The mystery at Cat Tien

30 August 2007 (Viet Nam News) - Viet Nam News posts a feature about the Cat Tien archaeological site exhibition currently going on in Vietnam. The site, discovered in 1985, has revealed a number of structures and Hindu statuary which may imply that it was a seat of a civilisation that could have shared influences with many neighbouring civilisations. We’ve already seen pictures of the stone linga-yoni in previous posts – this feature has statues of Uma and Ganesha.

Viet Nam News 30 Aug 2007

Relics tell story of medieval-era Central Highlands civilisation

Why not visit the National Museum of Vietnamese History to explore and enjoy a unique collection of antiques from the Tay Nguyen (Central Highlands) province of Lam Dong’s Cat Tien’s archaeological excavations?

The exhibition entitled Objects from Cat Tien – The Imprint of a Mysterious Holy Land features 300 examples selected from thousands of artefacts from the Lam Dong Provincial Museum.

The Cat Tien site was discovered unexpectedly in the National Cat Tien Park in 1985. After eight cycles of excavation, archaeologists have found many structures influenced by Indian civilisation similar to the Cham towers in My Son Heritage Site in the central Quang Nam Province.


The Cat Tien relics are often large, and characterise a historic people who had cultural and trade relations with many neighbouring civilisations in the region.

Archaeologists have discovered temples, altars, kilns and water systems which were built of brick made on-site and stone taken from distant quarries.

“In my opinion Cat Tien is a significant and important discovery by Vietnamese archaeologists. We can say that it was an old civilisation with a large number of inhabitants that lasted a long time on the upper Da Dong River,” said Dr Nguyen Tien Dong.

“The civilisation, which flourished between to the 4th and 9th centuries AD, spread from Lam Vien Highlands to the upper Dong Nai area and the Can Gio seaport,” Dong said.

“Apart from the temples which were built following the cult of Brahma, we have found many statues made from different materials as well as golden and silver ornaments at the site,” he added.

Cat Tien relics was recognised as a national history heritage site in 1997 and an application has been made to the UNESCO for it to be recognised as a world cultural heritage site.

One of the most precious objects is a stone Linga-Yoni (male-female sexual organ) statue, which is 2.1m in height and weighs four tonnes and is the biggest in Southeast Asia.

Another linga, made of quartz, weighs nearly 3.5 tonnes making it the largest precious gem in the country.

Scientists have found many ornaments of gold and silver carved with deities, holy animals, flowers and Hindu mythological characters. Other objects of bronze, ceramic and stone were also found.

An intriguing question that makes the site a mystery is who these people were according to Duong Thanh Dong, deputy director of Lam Dong Province’s Culture, Sports and Tourism Department.

He added that the excavations will continue while objects will be analysed so that the site will reveal more of its history and perhaps provide an explanation of its mysterious and enigmatic people.

The exhibition will give visitors an insight into the sacred site as it existed a thousand years ago and will be open until the end of April, 2008 at 1 Pham Ngu Lao Street in Ha Noi.

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