This is a large complex of religious monuments originally consisting of more than 70 structures but only the vestiges of 25 remain today. The builders of My Son were the nobility of the Champa Kingdom who derived their cultural and spiritual influences almost exclusively from India.
The Cham people belong to an ethnic group in Southeast Asia. They formed the core of Muslim communities in both Cambodia and Vietnam. Chams are a remnant of the Champa 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 Vietnam. This is graphically illustrated by the remains of a series of impressive tower-temples located in the dramatic site of My Son, which was the religious and political capital of the Champa 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 Bhadresvera 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 these centuries, reflecting the style and history of the Cham.
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, My Son Sanctuary temple complex was the central praying and worship ceremony place of Champa rule. My Son was also a way to assist the kings to contact with God and Saints. The land accordingly became the significant religious and cultural center of Champa rule.
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.
The other foremost absorbing element of My Son, besides religious, is its unique Cham-style art of architecture, which was affected by India. 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 impression.
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, representing things that are close to the spirits and human beings.
According to many researchers of the ancient Cham towers, the architectural art of the Cham towers at My Son Sanctuary is the convergence of different styles, including 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, the My Son and My Son-Binh Dinh styles, etc.
Among the remnants of many architectural sites excavated in 1898, a 24 meter 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. It has two doors, one in the east and the other in the west. The tower body is high and delicate with a system of paved pillars; six sub-towers surround 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 Iion 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 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, there is no explanation for the linking material, brick baking method, and construction method of the Cham. Even now, this still remains asecret.
Although there are not many remnants left, those that remain display the typical sculptural works of cultural value of the Cham nationality. They are vivid proof, confirming the history of a nationality living within the Vietnamese community boasting of a rich cultural tradition.
Recognized as a World Heritage in 1999, My Son Holy Land is captivating in various cultural values. Therefore, it is extremely meaningful for those interested in Southeast Asian culture, which owes its core to ancient Cham culture.
Although time and wars have destroyed some towers, the remaining sculptural and architectural remnants still reflect the style and history of the art of the Cham people. Their masterpieces mark a glorious time for the architecture and culture of the Cham, as well as of Southeast Asia.