No less than 1,700 years ago, the region we know today as central Viet Nam was the center of power for the Kingdom of Champa. This civilization, adorned by tall buildings with ancient Hindu reliefs, is a testament to a long-lost kingdom. Fortunately, a restoration project has been underway for several years.
The kingdom was founded in the late 2nd century by Clan Two, who had successfully united the various Cham clans. At the time, it controlled most of what is now Viet Nam. Mỹ Sơn Sanctuary, or the main capital of the kingdom, encompassed both the political and religious aspects of Champa from the 4th to the 13th century.
The official religion of the kingdom was Hinduism, although it is inevitable that the Champa kingdom was heavily influenced by Buddhism. If you visit the Mỹ Sơn site, you will easily see a lot of mythology carved into the buildings and towers there, dedicated to Indian deities such as Vishnu, Krishna, and Shiva.
Today, Viet Nam has become one of the most popular countries for foreign tourists, including Hội An, a highly Instagrammable coastal city. However, the Vietnamese government hopes that some of them will venture further inland, about 25 km (16 miles) to Mỹ Sơn, which has recently been restored.
The restoration was a six-year joint project between Vietnamese authorities and the Archaeological Survey of India, an organization experienced in preserving and restoring historic buildings.
As part of the effort, the courtyard around Mỹ Sơn was cleared of weeds and debris while the collapsed tower was repaired. Cracks in the tower's facade were filled with mortar, broken bricks were replaced, and missing details were added. Even the weeds and stains that had covered the complex's carvings were removed.
Interestingly, during the cleaning process, hundreds of ancient Champa artifacts were discovered, including altars and statues, some of which are currently on display at the Museum of Cham Sculpture, Đà Nẵng, about 40 km away. The museum is housed in a pale yellow French colonial building on the west bank of the Hàn River.
According to Tram Bui, spokesman for Visit Quang Nam, the local government's tourism agency, the restoration has given tourists access to three new tower groups, including the largest A Temple Group, and unearthed hundreds of artifacts.
Bui added that the discoveries give visitors a unique insight into the religious and cultural practices of the Champa kingdom, as well as its architectural beauty.
According to Le Cong Hoang, owner of Viet Nam Explore, which offers six-hour tours of Mỹ Sơn with English-speaking guides, the restoration has led to a significant increase in the number of visitors to the site.
The Mỹ Sơn tour itself has also been complemented by performances of Cham-style Apsara dance or boat rides on the Thu Bồn River, which flows from the Mỹ Sơn district to Hội An.
In July, a tour guide app was also launched at Mỹ Sơn, where visitors can access audio guides in English, French, Korean and Vietnamese. The guide explains the restoration process, architectural details and history of the complex. In addition, My Son Metaverse, a website featuring 360-degree images and videos of Mỹ Sơn's main monuments, was recently launched.