You are on page 1of 32

Architecture of the Temple-Towers of Ancient Champa 155


The Architecture of the

Temple-Towers of Ancient
Champa (Central Vietnam)1

Trần Kỳ Phương

Yama (Death) has given (us) the residence on earth. Yama indeed rules
over the earth and it is he who grants the sacrificer a residence on
this earth.
— Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa, VII. I. 1.32

he temple-towers of ancient Champa discussed in this essay were,
for the most part, religious buildings used for the practice of
Hinduism and Buddhism.3 They were built with fired bricks, and
stand in various parts of the coastal plain region of central Vietnam, in
the area that extends from Ngang pass (Quảng Bình) in the north as far
south as the province of Bình Thuận; there are also a few temples in the
Tây Nguyên highland region. Their dates cover a continuous period from
the seventh/eighth centuries to the seventeenth/eighteenth centuries.
Inscriptions on steles inform us that the majority of the temple-
towers built before the seventh/eighth centuries were made of wood.
These temples were subsequently consumed by fire, and it was only
around the seventh/eighth centuries that temples started to be built of
fired brick, and later of fired brick combined with sandstone. The only
buildings made of brick and stone were temple-towers dedicated to the
worship of Champa’s gods. Other structures — including accommodation


Chap6-TKPhuong (155-186) 155 10/10/08 6:20:27 PM

156 Trần Kỳ Phu,o,ng

for the Brahmanist/Hinduist priests, houses of rest, defensive structures

and service buildings — were built of wood and, as a result, no vestiges
of them remain.
These religious buildings represent the best available evidence for
research into the economy, society, philosophy and arts of the civilisation
of Champa, through all the centuries of its existence.
At the present time, according to my reckoning, there remain a total
of no more than twenty-four groups of temple-towers still standing, all
of them located in the region between Quảng Bình and Bình Thuận
provinces. They are as follows: Quảng Trị: Hà Trung (1 tower); Thừa
Thiên - Huế: Liễu Cốc (2 towers), Mỹ Khánh (1 tower), Linh Thái (1 tower);
Quảng Nam: Mỹ Sơn (68 towers), Đồng Dương (1 tower), Bằng An
(1 tower), Chiên Đàn (3 towers), Tháp Lạng (2 towers), Khương
Mỹ (3 towers); Bình Định: Thốc Lốc/Phú Lốc (1 tower), Cánh Tiên
(1 tower), Bánh Ít/Tháp Bạc (4 towers), Thủ Thiện (1 tower), Dương Long
(3 towers), Hưng Thạnh/Tháp Đôi (2 towers), Hòn Chuông/Bà Chằng
(1 tower); Phú Yên: Tháp Nhạn (1 tower); Khánh Hoà: Pô Nagar Nha
Trang (5 towers); Ninh Thuận: Hoà Lai (2 towers); Pô Klaung Garai
(3 towers), Pô Ramê (2 towers); Bình Thuận: Pô Đam/Pô Tằm (5 towers),
Phú Hài (3 towers); Đắc Lắc: Yang Prong (1 tower).
The great expense involved in the construction of these places of
worship meant that almost all of them relied on the support of the royal
family for their construction and functioning. The king also donated
land to fund the practice of worship, as we know from an inscription of
King Bhadravarman,4 who is known in Vietnamese historical records as
Phạm Hồ Đạt, in Chinese historical records as Fan Hu-Da, and reigned
from 380–413 CE.5 This king sponsored the construction of the first
temple for the worship of the god Bhadreśvara (Śiva) at Mỹ Sơn at the
end of the fourth century or the beginning of the fifth century. Groups
of temples were also built and repaired by dignitaries of the court, as an
inscription at Pô Nagar Nha Trang informs us: at the beginning of the
ninth century, Senāpati Par, a commander-in-chief of the army, made a
religious donation by building a maṇḍapa for the religious complex there.6
The beauty of the temple-towers may be seen in a wide range of
unique architectural styles and decorative motifs; it benefited too from
a technological tradition of building in brick that, through a process of
constant improvement over a period of many centuries, achieved a form
of perfection.7 Indeed, the techniques used in the construction of the
Cham brick temple-towers has been described by historians of arts and

Chap6-TKPhuong (155-186) 156 10/10/08 6:20:31 PM

Architecture of the Temple-Towers of Ancient Champa 157

architecture as the most highly perfected in Southeast Asia, and gave rise
to many impressive architectural edifices, especially those built between
the late ninth and thirteenth centuries.

Temples in Cham Architecture

Cham architectural concepts were influenced by the Indian artistic
tradition. Temples in Champa thus consisted of a religious complex
including a main temple — known in Cham as a kalan — with several
smaller shrines, auxiliary buildings and low surrounding walls. The
kalan symbolises the sacred mountain of Meru, the cosmological axis
and centre of the universe. The smaller shrines and low walls symbolise
the heavenly bodies and oceans which surround the mountain of Meru.
The main temple or kalan, was the most important edifice in the
temple-tower ensemble. Representations of the Hinduist or Buddhist gods
were worshipped in the kalan. Alternatively, a yoni-liṅga was set in the
temple’s sanctum.
According to the beliefs of Hinduism, the kalan was the god’s very
place of residence. The body of the temple was conceived as a cave,
and its roof was given the shape of a mountain peak (or śikhara), both
being ideal places for the residence of divinities. The exterior walls of the
temple were intricately carved down to the finest detail, but the interior
walls remained entirely undecorated: inside the temple, there was nothing
but a simple altar.
Almost all the kalan were built to face east, which is the direction
of the gods and of the rising sun, where cosmological movement begins.
Only at Mỹ Sơn, where the topography of the site’s narrow valley was
used to symbolise a maṇḍala (a sacred geometric diagram in a square or
a circle), there are kalans which face either east or west. One kalan was
even built with two great doors facing east and west respectively: this is
the Mỹ Sơn A1 temple-tower. In addition, a single group of towers was
built on a mountain ridge with its kalan facing south, where there were
extensive fields stretching towards the sea: this is the Pô Đam/Pô Tằm
group, in the southern part of Champa.8
The sanctum (garbhagṛha) of the kalan was a narrow, confined space.
This was the most sacred part of the temple where, at the very centre
of the sanctum, the representation of the god or a yoni-liṅga was set on
a square pedestal (Fig. 1). The object of worship was placed on a yoni
base, the channel (snāna-droṇī 9) of which was oriented to the north: this

Chap6-TKPhuong (155-186) 157 10/10/08 6:20:31 PM

158 Trần Kỳ Phu,o,ng

Fig. 1. The royal liṅga Bhadreśvara of Mỹ Sơn Sanctuary enshrined at the main
temple of Mỹ Sơn B1 (Photograph Trần Kỳ Phương, 1993).

Chap6-TKPhuong (155-186) 158 10/10/08 6:20:31 PM

Architecture of the Temple-Towers of Ancient Champa 159

base was used to drain off the holy water used during the ceremony of
bathing the icon. During ceremonies, the liṅga was concealed inside a
covering sheath (kośa) made of metal alloy — gold/silver —onto which
an image of the head of Śiva (mukhaliṅga) was attached. Several such
metal-alloy heads of Śiva have been discovered in recent years: they
are masterpieces of Champa artistic creation.10 A mukhaliṅga made of
sandstone is still worshipped today at the sanctum of the Pô Klaung Garai
temple. During ceremonies, stone objects of Śiva worship in the sanctum
were also adorned with precious metals: a set of decorative dress made
of gold — including a crown, earrings, a necklace, and chest, arm- and
leg-adornments — was found at Mỹ Sơn in the small C7 temple, situated
beside the main C1 temple where Śiva was worshipped in a standing
position; this is a good example of this practice.11
The sanctum also contains a square trench directly below the altar,
for the draining of the holy water used during ceremonies. Examples exist
in the Mỹ Sơn B1 and Mỹ Sơn F1 kalans. In some temples, a water-
spout was made for the holy water to be drained (called a soma-sūtra), as
may be found in the Pô Nagar Nha Trang kalan, the Mỹ Sơn A1 kalan,
Mỹ Sơn C7, Chiên Đàn. Regarding the altar, a narrow space around it
allowed passage in a clockwise direction during ceremonies (pradakṣiṇa-
patha). Alternatively, in Buddhist temples such as the Buddhist foundation
at Đồng Dương, the altar was set against the sanctum’s western wall, in
front of which the faithful performed their rituals.
A canopy was usually placed in the sanctum. Made of wood, and
supported on four posts, it completely concealed the altar. Such canopies
may still be seen in the Pô Klaung Garai and Pô Rame kalans; elsewhere,
there remain only its four square stone bases, as in the Mỹ Sơn C7 tower.
Today, Cham people call this wooden canopy janùk (Fig. 2).12
The sanctum is a closed space, very dark and without windows; on
three of the walls, as a result, there are small triangular niches where lamps
(or ceremonial objects?) were set. Its interior walls were sometimes built
unevenly — closing in here, opening out there — to give the impression
of a cave, the preferred habitat of the god; remains of this uneven walling
may be seen in the kalans at Khương Mỹ, Chiên Đàn, Bằng An, Bình
Lâm, Thốc Lốc, Cánh Tiên, Dương Long and Hưng Thạnh.
The sanctum opened through a doorway, consisting of a stone door-
frame and a set of thick doors made of ironwood. Today, such wooden
doors may still be seen in the Pô Nagar Nha Trang, Pô Klaung Garai and
Pô Ramê kalans. At other sites, the doors have been lost, and all that

Chap6-TKPhuong (155-186) 159 10/13/08 10:46:43 AM

160 Trần Kỳ Phu,o,ng

Fig. 2. The wooden canopy inside the temple (janùk), a reconstruction of Mỹ Sơn
E1 altar/temple (Trần Kỳ Phương, Oyama Akiko & Shine Toshihiko (eds.), Nhà Trưng
Bày Mỹ Sơn, Việt Nam [Mỹ Sơn site museum, Vietnam], p. 18).

remains are the round holes in the stone doorframe on which the hinges
turned, as at the Mỹ Sơn C1, Dương Long and Hưng Thạnh temples.
A long narrow vestibule connects the sanctum with the temple’s
main door. Here, a pair of nandi sacred bulls was placed, lying in atten-
dance on the sanctum, as may be seen today in the Pô Klaung Garai
and Pô Ramê kalans. This gloomy vestibule leading into the sanctum
symbolised the passageway into the cave, a transition from light into
darkness, into the divinity’s place of residence. In other words, it was
through the confined space of the vestibule that the faithful were led from
their world of complexity into a place of simplicity. Thus was facilitated
the purification of the self, before it was joined with the divinity during
the ceremony.13
Two elaborately carved sandstone doorposts were placed at the
vestibule’s entrance. These posts bear round, octagonal or quadrilateral
shapes, carved with intricate motifs, which varied according to the
artistic period and prevailing style. The different royal courts of Champa
traditionally engraved inscriptions on these doorposts, as may still be
seen at Mỹ Sơn, Pô Nagar Nha Trang, Pô Klaung Garai and Hà Trung.

Chap6-TKPhuong (155-186) 160 10/10/08 6:20:33 PM

Architecture of the Temple-Towers of Ancient Champa 161

Stone steps lead up to the entrance, and on either side of these there
is a wall, the exterior side of which is decorated with different shapes.
A half-moon shaped flagstone — or moonstone — is always set below
the steps, carved with lotus petals.
Above the doorposts, a lintel is decorated with further motifs (Fig. 3).
Above the lintel, an oval tympanum made of sandstone bears a representa-
tion of the god worshiped in the kalan. Almost all the extant tympana are
complete works of sculpture of great artistic value; one of the preferred
themes for representation on tympana was the image of Śiva performing
his cosmic dance named Tāṇḍava. The image of Śiva in his destructive
form was set on the main door to help maintain the temple’s purity, to
ward corporeal and incorporeal defilement away from the sacred place.
Sandstone decorative features, such as doorposts, tympana and lintels,
tended to be painted red to match the colour of the temple’s bricks;
vestiges of this red paint are still preserved on doorposts at Mỹ Sơn.
The kalan was built according to a fairly basic model. It had a square
body,14 and its roof rose to a summit through three tiers, culminating in
a pinnacle-piece made of sandstone. Comparison with other Southeast
Asian artistic styles shows that this structure was characteristic of Cham
Seen in the terms of the architectural concepts of Hinduism, the
Champa kalan is composed of three distinct parts:

1. The temple foundations, symbolising the world;

2. The temple body, symbolising the spiritual world of the worshippers,
the place where the faithful purify themselves to come into contact
with their ancestors and join themselves to the gods, or sublimate
their consciousness;
3. The temple roof, symbolising the world of the gods, the place where
the gods live and assemble.

The temple foundations were carved with a variety of images. These

included representations of leaves and flowers; animals such as elephants
and lions; divine protectors standing in small archways decorated with
kāla-makara; scenes from legends; heavenly dancing girls (apsaras)
and musicians (gandharavas). Foundations built from the tenth century
were often made of a combination of brick and sandstone, as may be
seen at the Mỹ Sơn B1 kalan, or overlaid with sandstone, as at Khương
Mỹ, Chiên Đàn and Bánh Ít/Tháp Bạc. The carved images around the

Chap6-TKPhuong (155-186) 161 10/10/08 6:20:34 PM

162 Trần Kỳ Phu,o,ng

Fig. 3. The structural technology of a Cham temple-tower (Trần Kỳ Phương, Oyama

Akiko & Shine Toshihiko (eds.), Nhà Trưng Bày Mỹ Sơn, Việt Nam [Mỹ Sơn site
museum, Vietnam], Tokyo: Product of Open Research Center Project, Nihon University,
2005, p. 21).

Chap6-TKPhuong (155-186) 162 10/10/08 6:20:34 PM

Architecture of the Temple-Towers of Ancient Champa 163

foundations generally represent various scenes of the heavenly world, the

divinity’s home.
The temple body is decorated with rows of pilasters and inter-
pilasters. There are usually five pilasters carved in bas-relief into the
exterior walls of the temple, with the main one in the centre concealed
by a false door. The kalan false door was a work of great intricacy
which, set off against the highly original arcature (toraṇa) — a wall-
arcade with sophisticated carving — contributed greatly to the artistic
value of Cham temple-towers. In the false door, the figure of the divine
protector of the world (lokapāla) was represented standing in attendance
with folded hands on his chest, holding a lotus flower. Over each of the
three false doors, a tympanum made of brick or stone generally bore
images of the goddess Lakṣmī, wife of the god Viṣnu, being the goddess
of beauty, wealth and affluence; the temple relied on her help to maintain
its prosperity.
The bases of the tower adjoin the foundations, and at this point each
short pilaster was decorated with the multi-layer shape of the boddhi
tree’s leaf; or with small arcatures carved with flowers and leaves.
The cornice which accomplished the transition from the wall to the
roof was built to mouldings and intricately carved with friezes of flowers
and leaves. At each corner, the cornice was decorated with heavenly
apsaras, sea monsters (makara), or stylised sacred flames which showed
considerable variation from one period of artistic style to the next. At
each of the four corners, there are four miniature corner-towers on the
roof each representing a small elaborately decorated temple.
The constant recurrence of complex decorative motifs on both large
and small elements of Cham temples may be interpreted, in the light of
Hinduist philosophy, as a representation of the eternal cycle of time and
the cosmological eras, as well as the endless rebirth of humans into life.
It was precisely here, inside the temples, that the faithful expressed their
sincere yearnings for the supreme release, thanks to the intervention of
the divinity.15
The temple roof is made up of three tiers, a pinnacle-piece and a
crown; it tapers as it rises, symbolising a mountain. Each layer was built
to represent a small temple with a complete range of temple features,
including pilasters, false doors, temple foot, cornices and so on. The
pinnacle was decorated with images and statues of the 33 gods of Hin-
duism, such as the sacred goose haṃsa, the sacred bird garuḍa, the sacred
bull nandin, elephants and lions.

Chap6-TKPhuong (155-186) 163 10/10/08 6:20:43 PM

164 Trần Kỳ Phu,o,ng

Four miniature corner-towers were placed on each corner cornice of

each of the roof’s three tiers, and each of the tiers symbolised a stratum
of the heavens, of the divinity’s place of residence.
The pinnacle-piece was placed on top of the third tier: this is a large
piece of octagonal, quadrilateral or triangular shaped stone carved with
the mask of Kāla — the god of time — or images of the sacred serpent
nāga and the sacred bull nandi. These pieces survive at Mỹ Sơn, Chiên
Đàn and Pô Klaung Garai. As in the śikhara-style temples of northern
India, the pinnacle-pieces are called āmalaka.
The temple crown is a four-sided pointed block of stone placed on
the pinnacle-piece; its lower section was decorated with lotus petals,
symbolising the sacred mountain of Kailash, where the god Śiva lives;
it was usually covered with precious metals to enhance the beauty
and dazzling impressiveness of the temple. Being the temple’s highest
point, the crown is shaped like a lotus flower (padma) to symbolise the
supreme release and the transcendence of time and space; its pillar (yūpa)
symbolises the virtue of the king and royal family. This is the point where
the temple diffuses its mystical energy into the cosmos, carrying with
it the uplifted consciousness of the faithful. The crown is also the very
axis of the cosmos, the place where the individual ego (ātman) merge
into the super ego of the cosmos (Brahman).16
The upper strata of a Cham temple include multiple details of great
complexity, each of which expresses the individual genius of its parti-
cular artistic style. These may be considered as unique offerings placed,
in magnificent diversity, on the architectural temple-towers of South-
east Asia.

Spatial Structure
Cham temple-tower groups generally respect the following spatial
The kalan is at the centre. A gate-tower (gopura) stands opposite the
kalan, with its two gates aligned east-west. In front of the gate-tower,
there is a maṇḍapa, a type of long house with a tiled roof, multiple
windows and two main doors to the east and west: this served as a
preparatory hall where the faithful quietened their minds, prayed and
prepared offerings and sacred songs and dances before proceeding,
purified, into the kalan for the ritual.17
In Champa architecture there are three types of maṇḍapa: (1) one
without enclosing walls, which relies instead on large brick or stone

Chap6-TKPhuong (155-186) 164 10/10/08 6:20:43 PM

Architecture of the Temple-Towers of Ancient Champa 165

Fig. 4. The fire-tower (kosagrha) of Mỹ Sơn B5, the sanctuary’s treasure house
(Photograph Trần Kỳ Phương, 1994).

columns to support a tiled roof, as may be found at Pô Nagar Nha Trang,

Đồng Dương; (2) one with enclosing walls pierced by multiple windows,
as at Mỹ Sơn D1, D2; and (3) one using wooden pillars to support the
roof, as at Pô Klaung Garai. In a temple-tower group, the maṇḍapa is
found in the following combinations: (a) gopura-maṇḍapa-kalan (with
a maṇḍapa without enclosing walls); (b) maṇḍapa-gopura-kalan (with a
walled maṇḍapa).
In front and to the right of the kalan, a store was built for the objects
of worship (kośagṛha). This is a brick structure with a boat-shaped
roof and one or two rooms; the main door was always built to open
to the north, in the direction of Kuvera, the god of good fortune; and
two windows with sandstone bars at its eastern and western sides. This
tower was also used to cook the food offered to the divinity: the Cham
community in Ninh Thuận and Bình Thuận today call it the fire-tower.
This fire-tower symbolises the treasury and prosperity of the realm. It
may also have been where the sacred flame (Agni ) was kept while rituals
were performed in the temple (Fig. 4).18

Chap6-TKPhuong (155-186) 165 10/10/08 6:20:43 PM

166 Trần Kỳ Phu,o,ng

Fig. 5. Mỹ Sơn B, C and D Groups (Photograph Trần Kỳ Phương, 1994).

In addition, at Mỹ Sơn, there is one temple — the B6 tower — which

was built opposite the fire-tower (the B5 tower), inside of which may
be found an empty oval-shaped basin made of sandstone and decorated
with lotus petals: this was used to keep the sacred water used by the
royal family for the ritual of purging in the kalan B1. This is the only
basin used for holding sacred water so far discovered at all the Champa
archaeological sites.
A low brick wall was built around the kalan, smaller shrines and
subsiduary edifices. The wall was never higher than 2.5 metres; it formed
a perfect square; its ends joined at the gate-tower. In Indian architecture,
these low walls symbolise the ranges of mountains which surrounded
the seas around the cosmological mountain of Meru, symbolised itself
by the main tower in the group.19 Outside the wall, it was common to
build stele-towers where inscriptions on stone were raised (Figs. 5, 6).
In a unique case at Mỹ Sơn, there are six shrines located around
the kalan A1 (aligned with the two main doors of the A1 temple),
where eight divinities associated with the eight directions of the heavens
(aṣṭadiśpālakas) were venerated: these protected the temple from the
north, south, east, west, northeast, northwest, southeast and southwest

Chap6-TKPhuong (155-186) 166 10/10/08 6:20:45 PM

Architecture of the Temple-Towers of Ancient Champa 167

Fig. 6. The ground-plan and section of Mỹ Sơn B, C and D Groups (Shige-eda Yutaka and
Momoki Shiro (eds.), Artifacts and culture of the Champà Kingdom (Catalogue), Tokyo: The
Toyota Foundation, 1994, p. 15).

Chap6-TKPhuong (155-186) 167 10/10/08 6:20:46 PM

168 Trần Kỳ Phu,o,ng

Fig. 7. The composition of the temple of Mỹ Sơn A1 temple-tower (Trần Kỳ Phương,

Vestiges of Champa Civilization, Hanoi: Thế Giới Publishers, 2004, p. 32).

Chap6-TKPhuong (155-186) 168 10/10/08 6:20:48 PM

Architecture of the Temple-Towers of Ancient Champa 169

(these shrines are now known as the A2–A7 towers). Each guardian
deity was represented seated on his own particular vehicle (vāhana) such
as a bull, horse, rhinoceros or swan, exclusive to that deity (Fig. 7). In
Mỹ Sơn B group, seven stars (saptagrahas) were worshipped in seven
shrines (B7–B13): these were the gods of the Sun, Moon, Mars, Mercury,
Jupiter, Venus and Saturn. They protected the main B1 temple from the
different directions around it.20
Apart from the major complexes at Mỹ Sơn, Đồng Dương and Pô
Nagar Nha Trang, and the distinct groups of towers such as Bánh Ít/
Tháp Bạc, Cánh Tiên, Pô Klaung Garai and Pô Ramê, in Champa
architecture there are several groups which contain three kalan built
alongside one another, as at Hoà Lai, Khương Mỹ, Chiên Đàn, Hưng
Thạnh/Tháp Đôi and Dương Long. Of the 24 groups of towers extant
today, there are only 5 with 3 kalan. All five were built on flat ground
or low earthy knolls.
Their construction often lasted several decades. For example,
construction of the Hoà Lai group started at the end of the eighth century
and was completed around the middle of the ninth; work on the Khương
Mỹ group started in the early tenth century and was completed in the
eleventh; the Chiên Đàn group was built from the late eleventh to the
mid twelfth centuries; the Hưng Thạnh group was built in the late twelfth
century; the Dương Long group was built in the late twelfth and thirteenth
centuries, and perhaps improved up to the end of the fifteenth century
(before 1471).
Although three-kalan groups were built up to the thirteenth century,
construction on only two of them — Hưng Thạnh and Dương Long
— commenced at the same time. This suggests that, up to the end of the
twelfth century, Champa temple-tower groups were made up of a single
kalan and a number of subsiduary temples; after that date, the three-kalan
group model evolved out of this.
This development is demonstrated by the temples built before the
appearance of the three-kalan group model, whereby smaller temples
were usually constructed beside a single main temple, as we can clearly
see at Mỹ Sơn A, B and C groups. These groups are of two types: (1)
one with smaller subsiduary temples built right beside the main temple;
(2) one with the smaller subsiduary temples built parallel with the main
temple. The dimensions of these subsiduary structures gradually grew
until they were built of a size equivalent to that of the main temple:
hence the appearance of the three-kalan group.

Chap6-TKPhuong (155-186) 169 10/10/08 6:20:50 PM

170 Trần Kỳ Phu,o,ng

If it is said that the three-kalan group appeared at the same time,

around the end of the twelfth century, this is because that was when they
received influence from Angkor period Khmer temple-tower architecture
in Cambodia. In the process of development from groups with a single
main temple and several subsiduary temples to the three-kalan group,
Champa architecture came under multiple influences from neighbouring
artistic styles, including those of Java (Indonesia) during the ninth and
the tenth centuries and those of the Khmer (Cambodia) during the twelfth
and the thirteenth centuries.21

Construction Materials and Technology

Champa temple-towers were built according to the traditional technology
of Indian religious architecture, which combined horizontal rows with
upright axes. The durability of the edifice is clearly demonstrated in the
rows of vertical pilasters combined with horizontal stone or brick lintels.
These were fixed to the walls by means of corbels. Corbel technology
requires bricks to be laid on top of one another in individual rows and
mouldings; the bricks protuded horizontally at each level, creating an
empty space between the two walls; they gradually tapered in towards
the top before meeting to form a single final row of bricks at the highest
point. The use of corbel technology gave the towers their strong and
magnificent beauty, which was further enhanced by the rows of vertical
pilasters and horizontal lintels. Inside the tower, thanks to the use of
corbels, the Cham people created for their temple a spacious area, with the
upper arch formed by a horizontal moulding, giving it a fine appearance.
Arch technology, whereby the structure is held up by a single piece of
stone or brick at the top (keystone), was commonly used by ancient
Roman architects but rarely creates a spacious inside area, especially in
structures of relatively small size. By contrast, the application of corbel
technology in Indian architecture created an airy inside space, convenient
for the purposes of worship even in small structures of low height.22
Champa temple-towers were built of fired bricks, to which decorative
elements were attached; they supported stone features such as the temple
crown and summit-piece, doorframes, pillars, lintels, tympana, cornices,
friezes, foundations and so on.
In general, the people of Champa fired their bricks at a low heat,
making them relatively soft (with the exception of a few bricks that, for

Chap6-TKPhuong (155-186) 170 10/10/08 6:20:50 PM

Architecture of the Temple-Towers of Ancient Champa 171

technological reasons, were overfired, forming stoneware: these were

found at several sites at Mỹ Sơn). The bricks are of various sizes, mostly
around 30 cm × 20 cm × 10 cm. It is possible that Champa bricks were
fired in a type of semi open-air kiln, as local people in central Vietnam
still relate with admiration. The very fact that these brick towers without
visible mortar layers have remained stable for a thousand years serves
as living evidence for the brick-building talent of the people of Champa.
The towers have suffered the effects of rain, sun, wind and sand only
in the gradual erosion of their surface features: it is not easy to remove
bricks from the walls.
According to a number of early hypotheses, the people of Champa
used a type of vegetable resin — which today’s local population calls dầu
rái and which comes from the tree Dipterocarpus Alatus Roxb. — as a
bonding agent to fix the bricks together. This tree was planted to form
forests in central Vietnam; its trunk is broad, round, tall and straight; its
resin can be harvested annually in large quantities, has strong adhesive
properties and is completely waterproof. The resin is extremely easy to
use: it is mixed with clay or brick powder to form a mortar which dries
and hardens easily in the sun. The tower walls are very thick, measuring
1 m to 1.5 m. The hollow space inside was padded with brick fragments
glued together with resin. Only the two outer walls were built with
regular bricks, which were filed and polished after construction. Once
the wall was built, the sculptors started work engraving their motifs
directly on the brick. After completion, the wall was coated with a layer
of resin to protect the exterior of the tower and prevent damage from
sun and rain.
Today, this resin is still very widely used by the people of central
Vietnam, especially in the building of boats and junks. It is usually mixed
with lime extracted from clam shells and plastered on the boat’s hull or
joint lines (where the planks are connected) for waterproofing.
Chemical analysis of the adhesive properties of the resin, as applied
in the construction of the most recent temple-towers, shows that the
Cham did use a locally available type of vegetable resin to join the bricks
together, and that the bricks used were fired at an average heat of less
than 850°C.23 Furthermore, comparison with the most adhesive vegetable
resins currently used by the inhabitants of central Vietnam renders this
theory — that the people of ancient Champa used dầu rái resin in their
construction of the towers — extremely convincing.

Chap6-TKPhuong (155-186) 171 10/10/08 6:20:50 PM

172 Trần Kỳ Phu,o,ng

The towers were repaired and improved continuously over the cen-
turies. The rulers of Champa, after ascending the throne, often extended
or improved an old temple built by their predecessors, expressing thereby
reverence for their forefathers and the deities of the realm: such restora-
tion work is often mentioned in Champa inscriptions on steles.
They generally restored only the exterior walls of the temples,
while the interior was maintained in its original state. At several groups
of towers, construction and improvement work was carried out over a
period of several decades. When improving an old temple, the original
decorative features were reproduced: many decorative motifs were thus
reused from century to century, undergoing little modification in the
process. On the other hand, construction techniques changed greatly from
one century to the next. When restoring an old temple, the people of
Champa traditionally reused materials from earlier structures, especially
those made of sandstone.24
In the religious architecture of Champa, there was no tradition of
construction using exclusively sandstone materials, by contrast with
neighbouring architectural traditions. Champa technology is notable for
its use of brick, while Khmer and Java technology stand out for their use
of stone, as evidenced in Angkor Wat or Angkor Bayon (in Cambodia)
and Borobodur or Prambanam (in Indonesia). This difference in building
materials implied differences in construction technique, as well as differ-
ences in the application of human resources to the construction project.
The difference between these two tendencies — architectural tech-
nology using bricks or stone — can explained principally in terms of
the specific economic forms adopted by the respective ancient Southeast
Asian civilisations.
Khmer and Java technologies were the technologies of agricultural
societies,25 situated as they were in wide deltas (as in Cambodia) or on
plains with andesite (mineral-rich) soils (as on Java).26 In these agricul-
tural societies, kings, lords or chiefs could easily mobilise an abundant
workforce for long periods of time: the workforce could be used to build
temples made of sandstone or other stone materials, according to the
wishes of the ruler.
The people of Champa, by contrast, were inclined to overseas com-
merce. In commercial societies, the capacity for mobilisation of the human
resources necessary for the construction of important religious buildings
was more limited.

Chap6-TKPhuong (155-186) 172 10/10/08 6:20:50 PM

Architecture of the Temple-Towers of Ancient Champa 173

Champa lay on an international trade route;27 its people possessed a

coastline of more than one thousand kilometres; its economy was based
on seafaring and commercial exchange between the highlands and the
plains: the people of Champa, as a result, were busy throughout the
year with trade and the exchange of goods.28 Furthermore, the country’s
agriculture was relatively undeveloped because of a shortage of land, in
a region where agricultural land consisted only of small fields located
alongside the short rivers of today’s central Vietnam. We should also
note that the valleys of the longer rivers, such as the Thu Bồn river
(Quảng Nam) or the Côn river (Bình Định), had more fertile soils and
close links with the great ports of Cửa Đại (Hội An) or Cửa Thi Nại
(Qui Nhơn): great numbers of temple-towers were built of brick in these
areas as a result of the greater density of population these economic
resources could support. This suggests that as soon as the necessary
workforce was available for the construction of religious buildings, the
kings of Champa immediately made use of it to raise larger and more
magnificent architectural structures in the shape of temple-towers.
In general, agricultural societies were able to supply such workforces
in greater and more stable quantities than commercial societies, relying,
in particular, on the underemployment of farm workers between harvests,
in an economy which in ancient times generally had no more than one
annual harvest.
The building of a stone temple required a concentration of labour
resources for the quarrying and transportation of the stone, and for all
the other tasks up to the construction itself. A brick temple, meanwhile,
did not require such a powerful workforce: a smaller number of workers,
employed for the necessary period of time, could create temples of
impressive size, as for example the tallest Champa temples of the Dương
Long group (Bình Định), which are Southeast Asia’s tallest Hinduist
buildings in brick (42 m) (Fig. 8).
Besides these differences of materials and construction technology,
the ancient artistic traditions of Southeast Asia also had their own
individual characteristics which distinguished them in a variety of ways.
These particularly relate to the ground plan arrangements and the spatial
conception of the model used for each group of temple-towers. The ground
plan in Cham architecture often consists of no more than a simple square,
while in Khmer or Java stone structures it is usually much more elaborate
and complex. The Cham spatial model, based on several separate square

Chap6-TKPhuong (155-186) 173 10/10/08 6:20:50 PM

174 Trần Kỳ Phu,o,ng

Fig. 8. Dương Long temple-towers, one of the highest brick temples in Southeast
Asia’s ancient religious architecture (Photograph Trần Kỳ Phương, 1995).

blocks, is relatively monotonous, while the Khmer and Java models are
more fully developed and comprise a variety of different shapes. The
different spatial arrangements and architectural models reflect differences
of artistic consciousness, products of the specific ‘collective intelligence’
of each ethnic group and society in Southeast Asia.29

Considerations of Terrain
According to the Brhat Samhita scriptures of Hinduism, “The gods
always play where groves are near, rivers, mountains and springs and in
towns with pleasure gardens.”30 On the basis of this concept, sites for
the construction of Cham temples were chosen in the following types
of place: (1) in closed valleys, such as at Mỹ Sơn; (2) on plains, as at
Đồng Dương; (3) on flat land beside great rivers, like the towers of
Bằng An, Khương Mỹ, Bình Lâm and Thủ Thiện; (4) on hills beside
estuaries and sea channels, as at Pô Nagar Nha Trang, Phú Hài and
Linh Thái; (5) on hills beside rivers, like the Bánh Ít/Tháp Bạc (Fig. 9)
and Tháp Nhạn groups; (6) on isolated hills in the middle of plains, like

Chap6-TKPhuong (155-186) 174 10/10/08 6:20:50 PM

Architecture of the Temple-Towers of Ancient Champa 175

Fig. 9. Tháp Bạc group of temple-towers in Vijaya (Bình Định) (Photograph Trần
Kỳ Phương, 1995).

Thốc Lốc, Pô Klaung Garai and Pô Ramê; (7) on mountain ridges, like
the Pô Dam/Pô Tằm group; (8) on the sea shore, as at Mỹ Khánh; (9)
on the top of mountains, like Hòn Chuông/Hòn Bà tower; (10) in caves,
like Động Phong Nha (Quảng Bình province), Động Tàng Chơn (Non
Nước, Ngũ Hành Sơn, Đà Nẵng city).
For almost all the Cham temple-towers, the terrain was chosen on
the basis of its association with a particular local legend, within the
beliefs of Hinduism. These might involve a warning conveyed by a god
in a dream, or a divinity’s birth, or the expression of gratitude to a local
deity, or the marking of the site of a victory over an enemy and so on.
However, in the choice of site, the presence of a spring of sacred
water, for use in rituals and sacrifices, was important: sites beside rivers
and streams were often privileged. The flow of sacred water symbolised
the goddess Ganga/Mahānadi, wife of the god Śiva.31 In addition, the
great rivers and estuaries of today’s central Vietnam — such as Thạch
Hãn (Quảng Trị), Thu Bồn (Quảng Nam), Trà Khúc (Quảng Ngãi), Sông
Côn (Bình Định), Sông Ba (Phú Yên), Sông Cái (Khánh Hoà), Sông
Dinh (Ninh Thuận), Sông Cà Ty (Bình Thuận) — all played an important

Chap6-TKPhuong (155-186) 175 10/10/08 6:20:51 PM

176 Trần Kỳ Phu,o,ng

Fig. 10. The holy mountain of Mahāparvata or Núi Răng Mèo (centre), and the
holy river of Mahānadi or Thu Bồn river of Amarāvatī (Quảng Nam) (foreground)
(Photograph Trần Kỳ Phương, 1993).

role in the economic life of the people of Champa. As a result, almost

all the temple-towers were sited beside rivers flowing out to the sea or
associated with the ports which served as the commercial heart of each
principality or vassal state of the country.
Mountains also played an important role in the choice of temple
sites: the sacred mountain symbolised the Great Mountain God, or the
god Śiva; examples include the sacred mountain of Mahāparvata/Hòn
Đền (temple mountain)/Núi Chúa (mountain of God)/Núi Răng Mèo
(cat’s tooth mountain) at Mỹ Sơn (Fig. 10);32 the mountain of Mò O/
Maha in the principality of Vijaya (in today’s An Nhơn district, Bình
Định); the mountain of Lăng-già-bát-bạt-đa/Liṅgaparvata or Núi Đá Bia
at Cả pass (Phú Yên); the mountain of Đại An in the principality of
Kauṭhāra (Diên Khánh district, Khánh Hoà); the mountain of Chà Ban
in the principality of Pāṇḍuraṅga (Ninh Phước district, Ninh Thuận).
Isolated mountains on plains were also chosen, as these were often seen
as sacred mountains.

Chap6-TKPhuong (155-186) 176 10/10/08 6:20:53 PM

Architecture of the Temple-Towers of Ancient Champa 177

Architectural Evolution
In its evolution over time, Cham temple-tower architecture passed
through four characteristic stages:

1. The first period, in the seventh to eighth centuries, was that of Hinduist
architecture, mainly in the northern part of Champa. Epigraphical
evidence suggests that bricks were used for building at Mỹ Sơn in
around the seventh to eighth centuries. However, we also know that
the Mỹ Sơn E1 temple was built with very low brick walls, and had
four square stone pillar-bases supporting the wooden pillars set at
the four corners of the tower; this temple did not have high closed
surrounding wall, so there were no false doors; at the main door, two
round pillars made of sandstone supported a sandstone pediment;
the roof frame was made of wood, and covered with terracotta tiles
or wood. Roof construction with corbel technology may not have
been used during this period. Mỹ Sơn E1 temple is important, as
it has preserved for us the most ancient style of wooden religious
architecture, which dates from this first period and is mentioned
many times in Cham epigraphy;33
2. The second period, from the late eighth to mid ninth centuries.
During this period, modest Hinduist buildings of brick with low
roofs were built with corbel technology in many places throughout
both the northern and southern parts of Champa, up to the end of the
eighth century. We may cite, by way of example, the main temple
in the Phú Hài tower group, with its round brick pilasters similar to
the two stone door pillars of Mỹ Sơn E1. False doors first appeared
on the tower walls during this period. In particular, the buildings at
Mỹ Sơn started to take on more impressive proportions, suited to
the site’s dignity as the sacred capital of the royal authority in the
northern part of Champa: temples such as A’1, A’3, F1, F3 and C7,
as well as the important C1 temple before it was restored in later
centuries. In the south, we may mention the temples at Phú Hài,
Pô Đam/Pô Tằm and Hoà Lai: of these, the group of three towers at
Hoà Lai were impressive and elaborately carved brick constructions
of great size. During this period, most buildings were made of brick,
while sandstone was used to a modest extent in some sections,
mainly for decorative purposes. Artistic influence from Funan and
Chenla/pre-Angkor (Cambodia) appeared on some decorative features,
especially on towers in the south;34

Chap6-TKPhuong (155-186) 177 10/10/08 6:20:55 PM

178 Trần Kỳ Phu,o,ng

3. The third period, which lasted from the mid ninth century to the
end of the tenth century, during the Indrapura dynasty. Hinduist and
Buddhist buildings were built. During this period, there were relations
between Champa and Java, especially in the form of pilgrimages
to Java (Yavadvīpapura) made by high-ranking mandarins of the
Indrapura court in the northern part of Champa, around the years
911–912.35 In particular, also in the north, many impressive Buddhist
and Hinduist buildings were built in new styles. Buildings with
surrounding walls and a square ground plan were widely preferred.
More attention was paid to the use of sandstone, particularly for
supporting weight. This was a period during which many outside
factors — from Java and from the Khmer — influenced Champa
architecture’s artistic evolution. The Mỹ Sơn A1 temple, built in the
first half of the tenth century, was a masterpiece of architecture, both
in terms of decorative art and building technology, on which this
period — the high point of Champa’s artistic development — left its
4. The fourth period, from around the eleventh to the sixteenth centu-
ries, is distinguished by the conservation of older styles and a certain
stagnation of artistic creativity. During this period, the Hinduist and
Buddhist courts wanted to display their authority through the con-
struction of monumental buildings. These buildings, however, were
often architecturally monotonous. Temples tended to be built on high
hills, to enhance impression the impression they left on those who
saw them. The architectural style integrated multiple outside ele-
ments into its decorative features and construction technology, and
temples were built taller and larger than during the previous periods.
Many towers were decorated with larger pilasters — but these were
left bare of carved decorations — and larger arcatures consisting of
multiple layers of patterns. The use of sandstone was more highly
esteemed and widely used, for both decorative and structurally
supportive purposes, revealing a construction technology of great
skill and sophistication in the combination of two types of material
— brick and stone, which have very different supportive capacities
and durabilities — in the same edifice. Most of the temple-towers
were built around the commercial ports, centres of international com-
merce and cultural exchange. The influence of Khmer art appeared
on buildings raised during the late twelfth and thirteenth centu-
ries, especially those of the Dương Long and Hưng Thạnh groups
(Bình Định).

Chap6-TKPhuong (155-186) 178 10/10/08 6:20:55 PM

Architecture of the Temple-Towers of Ancient Champa 179

After the year 1471, when the capital at Vijaya fell,37 the kingdom of
Champa went into decline; its religious architecture, no longer supported
by royal families, degenerated; the people of Champa were only able to
build small simple structures, like the Pô Ramê and Yang Prong towers.
During the fifteenth to seventeenth centuries, brick temples conti-
nued to be built on hills, but they were of more modest size, less ela-
borately decorated, and stand as evidence of the degeneration of Champa’s
architecture, faithfully reflecting its decline, and especially so from the
seventeenth century.
In general, Cham temple-tower architecture, right from the start,
developed in relatively different ways in the two parts of the country.
Despite this, through the entire period of its existence and evolution,
it received influences — both direct and indirect — from neighbouring
architectural traditions in Southeast Asia — both continental and insular
— including Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam (Đại Việt), Thailand (Môn-
Dvaravati), Java and beyond, even Burma and Yunnan.38

Typology of Art Styles and Periods

The pioneer in the field of scientific research on Cham architecture was
Henri Parmentier, of the École française d’Extrême-Orient. He left us
monumental works of scholarship, published in the first decades of the
twentieth century, which form the basis for research into this religious
In 1942, inheriting the results of Parmentier’s work, the art historian
Philippe Stern published a typology of Cham temple-tower architecture,
established on the basis of its various styles and on the mutation of
the decorative art displayed on various features such as arcatures, door
pillars, pilasters, corner decorations, etc. His observation of the evolu-
tion of decorative styles at certain representative sites allowed Stern to
draw up a typological table of Cham architecture. He identified seven
styles: (1) Ancient Style, or Mỹ Sơn E1 Style (eighth century); (2) Hoà
Lai Style (early ninth century); (3) Đồng Dương Style (late ninth century);
(4) Mỹ Sơn A1 Style (tenth century); (5) Mỹ Sơn A1 to Bình Định
Transitional Style (eleventh century); (6) Bình Định Style (twelfth to
fourteenth centuries); (7) Late Style (fourteenth to sixteenth centuries).40
Most Vietnamese scholars of Cham art use this style-based typology in
their research.41
More recently, the Japanese architect Shige-eda Yutaka has estab-
lished and published a typology of Cham architecture based on the

Chap6-TKPhuong (155-186) 179 10/10/08 6:20:55 PM

180 Trần Kỳ Phu,o,ng

temple-towers’ ground plan; he also classified Cham architectural groups

in terms of their geographical location and various historical events.
Shige-eda identified six groups of extant Cham temple-towers: (1) the
Mỹ Sơn architectural group; (2) the Quảng Nam architectural group;
(3) the Bình Định architectural group; (4) the Pô Nagar Nha Trang
architectural group; (5) the Phú Hài architectural group; (6) the late
architectural group.42
These two typologies — Stern’s (based on art stylistics) and Shige-
eda’s (based on architectural ground plans) — complement each other
in certain ways, and offer a relatively accurate chronology for Cham
temple-tower architecture.43 As mentioned above, the temple-towers that
remain standing today were all restored many times over the centuries
by the court of Champa. In addition, when restoring or rebuilding their
places of worship, the people of Champa tended to reuse materials from
earlier constructions; they even reused many entire elements, features and
motifs taken from older works of architecture; many temples were also
built on the foundations of older temples. As a result of these and other
similar practices, estimation of the date of each site is by no means an
easy task. Nonetheless, we may base our conclusions on the research of
Stern, building on the processing of the art stylistics; and of Shige-eda,
building on the processing of the architectural ground plans combined
with analysis of construction technology; and its relationship with the
ups and downs of the Champa kingdom, as well as the epigraphical data
relating to the various sites; the evolution of the artistic tradition may
also be factored in. I rely mainly on the method proposed by Shige-eda,
and his classification of the vestiges of temple-towers into architectural
groups, taking into account each tower’s development at each major site
and the specifities of the local terrain. On this basis, I have made my
own attempt to estimate the date of each building (see Table 1).

The rich religious and architectural heritage of ancient Champa contri-
butes tangible evidence to our comprehension of the past of Southeast
Asian states. These Hindu and Buddhist architectural sites vividly reflect
Champa’s socio-economic structure and cultural concepts over a long
period of history. They offer superlative examples for use in comparative
studies of the relationships of art, architecture and religion in the region.
The Champa sites’ intrinsic historical and architectural values led,
in December 1999, to Mỹ Sơn Sanctuary’s listing as a World Cultural

Chap6-TKPhuong (155-186) 180 10/10/08 6:20:56 PM

Architecture of the Temple-Towers of Ancient Champa 181

Table 1. Dates of Cham Architectural Groups.

Architectural group Site Date Location

1 2 3 4
Northern Region/ Mỹ Khánh Early 8th C. Phú Diên, Phú Vang,
Principality of Thừa Thiên - Huế
Hà Trung Early 10th C. and improved later Gio An, Gio Linh,
Qủang Trị
Linh Thái 11th–13th C. Vinh Hiền, Phú Lộc,
Thừa Thiên - Huế
Liễu Cốc 11th–12th C. Hương Xuân, Hương
Trà, Thừa Thiên - Huế

Mỹ Sơn/Principality Mỹ Sơn A1 Early 10th C. (before 892/3) Duy Phú, Duy Xuyên,
of Amarāvatī Quảng Nam
Mỹ Sơn A10 Mid 9th C. (ca. 875)
Mỹ Sơn A13 Early 9th C. (before 875)
Mỹ Sơn B1 Late 11th C. (ca. 1074/81)
and 13th C. (ca. 1234/35)
Mỹ Sơn B2 Late 11th–12th C.
Mỹ Sơn B3 Mid 10th C. (before 982/3)
Mỹ Sơn B4 Mid 9th C. (ca. 875)
Mỹ Sơn B5 Early 10th C. (before 982/3)
Mỹ Sơn B7 Mid 10th C.
Mỹ Sơn C1 Late 8th C. and late 11th C.
Mỹ Sơn C2 Late 11th–12th C.
Mỹ Sơn C3 Late 11th–12th C.
Mỹ Sơn C4 Late 11th–12th C.
Mỹ Sơn C5 Mid 10th C.
Mỹ Sơn C6 Mid 9th C.
Mỹ Sơn C7 Early 8th C. and improved later
Mỹ Sơn D1 Early 10th C. (before 982/3)
Mỹ Sơn E1 Early 8th C. and improved later
Mỹ Sơn F1 Late 8th C. and improved later
Mỹ Sơn F2 Mid 10th C.
Mỹ Sơn G Mid 12th C. (ca. 1157/58)
Mỹ Sơn H Early 13th C. (ca. 1234/35)
Mỹ Sơn B14 Mid 7th C. (?) (ca. 658?)

Qủang Nam/ Đồng Dương Late 9th C. (ca. 875) Bình Định, Thăng Bình,
Amarāvatī Quảng Nam
Khương Mỹ Early 10th C. (before 892/3) Tam Xuân, Núi Thành,
and improved/restored later Quảng Nam
(ca. late 11th C. and mid 12th C.)
Chiên Đàn Late 11th – mid 12th C. Tam An, Tam Kỳ,
(ca. 1074/81 and ca. 1157/58) Quảng Nam
Bằng An Ca.12th C. Điện An, Điện Bàn,
Quảng Nam

Chap6-TKPhuong (155-186) 181 10/10/08 6:20:56 PM

182 Trần Kỳ Phu,o,ng

Table 1. Continued.

Architectural group Site Date Location

1 2 3 4
Bình Định/Vijaya Dương Long Late 12th–early 13th C. Bình Hoà, Tây Sơn,
and improved up to Bình Định
14th–15th C. (before 1471)
Hưng Thạnh/ Late 12th–early 13th C. Đống Đa, Qui Nhơn,
Tháp Đôi Bình Định
Cánh Tiên Late 13th–14th/15th C. Nhơn Hậu, An Nhơn,
Bình Định
Thốc Lốc/Phú Lốc Late 13th–14th C. Binh Nghi, Tây Sơn,
Bình Định
Thủ Thiện Late 13th–14th C. Bình Nghi, Tây Sơn,
Bình Định
Bình Lâm Early 11th C. (ca. 1000) Phước Hoà, Tuy
Phước, Bình Định
Bánh Ít/Tháp Bạc Early 11th C. (ca. 1000) Phước Hiệp, Tuy
and improved later Phước, Bình Định

Pô Nagar NhaTrang/ Pô Nagar Nha Trang Mid 10th C. Xóm Bóng, Nha Trang,
Kauṭhāra (Northwest Tower) Khánh Hoà
Pô Nagar Nha Trang Mid 11th C.
(Main Tower) (ca. 1050–12th C.)
Pô Nagar Nha Trang 12th–13th C.
(Southern Tower)
Tháp Nhạn Ca. 11th C. Tuy Hoà, Phú Yên

Phú Hài Group/ Phú Hài Mid 8th–early 9th C. Phú Hài, Phan Thiết,
Pāṇḍuraṅga Bình Thuận
Hoà Lai Late 8th–early 9th C. Tân Hải, Ninh Hải,
Ninh Thuận
Pô Đam/Pô Tằm During 8th C. Phong Phú, Tuy
Phong, Bình Thuận

Pô Klaung Pô Klaung Garai 13th–14th C. Lưu Vinh, Phan Rang-

Garai Group Tháp Chàm, Ninh

Late works Yang Prong 14th–15th C. Ea Rốc, Ea Súp, Đắc Lắc

Pô Ramê 15th–16th/17th C. and Hữu Đức, Ninh Phước,
improved/restored up Ninh Thuận
to 19th C.

Chap6-TKPhuong (155-186) 182 10/10/08 6:20:56 PM

Architecture of the Temple-Towers of Ancient Champa 183

Heritage Site. The justification for this move was explained in the UNESCO
rationale for the site’s inscription as world heritage:
Criterion (ii): The Mỹ Sơn Sanctuary is an exceptional example of cultural
interchange, with the introduction of the Hindu architecture of the Indian
sub-continent into South-East Asia;
Criterion (iii): The Champa Kingdom was an important phenomenon in
the political and cultural history of South-East Asia, vividly illustrated
by the ruins of Mỹ Sơn.44
In-depth research on Cham architecture allows fuller understanding
of Champa’s outstanding role in linking ancient Southeast Asian states
with the two great cultures of India and China.

Translation by Andrew Hardy.
Stella Kramrisch, The Hindu Temple, Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers,
1976, p. 2.
I am deeply indebted to the Toyota Foundation and to the Southeast Asian
Studies Regional Exchange Program Foundation (SEASREP Foundation) for
their generous grants, thanks to which I was able to conduct fieldwork on
all the Cham temple ruins in central Vietnam during 1993–97, and on other
historical architectural sites in Southeast Asia during 2005–7.
Inscription C.72. Karl-Heinz Golzio (ed.), Inscriptions of Campà, Aachen:
Shaker Verlag, 2004, pp. 2–4.
Đào Duy Anh, “Sự thành lập nước Lâm Ấp” [The formation of the country
of Lin Yi] in Lịch sử Việt Nam, từ nguồn gốc đến thế kỷ XIX, quyển
Thượng [History of Vietnam from the origins to the nineteenth century, first
volume], Hanoi: Nhà Xuất Bản Văn Hóa, 1957, p. 128; Charles Higham,
The Archaeology of Mainland Southeast Asia, Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 1989, p. 300.
Inscriptions C.31, C.2. Golzio, Inscriptions of Campà, pp. 52–4.
Henri Parmentier, L’Art architectural Hindou dans l’Inde et en Extrême-
Orient, Paris: Van Oest, 1948, pp. 58–75.
Trần Kỳ Phương, Vestiges of Champa Civilization, Hanoi: Thế Giới Publishers,
2004, pp. 115–6.
The yoni’s channel (snāna-droṇī ) always faces to the north, even if the
temple faces east or west. This is because, according to Indian philosophy,
each direction of the universe belongs to one of the five constituent elements
of the cosmos: earth, fire, water, wind and ether. According to this concept,

Chap6-TKPhuong (155-186) 183 10/10/08 6:20:56 PM

184 Trần Kỳ Phu,o,ng

the centre of the universe belongs to ether; the east to wind; the west to
earth; the south to fire; the north to water. Therefore the snāna-droṇī should
face north, the direction of the element water. Wibke Lobo, Palast der
Gotter (Katalog), Berlin: Staatliche Museen zu Berlin–Museum fur Indische
Kunst, 1992, pp. 178–9; Gerd Kreisel, Linden-Museum Stuttgart, Sudasien-
Abteilung (Katalog), Stuttgart: Linden-Museum Stuttgart, 1987, pp. 46–7;
Stella Kramrisch, The Presence of S’iva, New Jersey: Princeton University
Press, 1981, p. 183.
Pierre-Bernard Lafont, “Mythologie du Champa: les Dieux du Champa”,
in L’âme du Viêt Nam, Paris: Éditions Cercle d’Art, 1996, p. 49; Hồ Xuân
Tịnh, “Découverte d’une tête en or au Quảng Nam”, in Lettre de la Société
de Amis du Champa ancien, No. 4, Paris: Société des amis du Champa
ancien, 1998, p. 10; Wibke Lobo, “«Liṅga» et «Kośa» au Champa, culte et
iconographie”, in Trésors d’art du Vietnam: la sculpture du Champa, V e–XV e
siècles, ed. Pierre Baptiste and Thierry Zephir, Paris: Musée Guimet, 2005,
pp. 88–95.
Jean Boisselier, La Statuaire du Champà: recherches sur les cultes et
l’iconograpghie, Paris: EFEO (Publication de l’École française d’Extrême-
Orient 54), 1963, pp. 138–9; Pierre Baptiste and Thierry Zephir, Trésors
d’art, pp. 195–6.
Trần Kỳ Phương, Oyama Akiko & Shine Toshihiko (eds.), Nhà Trưng Bày
Mỹ Sơn, Việt Nam [Mỹ Sơn Site Museum, Vietnam], Tokyo, Product of Open
Research Center Project, Nihon University, 2005, pp. 18–9.
George Michell, The Hindu Temple, An Introduction to its Meaning and
Forms, Chicago & London: Chicago University Press, 1988, pp. 69–71.
According to the concepts of Hinduism, the square of the temple’s ground
plan symbolises the perfect measure of the universe and man. The square
composition of the ground plan of the temple represents the maṇḍala of
the cosmic man (mahāpuruṣa): the distance from the root of the hair on his
forehead to the sole of his feet is equal to the width of his arms stretched
out horizontally, from the tip of the middle finger of the right to the tip of
the finger of the left; this is the standard of his proportion. Kramrisch, The
Hindu Temple, pp. 40–3.
Michell, The Hindu Temple, pp. 66–8.
Michell, The Hindu Temple, pp. 69–71.
Prasanna K. Acharya, Hindu architecture in India and Abroad, New Delhi:
Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers, 1996, pp. 258–9.
Trần Kỳ Phương, Vestiges of Champa Civilization, p. 17.
Trần Kỳ Phương and Shige-eda Yutaka, Khu di tích Mỹ Sơn, p. 4.
Trần Kỳ Phương, Vestiges of Champa Civilization, pp. 42–5.
Shige-eda Yutaka, “Champa kenchiku-shi jo-setsu” [A brief introduction
to Champa architectural history] in Champa: rekishi, matsuson, kenchiku

Chap6-TKPhuong (155-186) 184 10/10/08 6:20:56 PM

Architecture of the Temple-Towers of Ancient Champa 185

[Champa: history, descendant, architecture], ed. Momoki Shiro, Higuchi Hideo

and Shige-eda Yutaka, Tokyo: Hatsukoo Mekong, 1999, pp. 180–92; Trần
Kỳ Phương and Shige-eda Yutaka, “Phế tích Champa: khảo luận về kiến trúc
đền-tháp” [Vestiges of Champa: discussion of temple-tower architecture], in
Tạp chí Nghiên cứu và Phát triển [Science and development review] 2 (36),
Huế, Sở Khoa học, Công nghệ và Môi trường Thừa Thiên - Huế, 2002,
pp. 41–52.
Trần Kỳ Phương and Shige-eda Yukata, Champà Iseki [Di Tích Champà]
[Sites of Champa], Tokyo: Rengoo Shutsupan, 1997, pp. 60–3; Shige-eda
Yutaka, “Champa kenchiku-shi jo-setsu”, pp. 218–30; Trần Kỳ Phương,
Oyama Akiko & Shine Toshihiko, Nhà Trưng Bày Mỹ Sơn, p. 21.
Giulio Ballio, Giulia Baronio and Luigia Binda, “First results on the characteri-
sation of bricks and mortars from Mỹ Sơn monuments”, in Kỷ yếu hội thảo:
Bảo tồn quá khứ — một triển vọng về tính xác thực trong trùng tu, gia cố
các công trình kiến trúc lịch sử khu vực Châu Á, Hội An 25/2–3/3/2001
[Conference Proceedings: Preservation of the Past — Prospects for the
Authentic Rehabilitation of Historical Architecture in the Asian Region,
Hội An 25/2–3/3/2001], Quảng Nam, Trung Tâm Bảo Tồn Di Sản - Di Tích
Quảng Nam, 2001, pp. 204–13.
Philippe Stern, L’art du Champà (ancien Annam) et son évolution, Paris:
Publication du Musee Guimet, 1942, pp. 3, 99–100.
Jacques Dumarçay, Architecture and its models in South-East Asia, Bangkok:
Orchid Press, 2003, pp. 46–63.
Gunawan Tjahjono (ed.), Indonesian Heritage-Architecture, Jakarta: Archipelago
Press, 1998, pp. 62–9.
William Southworth, “The coastal states of Champa”, in Southeast Asia from
prehistory to history, ed. Ian Glover and Peter Bellwood, London & New
York: RoutledgeCurzon, 2004, pp. 209–33.
Trần Kỳ Phương, “Gharu-wood/Cinnamon and Salt: Interaction between
upland (Austro-Asiatic speakers) and lowland (Austronesian speakers) by
riverine exchange networks from the Sa Huynh Culture to Champa and
Hoi An (Quảng Nam Province, Central Vietnam)”, paper given at the 18th
International Congress of the Indo-Pacific Prehistory Association, held at
the University of the Philippines, Manila on 20–26 March 2006.
Dumarçay, Architecture and its models, p. 10.
Kramrisch, The Hindu Temple, p. 2.
Inscription C. 147. Golzio, Inscriptions of Campà, p. 5.
Inscription C. 72. Golzio, Inscriptions of Campà, pp. 2–4.
Trần Kỳ Phương, “Recherche sur le temple de My Son E1: Nouvelles données
sur le réemploi d’éléments de décor architectural dans un temple hindou du
Champa”, in Pierre Baptiste and Thierry Zephir, Trésors d’art du Vietnam,
pp. 132–9.

Chap6-TKPhuong (155-186) 185 10/10/08 6:20:56 PM

186 Trần Kỳ Phu,o,ng

Trần Kỳ Phương, Vestiges of Champa Civilization, pp. 115–22.
George Cœdès, The Indianized States of Southeast Asia, Honolulu, East-West
Center (tr. Sue Brown Cowing, ed., Walter F. Villa), 1968, p. 123.
Trần Kỳ Phương and Shige-eda Yutaka, Khu di tích Mỹ Sơn, pp. 10–3.
Georges Maspero, Le Royaume de Champa, Paris: École française d’Extrême-
Orient, 1988, pp. 235–41; Po Dharma, “Survol de l’histoire du Campa”, in
Le Musée de Sculpture Cam de Da Nang, Association française des amis de
l’Orient (AFAO)/École française d’Extrême-Orient (EFEO), Paris: Éditions
de l’AFAO, 1997, pp. 45–7.
Shige-eda Yutaka, “Betonamu no Kenchiku” [Vietnamese Architecture],
in New History of World Art, Vol. 12, Toonan Asia, ed. Takashi Koezuka,
Tokyo: Shogakukan, 2001, pp. 100–7.
Henri Parmentier, Inventaire descriptif des monuments Cams de l’Annam,
Paris: Leroux, 1909, 1918.
Philippe Stern, L’art du Champà.
Trần Kỳ Phương, Mỹ Sơn trong lịch sử nghệ thuật Chăm [Mỹ Sơn in the
history of Cham art], Đà Nẵng, Nxb Đà Nẵng, 1988; Ngô Văn Doanh, Tháp
cổ Chămpa, sự thật và huyền thoại [Ancient towers of Champa, truth and
legend], Hanoi: Nxb Văn hóa–Thông tin, 1994 ; Nguyễn Hồng Kiên, “Đền
tháp Champà” [Champa Temple Towers] Kiến Trúc [Architecture] 4 (84),
Hội Kiến Trúc Sư Việt Nam, 2000, pp. 49–52.
Shige-eda Yutaka and Momoki Shiro (eds.), Artifacts and culture of the
Champà Kingdom (Catalogue), Tokyo: The Toyota Foundation, 1994, pp.
99–100; Shige-eda Yutaka, “Champa kenchiku-shi jo-setsu”, pp. 167–9.
Trần Kỳ Phương, Oyama Akiko & Shine Toshihiko (eds.), Nhà Trưng Bày
Mỹ Sơn, pp. 7–8.

Chap6-TKPhuong (155-186) 186 10/10/08 6:20:57 PM

Related Interests