Cham Museum is probably one of the most significant tourist attractions in Da Nang due to its antiquity and historical values with stories about the long-lived history of the Cham people and more than 2000 artifacts, as well as sculptures on display.
A Brief History of the Champa
Cham people are believed to have descended from seafaring settlers who arrived in the Southeast Asian mainland with their starting point at Borneo during the occurrence of the
“Sa Huynh” culture between 1000 BC and 200 AD. These people are also claimed to be the predecessors of the Cham kingdom. For the Cham language, many linguists have considered it as part of the Austronesian family, and according to the collected data of one study, sociologists stated that Cham has a strong bonding with the modern Acehnese in northern Sumatra.
Many sources are claiming different times of the Cham Kingdom; however, analysis of the Vietnamese Kinh genetics indicates that within the last 800 years there was a combination between a Malay (southern Asian) and a Chinese ancestral inherent that happened to match the period in which the Kinh expanded to the south from their Red River Delta homeland. This also coincided with the event 700 years ago as the Cham suffered from massive population losses.
During the 4th century AD, Champan politics was exposed to absorb much of Indic influences, which was probably caused by its neighbor, Funan. Hinduism, a popular religion both then and now, was established as Champa began to create Sanskrit stone inscriptions and erect red brick Hindu temples. The first king acknowledged in the inscriptions is Bhadra Varman, reigning from 380 to 413 AD. At My Son, King Bhadra Varma established a linga called Bhadresvara, whose name was a mixture of the king’s name and that of the Hindu god.
King Rudravarman of Champa founded a new dynasty in 529 CE, and the next reigning was taken over by his son, whose name was Shambhuvarman. He then conducted a reconstruction of the temple of Bhadra Varma and renamed it to Shambhu Bhadreshvara. He passed away in 629 CE, and another generation was succeeded by his son, Kandarpa Dharma, who died in 630 CE. Kandarpa Dharma’s legacy was inherited by his son, Prabhasadharma, who passed away in 645 CE.
From the 7th to 10th centuries AD, the Cham politics rose to become its incredible power; as Champan ports appealed to local and foreign traders, Champan fleets also gained control over the trade in spices from ordinary to rare, and silk in the South China Sea, between China, the Indonesian archipelago and India, which earned them remarkable profit. They supplemented their income from the trade routes not only from ivory and aloe exporting turnover but also from engaging in piracy and raiding. Nonetheless, the significant influence of Champa caught the attention of a neighboring thalassocracy, who later would consider Cham as a rival.
Kingdoms of Champa
It has been centuries since the South China Sea was discovered by navigators throughout Asia as the Champa Sea, named as a great empire that dominated all of central Vietnam, from our northern border defined today as Quang Binh Province to roughly our southern border known as Binh Thuan Province. On the most glorious days of the Champa empire, which began from around the 6th and ended the 15th century, their various kingdoms, presided over by regional royal families, were also divided into sizable portions of eastern Cambodia and Laos.
The oldest artifacts of a distinctly Cham civilization were described as brick flooring, sandstone pillars, and pottery, found at Tra Kieu in Quang Nam Province, dated back as early as the second century A.D. A notable Champa legacy would be referring to the red-brick temples, or Cham towers, the oldest found is currently dating back to the seventh and eighth century. The temple city of My Son, which was located near Hoi An and preserved as a UNESCO World Heritage site, comprises nearly 70 individual structures.
Archaeologists have identified several Cham citadels and some 25 temple sites, each of which varies in the numbers of towers and is still standing along Vietnam’s coast. Recent explorations and exploitation suggest that hundreds of ruined sites can be lining rivers, which leads into the Central Highlands and beyond to eastern Cambodia and Laos. This bas-relief sculpture is one of the many left in the temple city of My Son, and it was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site in Vietnam.
Malayo and Polynesian were the two languages used by ancestors of the Cham to communicate, who are thought to have arrived in Vietnam by sea from Borneo. Most scholars suppose the Cham are descendants of the Sa Huynh civils since they are the settlers who occupied the same area from roughly 1000 B.C. to the second century A.D when the Cham culture began flowering. Sa Huynh relics and artifacts have also been found as far away as Taiwan, the Philippines, and Malaysia, which can illustrate that the people sailed, traded, and settled around what was then the Champa Sea.
The Sa Huynh civils used to adorn their death with agate, carnelian, and glass beads from India and Iran, as well as rare gold and glass beads from the Mediterranean—all of which were mostly traded through the sea, and they entombed the bodies in large clay jars. Notably, their ornate burial earrings involved a style consisting of a hanging bar with a horned animal head on either end. Pieces of jewelry such as earrings were often made of glass, gemstones, or jade from abroad, Taiwan.
In the recent excavations, archeologists have uncovered evidence of Sa Huynh burial sites (and Cham relics) not only on the Vietnamese mainland and offshore islands such as Phu Quy but also on the islands of Namyit and Spratly, which is incredible in terms of historical tracks and values.
The Cham had a vast trade network both domestic and foreign, with trading routes extending northeast to China, Taiwan, and Japan and south to Malaysia and Indonesia. Their reputable wealth could be mentioned of gold and silver, gems, pieces of jewelry, rare spices, aromatic agarwood, exotic animals, and farm products, as well as slaves, was renowned to India, the Middle East, and even became the farthest reaches of North Africa.
In the Champa’s golden age, a Muslim geographer, who once stepped his foot on the land, wrote about the islands that it “produced ivory, cubeb, camphor, nutmeg, mace, cloves, agarwood, cardamom, and other substances.” Several shipwrecks occurred and there is evidence of trade and business contacts between Champa and the Philippines via the Spratly Islands. In 1997 Philippine authorities sent a centuries-old vessel to Thitu Island in the Spratlys, in which they contained about a thousand granite carvings that appear to have been taken from unknown Champa sites, and up to now, archeologists have yet been able to explain.
A few habitable islands, lying in the western part of the ancient Champa Sea, held Cham communities. Cham temple ruins, pottery, jewelry, and bricks have been found on Phu Quy, as a remarkable example of this. People in the area today, although claimed as ethnic Vietnamese, speak a dialect unlike that of mainlanders and some could even call the language difference or barrier if the two communicate with each other, and their crafts and culture are more similar to those of the Cham than the Vietnamese.
To the further north of the islands of Ly Son and Cham, there were also major Cham satellites. The Cham are well-known for their handwoven textiles. Their fabrics are exported, then often passed off as local goods, which contributed greatly to their wealth.
A Mix of Faiths
As mentioned, the Cham established and took up Hinduism early, and they were likely to be converted by Indian merchants and blended it with their traditional beliefs and values. Hindu Chams are known as Bayamon. Before the end of the first millennium, Muslim traders made an introduction to Islam, and Muslim Cham became reputed as Bani.
In 986, Chinese records refer to communities on the island of Hainan that were once the habitats of Cham Muslims, whose descendants today are called the Utsuls. In addition to their respective Muslim and Hindu practices and viewpoints, Balamon and Bani both worship their ancestors, kings, and Cham deities as traditional ceremonies.
A Rich but Beleaguered Culture
The government of Vietnam is now confronting one problem: that the physical evidence of the Cham culture and civilization is disappearing or of poor conservation. According to some reports and statistics collected by the Vietnam General Office, in Binh Thuan Province and elsewhere witnessing this special civilization, Cham temple sites and ancient tombs have been overrun by paddies, dragon fruit plantations, and shrimp farms, which is a bit frustrating to sociologists and archeologists. In Quang Ngai Province, temple sites have been damaged or destroyed by gravel quarrying, and the leading authorities have not got any severe response or resolutions to this issue.
Despite the happening situation, the Vietnam government and local authorities continue to build Buddhist temples atop the ruins of Cham religious sites and to use bricks from Cham citadels to construct their houses in the local area. Hill tribes that were relocated from the far north of Vietnam now standing Champa’s last capital, known as Song Luy, brought down during Minh Mang’s purge. However, there has been no mention of Song Luy in Vietnamese history books, and it’s neglected in official tourism materials, despite its proximity to the country’s largest resort, in Mui Ne.
Highlights of Cham Museum
The Cham Museum in Da Nang has earned its “first-class” recognition from the Vietnam government because of its historical values contributed to our country. In the Cham Museum, there are more than 2000 artifacts and sculptures, some of which are famous worldwide. Since its opening, the museum has welcomed thousands of visitors each year, and more than 500 people per day.
Why is the Cham Museum Unique and Worth Visiting?
The Cham Museum is located close to the Dragon bridge, right at the intersection of Trung Nu Vuong Street, and this location has already been an advantage, compared to any other tourist attraction. The museum features were designed by two French architects with sophisticated and elegant details. It was constructed in the late fifties and did not fade, though. Once you have entered the ancient patriarchal crematorium and then come to an ancient culture and converged, you can appreciate all the quintessence of the Cham culture that researchers and archaeologists have accumulated in public.
Visitors will have the chance to admire the statue of Ganésa, which can be described as the elephant head, the goddess Apsara carved delicate, one of the most famous sculptures in the Museum of Cham Sculpture. The exhibits there are also displayed on the place where they were discovered, systematically and appealing to visitors, and divided into separate collections such as The collection of Quang Nam exhibits 32 objects (between the seventh and eighth century to roughly eleventh century). Then we can come to the Quang Tri collection with objects from the seventh to the eighth centuries to study or cherish them. The collection of Quang Ngai with excavated artifacts in Chanh Lo (Quang Ngai) dated back to the late Xth century – the first half of XI, and was considered a historical valuable artifact.
This place consists of more than 300 original sculptures made of sandstone, an impressive number to make, and terracotta, along with other works of art. Two showroom models My Son and Indochina have recently opened and attracted thousands of tourists, researchers, and students, who desire to discover more about the Cham cultures and people.
The mentioned ones are 2 galleries containing rare objects of these places. Although it’s very modernly arranged, with new techniques from design to display, light, the place still gets its sense of antiquity and elegance. This is an effort made by the officers and specialists from EFEO, Guimet Museum, and the National Museum of Cambodia, and it is a remarkable contributor to the Museum’s success as it can achieve today. If you are planning to visit Da Nang even with a limited budget, the Cham Museum is an ideal place to go during your trip as there would be further information about the tour to the Museum of Cham Sculpture in Da Nang.
The Most Extensive Collection of Cham Art Worldwide Can Be Found at The Museum of Cham Sculpture In Da Nang
The Cham Museum was constructed in Cham architectural style, as the builders used thin lines that are simple and gentle. The Museum of Cham Sculptures’ displays a huge-numbered and different collection of Champa sculptures, which dated back from the 7th to the 15th centuries, during which time a matriarchal society prevailed.
The museum was established at the end of the 19th century by the Ecole Francaise d’Extreme Orient with a collection of artifacts collected in the center of Vietnam, from Quang Binh to Binh Dinh. They were then on display at Le Jardin de Tourane on a small hill by the Han River. This is the site where our present museum stands. The building was designed by two French architects, Delaval and Auclair, then completed as one imitation of the most commonly used aspects of Champa towers and temples.
At present, the museum exhibits approximately 300 sandstone and terra-cotta sculptures, some of which are created out of terracotta. Most of the artifacts are masterpieces of Champa art and some are considered to be equal to works of art anywhere in the world for their sense of creativity. The sculptures were collected from Cham temples and towers throughout Central Vietnam, more specifically the area with the starting point from Quang Binh to Binh Thuan.
All the sculptures are currently on display in 10 showrooms in the Museum of Cham Sculpture and named after the localities where the pieces have been discovered.
After taking a glance at the pieces in the showrooms, you may want to visit the exterior exhibitions. The arts of the Champa were chiefly sculpture, but the sculptures are one of the contributors to religious architecture. The temples and towers themselves are regarded as sculptural artifacts. They are decorated on the exterior of their brick walls with bas-relief columns, flowers, and leaves shapes, as well as worshipping figures among the brick pillars. The tympana, lintels, and the ornamental corner pieces are of sandstones carved with the figures of gods, the holy animals of the Hindus, and flowers and leaves, which are all the symbol of sacrality.
The artifacts exhibited at the Cham museum are altars, statues and decorative works of art gathered from Hindu and Buddhist temples and towers. Champa sculpture displays vary in styles, and each of them has got themselves a different sense of beauty. Sometimes they were influenced by other cultures but whatever at which period or in what style the Champa artifacts were created, they always displayed characteristics and appeared to viewers in their way of originality.
Visitors dropping by the museum may have the chance to appreciate the eight centuries of evolution of Champa sculpture from its golden age to its endings. In their way, the artifacts exemplify the rise and collapse of the Champa civilization. When we stand before these artistic masterpieces we can comprehend the noblest ideas of art, the creation of the infinite from the finite, the birth of the extraordinary out of the ordinary as we witness.
The eight centuries of art at the Champa museum is a thick history book reflecting the ups and downs of Champa art and civilizations. From inanimate stones came living art, and from these wonderful invaluable artifacts, we can feel the authenticity and creativity from the artists in their times, on the fine skin of the stone-timeless.
Most of the sculptures on display in the Cham Museum of Da Nang have the same drifting life as the very destiny of the once-glorious culture that generated and nourished them. Through the power of time, war, and even oblivion, such original Champa sculptures were hardly discovered, collected, and brought here by any generation. And in this systematic collection, these artistic works of the ancient Champa artists again have the opportunity to come into a new life.
As you come to visit the museum, it appears that you can see one more time the glorious time of the past of a nation for whom both the passion for art and the creative talent were already at a very high level, or some may even say at its peak. The mysterious world of deities, the religious symbols, the pictorial legends, the features of full swelling breasts, the smiles of a vague time, the curving lines of the bodies of dancing girls, all of these are shown very lively and in much detail.
The art of Champa, although affected by the Hindu themes of India and Southeast Asia, got themselves numerous factors that make it distinctive and extraordinary.
Temples in Champa were constructed out of bricks. As a result, artists did not have long expanses of wall to decorate with bas-reliefs depicting Hindu epics or phases of Buddhist life as witnessed in the early times, for example, at the Angkor Wat. The Chams incorporated their sculptures into their temple architecture by carving them separately and turning them into part of their construction. These carvings are classified into four major groups, including Icons, Pedestals, Pediments, and Fragments of architectural decorations, whether at the base or on various ties of the temple.
Profoundly impacted by the architecture and sculpture of the Indian civilization, the ancient Champa have their vision of life and religion according to their emotions. Such refraction has brought into their world an art form of a greatly subtle and distinct beauty: spiritual but closely connected, unique but familiar, and sacred but bonding.
Good to Know about Cham Museum
Before visiting any destinations, you must be excited to figure out the surprising facts and interesting information about it, don’t you? Here would be some information that you may get interested in, especially for those who are aiming at an educational and fun trip. The Museum of Cham Sculptures in Da Nang is also a great place to start your research about the Cham culture.
- The first building of the Cham Museum was opened in the 20th century, 1919 to be exact.
- The collection on display at the museum was initiated by French archaeologists and experts from L’École Francaise d’Extrême Orient (EFEO).
- There is an onsite shop in which you can find imitation pieces and some souvenirs as gifts for your beloved.
- Since they have also sold English-language guidebooks for tourists, there would be barely any language barriers among tourists and employees at the museum.
Some Information While Taking A Trip to The Museum of Cham Sculpture in Da Nang
Transportation should not be an issue as there are many means of transport for you to take there no matter whether you travel to the Museum as a group or individual. Also, the Museum is near lots of restaurants, which is convenient for lunchtime and snack if needed.
This is the part that is questioned by many people. The official ticket price would be 40,000 VND per person when dropping by the Museum of Cham Sculpture in Da Nang. This cost has included the free tour guide for a group of five people. Hence, why don’t visit the Museum since it’s worth your time and money?
Whenever you visit any museum, cameras if permitted there should be taken along with you because you don’t have the chance to appreciate the sculpture and works of art in the Cham Museum every day. Hence, take with you a photographer, dress appropriately, and enjoy your trip to the Museum.