The A To Z Of Southeast Asia – Q

Quang Nam

This province in the centre of Vietnam is probably best known for being home to the ancient town of Hoi An.

Main picture My Son credit katiebordner on flickr

There is more to the area than just Hoi An however with a beautiful coastline, coral reefs, ruins from the Cham empire, mountains and jungle as well as the border with Laos.

More than 50% of the province is covered in forest, mostly in the west which becomes more mountainous as you head toward the Laos border.

Cham Islands

Eight islands off the coast of Hoi An which form an idyllic break from busier areas on the mainland.

Together with Hoi An, Cu Lao Cham archipelago, part of the Cham islands, form the UNESCO Cu Lao Cham-Hoi An Biosphere Reserve.

Cham Islands, Vietnam, credit Guerretto on flickr

The archipelago is renowned for its marine species including corals, mollusks, crustaceans and seaweed. The islands contain mountainous areas and rainforest ecosystems strongly influenced by seasonal monsoons.

The area is expecially popular with scuba diving and snorkelling enthusiasts but also attracts day trippers to Bai Ong and Bai Xep beaches, tiny buddhist temples and a Cham Museum on the largest island, Hon Lao.

My Son

During the 4th to 13th centuries there was a unique culture on the coast of contemporary Vietnam, owing its spiritual origins to the Hinduism of India. This is seen today by the remains of a series of impressive tower temples in a dramatic site that was the religious and political capital of the Champa Kingdom for most of its existence.

My Son Sanctuary is located in the mountainous border Duy Xuyen District of Quang Nam Province, in central Vietnam. It is situated within an elevated geological basin surrounded by a ring of mountains, which provides the watershed for the sacred Thu Bon river. The source of the Thu Bon river is here and it flows past the monuments, out of the basin, and through the historic heartland of the Champa Kingdom, draining into the South China Sea at its mouth near the ancient port city of Hoi An. The location gives the sites its strategic significance as it is also easily defensible.  

My Son credit Jean-Pierre Dalbera on flickr

The tower temples were constructed over ten centuries of continuous development in what was the heart of the ancestral homeland of the ruling Dua Clan which unified the Cham clans and established the kingdom of Champapura (Sanskrit for City of the Cham people). During the 4th to 13th centuries this unique culture, on the coast of contemporary Vietnam, owed its spiritual origins to the Hinduism of the Indian sub-continent. Under this influence many temples were built to the Hindu divinities such as Krishna and Vishnu, but above all Shiva. Although Mahayan Buddhist penetrated the Cham culture, probably from the 4th century and became strongly established in the north of the kingdom, Shivite Hinduism remained the established state religion.

My Son, Vietnam, credit Gary Todd on flickr

The monuments of the My Son sanctuary are the most important constructions of the My Son civilization. The tower temples have a variety of architectural designs symbolizing the greatness and purity of Mount Meru, the mythical sacred mountain home of Hindu gods at the center of the universe, now symbolically reproduced on Earth in the mountainous homeland of the Cham people. They are constructed in fired brick with stone pillars and decorated with sandstone bas-reliefs depicting scenes from Hindu mythology. Their technological sophistication is evidence of Cham engineering skills while the elaborate iconography and symbolism of the tower-temples give insight into the content and evolution of Cham religious and political thought.  

The My Son Sanctuary is a remarkable architectural ensemble that developed over a period of ten centuries. It presents a vivid picture of spiritual and political life in an important phase of the history of South-East Asia.

The monuments are unique and without equal in Southeast Asia.  

Credit UNESCO.

My Son is on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Much of the site was destroyed during American bombing during the Vietnam War.

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