27 October 2007 (Thanh Nien News) – The My Son Sanctuary is one if the most under-rated archaeological sites in Southeast Asia, and worth a visit to anyone touring Vietnam.
by Truong Dien Thang
The 1700-year-old Indian-inspired My Son temples have had a rough history, but thanks to recent conservation work, the site is an increasingly popular tourist stop.
In a lush green valley in central Vietnam under the imposing glare of Catâ€™s Tooth Mountain rests one of the most important archaeological sites of the ancient kingdom of Champa,â€ wrote American Matthew MacDermott in the Epoch Times last May.
He was describing the ancient My Son Cham temple complex, which was recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 1999.
The Kingdom of Champa covered what is now central Vietnam between the 4th and 12th centuries.
The Cham people built several religious monuments like My Son, stretching from Da Nang to Phan Rang, many of which can still be seen today.
Located some 70 km southwest of Da Nang and 45 km west of Hoi An, the My Son temples originally consisted of over 70 religious structures.
Unlike many brick builders, the Cham used no mortar, simply packing their brick as tightly as possible, a technique that has proved durable after centuries of wear.
The remaining temples provide a rare glimpse into the cultural influence Hinduism has had on Southeast Asia.
As Champa was an Indian-influenced civilization, the walls of the My Son sanctuary depict Hindu deities, priests and dances.
French archaeologist Henri Parmentier discovered the complex in 1898 and classified the temple towers into various groups.
Each group is characterized by a gate tower, a main tower symbolizing heaven, a long tower shaped like a house providing lodging for pilgrims, a tower to store materials for worship and smaller towers in honor of the gods and the stars.
Under a cultural cooperation project between Vietnam and Poland in the 1980s, late Polish architect Kazimierz Kwiatkowski (1944-1997) came to My Son in an effort to restore the ruins.
He now has a plaque dedicated to him at the sanctuary site and the town of Hoi An even built a statue of him.
Following UNESCO recognition of My Son in 1999, the organization began sponsoring large-scale research and restoration projects at the temples.
Cooperative projects between Japanese Toyota Foundation, Italian Lerici Foundation, Milan University and Vietnam’s Ministry of Culture and Information (now the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism) have also helped conserve My Son.
UNESCO cultural consultant and Milan University professor Patrizia Zolesse brings students to help with My Son restoration projects every year.
The group will return next February to continue their work with US$435,000 provided by UNESCO and the Italian government.
My Son now receives over 200,000 foreign tourists annually, mostly from East Asia, Europe and the US
My Son may not be one of the countryâ€™s most well-known attractions, but it can be one of its most atmospheric, dramatic and rewarding.