Officially, Vietnam is an atheist state as per it’s communist government regime, but significant amounts of the population practice traditional religions, some adhere to Buddhism and there are quite a few Catholics left over from the French occupation. However, tucked away, not far from Hoi An, is My Son, a UNESCO World Heritage site, once the location of the ancient Hindu Champa civilisation and its majestic complex of temples dedicated to Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu.
Originally the religious and political capital of the Champa kingdom, the complex was built around the third or fourth century AD, and traces it’s spiritual roots back to Indian Hinduism. The city was forgotten with the passing of the Cham reign and for centuries sat hidden in the jungle. Consisting of 70 ruins over 142 acres, the site was rediscovered and renovated by the French in the late 1890’s, but was subsequently heavily bombed during the Vietnam war, when it was found to be a hiding place for the Viet Cong.
Parts of the site are gradually being reconstructed using the traditional red bricks of the original work, although some of the very early work looks clumsy. Under government supervision, all reconstruction and renovation work is now of a high standard, with much de-mining of the area being an early priority and still an important consideration for the wider areas around the site.
The renovations also face less alarming, but no less important, challenges. Modern artisans are having difficulties replicating the unique properties of the construction techniques and are struggling to resolve questions around the firing of the bricks. The brick courses of these ancient buildings seem to be held together with just millimetres of incredibly strong mortar – something else which has yet to be successfully reproduced.
My Son is an extraordinary example of an ancient culture – and one which kept written records. Much was recorded on perishable materials, but a great deal has been preserved on stone slabs or pillars and these have been a precious source of information for scholars and archaeologists.
My Son is easily accessible from Hoi An or Da Nang, via group or private tours. There is little signage on the site, so it is worth going with an informed guide. It is also very well worth going early in the morning to beat the heat and the large buses which both arrive towards the middle of the day.[mc4wp_form id="16750"]
142 acres is massive – yet I have not known this existed till now – looks amazing !
Maureen | Orgasmic Chef
Isn’t that a nifty place to visit, Amanda. You have shared some very exotic and interesting places with us over the past year or so and this is one I’d never heard of.
Lizzy (Good Things)
Adding this to the bucket list! Stunning… just stunning.
Anna @ shenANNAgans
Dang it…. Reading travel blogs is like taking a bullet sometimes, especially when I am having an arvo tea break at work. Sigh! What an amazing place to see, love the story and the way they capture history in the brick, stones and slabs of cement. Will def be adding this to the list of must sees. 🙂
Amazing. I have never heard of My Son. It’s got such an interesting history and it would be fascinating to wander around the ruins xx
I went to some beautiful sites in Cambodia but did not go to this one in Vietnam when I was there. What a pity because it is hauntingly beautiful. You are so right about visiting early too. the heat kills you and then the bus loads finish it off
Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella
I was almost transported back to my trip to Vietnam a few years ago. Such a beautiful country!
What amazing structures indeed! Isn’t it astounding that with all our modern tools, tricks and technology we still can’t figure out or replicate work of such quality 🙂 xo