.

In South-East Asia it’s truly a question for a westerner of having to start learning history again. There was nothing taught at school relating to this part of the world. For example I had not even heard of the Chams before coming here. Who were the people who built these temples?

The Cham people  are one of Southeast Asia‘s many ethnic groups and live in Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand.

Cham  today are descended from those founders of the Kingdom of Champa which flourished from the seventh to the eighteenth century and were the architects of those beautiful towers we visited.  

220px-VietnamChampa1

Chams speak Cham,which is a Malayo-Polynesian language of the Austronesian language family  in contrast to most of the neighboring peoples who speak Austroasiatic languages.

Strangely enough, Chams who are traditionally Hindu in religion are Muslim in Cambodia.

In recent times there was a Cham independence movement but the signs are that modern Chams are fully integrated – in Vietnam, at least.

This is the secessionist flag:

220px-Bandera_Front_Alliberament_Cham.svg

Because traditional Vietnamese architecture was of wood and because the Chams used durable materials to build their temples the Cham towers remain the oldest monuments in Vietnam today.

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2 thoughts on “Who were the Chams?

  1. Most interesting would like to see those Cham towers I wonder were they used as lookout posts similar to the towers around Italy. Amazing the shapes one can create with simple bricks very artistic. The weather is holding unlike the long weather forecast seemed cloudy cloudy and just a couple of days sunshine talking of which United Kingdom also enjoyed a couple of days of sunshine sure lifts the spirit happy faces to be seen around and about. I am not seeing many people out there just like the Italian competition filmed in VIetnam it seems that in the countryside they are all day working in their fields and then they return home for a good rest. It would be nice to see more of the people especially in their national costumes or even their daily clothes is it sort of dhotis and saharis I wonder? Can you really wear shorts out there I doubt it.

  2. Pingback: Cham Glory | From London to Longoio (and Lucca and beyond)

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