During our trip to Vietnam this year in September, my Wife and I visited “My Son”. My Son is a Hindu Champa Temple complex, 70 km southwest of Da Nang and it is a UNESCO world Heritage site.
It is thought that My Son was started in the 4th century AD, and the last stupas (dome-shaped monuments, used to house Buddhist relics or to commemorate significant facts of Buddhism) were built in the 14th century AD. Although My Son started as a Hindu temple complex, archaeological work has shown that Buddhism had become the main religion in the area by the 10th century.
The photograph below shows a stele (an upright stone or slab with an inscribed or sculptured surface, used as a monument) written in Pali, a literary language, written by Buddhist scholars.
Unfortunately the Vietnam War took a heavy toll on this amazing place. The Vietcong used the temple complex as an occasional base, and the Americans tried obliterating it with bombing, but without much success. So they sent in a sapper (in the old days they were the military engineers who specialized in digging under castle walls to undermine them, now they destroy field fortifications with explosives) team by helicopter to blowup of the last remaining large buildings so that all one sees nowadays are heavily damaged piles of rubble where fairly well preserved buildings used to exist up until the mid-60s.
To tell the truth there is not much left in My Son and I felt a certain amount of disappointment when I saw how little decorative art had been left at the site. I guess most of its been put in museums to save it from being plundered.
One of the things that makes My Son quite interesting is the fact that they built their buildings of baked clay bricks and then carved their decoration on the completed buildings afterwards.
Most temples, one sees in Asia tend to be built out of stone, which have carvings, sculpted on to the outside of them.
One of the only reasons, one would go to dreary Da Nang is to see the Champa Museum there.
It is in the museum, one can see all the best art works missing from the archaeological sites, in one place.
It is also interesting to see displays at the Museum illustrating how widespread the Champa civilisation was. The Champa controlled the southern part of Vietnam right up until the early 1800s when it was supplanted by the Chinese influenced Vietnamese culture from the North.
The Champa civilisation was basically, an Indian influenced Hindu culture that reached as far as Bali in Indonesia. The decorative arts of the Champa look very similar to Balinese art works such as the mask I bought in Bali, shown in the photo below.