The never-ending adventures of a travel writer in Vietnam, Cambodia, New Zealand and throughout the Asia-Pacific region.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Quang Ngai's Cham Connection

The Province of Quang Ngai, home of Vietnam's "Great Wall," was once part of the Champa Kingdom. Apart from the hidden Chau Sa citadel walls, and some hard-to-find ancient temple ruins, the Cham connection isn't immediately obvious. On my most recent visit to Quang Ngai this month, I stumbled upon some interesting links though.

Above a Vietnamese shaman, or spirit medium, summons the spirit of 'the godess' (likely 'Tien Y A Na,' a deity borrowed from the Cham and known to them as Po Nagar) and dances around the room. Just a couple of weeks earlier, Cham holy men do exactly the same thing for the Cham New Year festival known as Rijanugan. I don't think this is a coincidence. Vietnamese have borrowed the religious activity from the Cham. See the Cham version of the dance here.

Thien An Pagoda, on a small mountain between the city of Quang Ngai and Chau Sa citadel, overlooks the Tra Khuc River. As such it meets the ideal conditions for an ancient Cham temple complex. Indeed, though the Vietnamese apparently destroyed the temple when the took over the area about 500 years ago, scholars have determined there was indeed a very large temple complex on this site. Interestingly, Vietnamese president Huynh Thuc Khang is buried on top of this ancient holy site.

This Vietnamese temple is kept by a local family, and honors the first Vietnamese governor of Quang Ngai, who ruled the area about 500 years ago.

His idol is pictured here. To his left (not pictured) is the idol of a man said to be his friend and assistant. Also honored and worshipped. The dark-skinned man in red turban and robes very clearly appears to be a Cham dignitary of some sort.

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