The My Son Sanctuary in Vietnam is considered one of the most important, beautiful and famous temple complexes in Southeast Asia. My Son Vietnam is often compared with other historic temples in Southeast Asia, such as Bagan in Burma, Angkor Wat in Cambodia, Borodudur in Java in Indonesia or Ayutthaya in Thailand.
This sanctuary is truly a holy place that reflects the religion, culture and architectural achievements of the ancient Kingdom of Champa. My Son is a large complex comprising a number of religious monuments, temples and tombs located in a wide valley (about 2km long) surrounded by mountains.
It would be a big regret if you come to Danang or Hoi An, in central Vietnam, without visiting My Son. Now, let’s discover the beauty and values of this UNESCO World Heritage Site!
Overview of My Son Sanctuary in Vietnam
My Son Shrine is located near the village of Duy Phu, Duy Xuyen District, Quang Nam Province, in central Vietnam, about 50 kilometers southeast of Danang and about 10 kilometers from the historic city of Tra Kieu.
This temple complex extends over a valley about 2 kilometers wide and is surrounded by two mountain ranges that make up the Thu Bon sacred river watershed. The location gives the archaeological site of My Son its strategic importance in history, as it is well guarded by the natural wall of rock mountain.
History of My Son
My Son is a Hindu-Indian temple complex built by the Champa community. The Champa Kingdom was known as an independent country that existed for a long time through many periods, from 192 to 1832, under different names such as Lam Ap (192-757), Hoan Vuong (757-875), Chiem Thanh (875- 1471) and Panduranga – Champa (1471-1832).
Between the 4th and the 13th century, this unique sanctuary received its spiritual origins from Hinduism of the Indian subcontinent. Under this influence, many temples were built to be dedicated to Hindu deities such as Krishna and Vishnu, but especially to Shiva. Mainly used by the Champa as a place of worship, the political and religious capital of the Champa kingdom for that time, My Son was also the place where kings and religious leaders were buried.
Stone sculpture of the Champa civilization in the temples of My Son.
With the fall of these kingdoms in the early 19th century, the My Son Sanctuary has been neglected for centuries. This temple complex was rediscovered by Westerners in 1885 when the French arrived there.
The first documentation, excavation and inventory work was done by Henri Parmentier and his colleagues over a 12-month period (1903-1904). So, at that time, the archaeological site of My Son was made up of 72 monuments classified into 13 groups. The temple groups were classified by estimated date of construction, as well as unique features that differentiate the structures, making it easier to record and document the temples.
Yet, during the Vietnam War, the Viet Cong used My Son as a strategic base and, as a result, the site was heavily bombed by the Americans. After that, the number of monuments was reduced to 17, divided into eight different groups.
Renovation and reconstruction of the temple at My Son Shrine
The My Son sanctuary and its ruins are seen as the most important constructions of the Champa civilization. For example, it describes in a unique way the cultural exchanges that took place at the time, with an indigenous society adapting to external cultural influences, namely Indian Hinduism.
This was the main reason why the My Son Sanctuary was declared a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site in 1999.
Tourists often combine trip to My Son sanctuary and Hoi An town, find out more information about 10 Most Incredible Things To Do in Hoi An of All Time
What you can do in the My Son complex
My Son Sanctuary Museum Tour
Before heading to the temple complex, we recommend that you first visit the My Son Shrine Museum, located 100 meters behind the ticket office. With a permanent and thematic exhibition, it provides historical, archaeological and religious information on My Son and the civilization of Cham. Entrance to the museum is free and is a good idea to check it out as it will allow you to better understand what you will see.
Opposite the museum is the bridge and the road leading to the My Son complex. Although it is quite possible to walk to the site, you can also take one of the free electric buses that leave frequently. You will thus be able to saveyour energy to walk in the surroundings and enjoy the historical and mysterious beauty of the temples.
Admire the architectural beauty of My Son
In addition to the religious characteristics that profoundly reflect the cultural values of the My Son Shrine, architecture is the most striking feature of this World Heritage Site.
This archaeological site is unique with its creations influenced by the Indian style. At each stage of history, each temple was built to honor a different dynasty. It therefore reflects its own architectural style with different impressions and unique features.
With many exceptional temples and monuments, it may take you half a day to experience the beauty of My Son.
You can observe ancient sculptures, tombs and relics. If you are interested in history or art, this is a good opportunity to discover and learn the unique design of temples complexes, which support a prosperous civilization of the past.
The decorative sculptures on Cham temples
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The temple complex of the My Son Complex consists of 3 parts: a solid tower base which expresses the speech of human beings, the body of the tower representing the mysterious and sacred word of the spirit, and the upper tower representing the manner of communicate with symbols of everyday life such as flowers, leaves, animals, etc.
The first temples of the My Son complex were built of wood in the 4th century, but were destroyed by a massive fire whose exact cause is still unknown. The next kings also rebuilt these temples out of wood, then out of bricks without mortar and finally out of limestone.
The majority of structures that remain today at My Son are red brick. Even the decorative sculptures on the Cham temples were carved directly on the bricks themselves, rather than on sandstone slabs inserted into brick walls as can be seen for example in the Cambodian Bakong Temple, built in the 9th century.
Currently, the construction techniques used to build the My Son Shrine are not fully understood. Problems that have not been fully resolved include problems with firing bricks, mortar between bricks and decorative carvings found on bricks.
All the remaining monuments in My Son are considered religious buildings and are classified into 4 types:
– A kalan is a brick monument, usually in the form of a tower, used to house a deity.
– A mandapa is an entrance corridor contiguous to a sanctuary.
– A kosagrha or “fire house” is a construction, generally with a saddle-shaped roof, used to house valuables belonging to the deity or to cook for the deity.
– A gopura is a gate-tower leading to a walled temple complex.
At the beginning of his studies at My Son in 1899, Henri Parmentier discovered the remains of 71 temples. He classified them into 14 groups, including 10 main groups each composed of several temples.
For identification purposes, he assigned a letter to each of these main groups: A, A ‘, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, K. In each group, he assigned numbers to buildings that compose it. Thus, “My Son E1” refers to the My Son building belonging to the group “E” to which the number “1” has been assigned. These temple groups describe six out of seven artistic styles and developmental phases of Champa’s architectural and artistic heritage.
Besides the architectural ruins, you can enjoy the beauty of the surrounding nature, pure freshness and calm atmosphere.
Entrance fee: around 150,000 VND (~ 7 – 8 USD)
Opening time: every day from 6.30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Discovery of local performance in the sanctuary of My Son
In addition to admiring the beauty of a spectacular structure, it would be a mistake if you visit My Son but miss the mysterious Shiva dance here, derived from Hindu mythology. In the quiet space of the sacred valley, visitors seem to be fascinated by the Shiva dance. You will appreciate the way the dancers demonstrate their flexibility, their appeal and their mystery.
Cham music is a very special element of Shiva dance. It is a spiritual product crystallized from a powerful empire and culture that flourished hundreds of years ago.
This religious dance praises the power of Shiva to destroy dark forces such as tigers, snakes and dwarf Muyalaca. According to Hinduism, Shiva is one of the 3 most powerful gods: the god of destruction (Shiva), the god of stability of the world (Vishnu) and the god of creation (Brahma).
For Cham, Sh danceiva is an art with religious and mystical elements extremely attractive to visitors. Dances are performed in the dark and misty space next to the temple to create a stunning combination that delights tourists.
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– About 50 km west of Hoi An’s old town, My Son Shrine is about an hour’s drive away. The excursion through the site of the Kingdom of Champa is done in half a day from Danang or Hoi An.
– To avoid getting stuck in the crowds early in the morning, you can visit My Son Vietnam in the afternoon, starting around 2:00 p.m.
– When you pass the ticket office, pay attention to the posters on the wall that explain the story of My Son. This will help you discover this heritage, especially if you plan to explore it without a professional guide.
– You should watch the weather forecast to bring the necessary items such as a hat, umbrella or raincoat. Do not forget to bring clean water and sneakers with which you feel comfortable.
– There are 4 large groups of temples to visit at My Son Shrine (A, B, C and D). You will start with the C then the B considered as the center of the site; the D which is a somewhat disparate and damaged group, and finally the A.
– You should only travel on the marked trail and not venture alone into the lush forest, as a process is still ongoing in the My Son area.
Here is some interesting information about the My Son Sanctuary, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This archaeological site is truly one of the most important, beautiful and famous cultural and historical destinations in Vietnam as well as in Southeast Asia.
If you’re in the process of or planning to take a trip to Vietnam, don’t miss this spectacular and mysterious temple complex, which reflects the religion, culture and architectural achievements of the ancient Kingdom of Champa, a civilization and a powerful empire who prospered hundreds of years ago.