My Son Cham Ruins, Hoi An

My Son Ruins

Fred PlattMankind builds marvelous and imagination-defying cities and structures, then erases them again as the centuries, along with the fickle loyalty of scholars, priests, kings, and common people render them either obsolete or irrelevant. The ruins of My Son in Vietnam, not far from Da Nang and Hoi An, fall into this category.

My Son was once an impressive place, a holy valley of impressive Hindu temples and burial grounds of the royalty of the Champa people. My Son was the Vietnamese equivalent of places like Cambodia's Angkor Wat and Egypt's Valley of the Kings. In its heyday, My Son included over seventy temples, along with a number of monuments with inscriptions in both Sanskrit, the holy language of ancient India, and Cham. In 1999, UNESCO named My Son a World Heritage Site.

History of My Son

Fred PlattThe My Son site dates back to the fourth century AD, when the Champa king, Bhadravarman, erected the first temple there. He named it Bhadresvara, which was a combination of his own name and the Hindu god Ishvara, another name for Shiva. On the temple, the king added a request for subsequent generations to respect the temple and not destroy it. For many centuries, his request seemed to work; for generations after Bhadravarman's death, the My Son site was the hub of spiritual activity for the Champa people. Even when the original temple was destroyed in a fire two hundred years later, a later king made sure to rebuild it. The temple lasted in one form or another until it was obliterated during the Vietnam War.

In the fourteenth century, the Champa were conquered by the Viet people, for whom the modern country is named. The disappearance of the Champa also meant the gradual dissolution of the My Son site, which the jungle slowly started to reclaim. Ignored and largely forgotten, My Son was discovered again at the turn of the twentieth century by a French scholar.

In the 1930s, the French began to restore the My Son temples. The French scholars and archeologists were able to identify a total of seventy-one temples, with various groupings of temples belonging to different eras of development of the Cham kingdom.

My Son Today

Fred PlattUnfortunately for both visitors and world history, much of what remained of My Son in the twentieth century was bombed out of existence by American B-52 bombers during the American Vietnam War. The temples that had been so lovingly restored by French archeologists and local people were quickly devastated by the American bombs. In fact, local people are still wary of the area surrounding the My Son ruins because of the still unexploded bombs and land mines.

Nevertheless, My Son is still one of Vietnam's most important historic sites. Visitors with any interest in Southeast Asia's history will enjoy the bus trip from Da Nang or Hoi An to the ruins. Most tours of the My Son ruins range in price from £30 to £47, depending upon the size of the group and the city of origin.