Champa – A Forgotten Culture
In the long history of 4000 years of fighting against invaders and aggression, to build and preserve the “S” shape which runs along from top to bottom of Vietnam now, not many people know that to expand the border, there were a lot of conquer taken place all over those years.
In the beginning, The Dai Viet (Great Viet)’s southern border only reach Quang Binh nowadays, the rest of Vietnam nowadays belongs to The Champa Kingdom. For centuries the South China Sea was known by navigators throughout Asia as the Champa Sea, named for a great empire that controlled all of central Vietnam, from the northern border of today’s Quang Binh Province to roughly the southern border of Binh Thuan Province. In their most glorious era, Champa used to be a very powerful nation with great culture and religion and even military power that enable them to declare conquest war with The Great Viet and Khmer by themselves. These stories still remain and are written on the ancient walls of many Champa temples and beliefs.
In the past, The Great Viet and Champa Kingdom share the same standard in power, even if there is slight difference depending on the time in history. Champa artisans was excellent with their hands that The Great Viet had to learn from their architectural expertise. Mỹ Sơn and Ponagar Temple are proofs for such skillful hands of Champa people at that era. Not just that, even in cuisine and music, lots of their legacies are still inherited and preserved until today, like the popular fish sauce (known as nuoc mam).
Throughout thousands of years of history, Champa has built a very unique culture that is the topic of historians, especially for their legacy in ancient architecture, sculpture, ceramic arts or metal arts, with various type of jewelry from gold or silver. There relics reflect the Champa‘s daily life not only just in a regular family but also within nobles and royal families. Particularly, there is a group of Champa’s religious temples at My Son (Quang Nam Province), known as “The My Son Holyland” that is recognized by the UNESCO as a world heritage in December 1999. Moreover, Champa people left behind their artistic heritage on the drawings of their stone sculpture, on the statue of their dancers and musicians, which could be observed in each of their temples. One of Champa’s masterpiece that is less known to others is the masterpiece sculpture of “Trà Kiều Dancer” – a woman dancer used to put a great dose of charm into Trần Nhân Tông King’s mind.
The distinctive aspects of Champa culture are shown from their way of creating art, on their skill of building towers by mud, making statues by stone, weaving and making pottery by hands and making tools to serve their daily life. Last but not least, Champa people has strongest pride at their historic Champa towers which was built beautifully by terracotta.
Even though Champa has been going under many up and down and their own kingdom has been lost in the history, their people still live peacefully in the land of Vietnam as a treasured ethnic group and help to safeguard Champa’s incredible legacies and culture.