Saturday, October 18, 2014

Thu Bon River Part 2

Have you ever heard of Cham or the Champa Kingdom? It was the name the kingdom was referred to by Marco Polo. He had traveled through Cham on his way back to Italy but Hoi An did not exist when he passed through. Polo wrote that the Cham Kingdom was conquered by the Yuan Dynasty and they had to offer 20 elephants tribute to Khans annually. This was not true. Yuan Dynasty, trying to expand south to Malay and Java, invaded Cham a number of times. Cham defended itself, once together with Dai Vet. General Tran Hung Dao repelled the Mongols using guerrilla tactics. His statue stands in downtown Hochimin square. Eventually Champa King made the act of vassalage to the Mongols and soon lost sovereignty thereafter and disappeared.

It was the Chams who opened the silk and spice roads via the ocean, trading with the neighboring countries, establishing a base in Hoi An as a trading port. The Chams prospered from 7th Century to 15th Century in Central Vietnam, with Dong Hoi, near Hue, to the north and Phan Thiet to the south. They had constant conflicts with Dai-Vets in the north and Kmel in the south.

Chams are found today in Cambodia and Thailand but are a minority in Vietnam. They started out originally as Shaivists and Hinduists but later more Chams converted to Islam. My Son (pronounced mi: sa:n, meaning beautiful mountain), 60 kilometers upstream and in the middle of the Thu Bon Valley, is where the Chams' sacred sanctuary ruins quietly sit, a cluster of over 70 Hindu temples, discovered by French archaeologists and recognized by UNESCO the same year as Hoi An.

I took the weekend tour on a fully loaded microbus. Angkor Wat in Cambodia is a 50 acre site and is too wide an area for me to cover. Instead, I chose My Son for easy walks and for a fun boat ride of the Thu Bon River on the way back. My Son temples were partially bombed during the Vietnam War until U.S. Congress stopped the bombing to save the cultural treasures. The September 2014 issue of Vietnam Airline "Heritage" Magazine features "My Son" and "Chmpa Culture." It was full of beautiful shots of "Di Tich Cham." That is why I chose the photo of a 3-D wall of Phuoc An Hotel dining room where I stayed for this post.

1 comment:

Paul Dion, STL said...

Great stuff, Rio. You are blessed with the time the talent and the resources to bring us these teachings. Thank you for sharing these treasures.