My Son Sanctuary is set in a small valley belonging to Duy Phu Commune, Duy Xuyen District, Quang Nam Province. This place contains 225 Cham vestiges founded in Vietnam, My Son possesses 71 monuments and 32 epitaphs, the content of which is still being studied.
Vietnam’s most evocative Cham site, My Son, lies 40km southwest of Hoi An, in a bowl of lushly wooded hills towered over by the aptly named Cat’s Tooth Mountain. My Son may be no Vietnamese Angkor Wat, but it is now on UNESCO’s World Heritage list and richly deserves its place on the tourist map. The riot of vegetation that until recently enveloped the site has now largely been cleared away, but the tangible sense of faded majesty still hangs over the mouldering ruins, enhanced by the assorted lingam and Sanskrit stelae strewn around and by the isolated rural setting, whose peace is broken only by the wood-gatherers who trace the paths around the surrounding coffee and eucalyptus glades.
The groups of buildings labelled B, C and D most warrant your attention: viewing these, it’s possible, with a little stirring of the imagination, to visualize how a functioning temple complex would have appeared in My Son’s heyday.
Excavations at My Son have revealed that Cham kings were buried here as early as the fourth century, indicating that the site was established by the rulers of the early Champa capital of Simhapura, sited some 30km back towards the highway, at present-day Tra Kieu. The stone towers and sanctuaries whose remnants you see today were erected between the seventh and thirteenth centuries, with successive dynasties adding more temples to this holy place, until in its prime it comprised some seventy buildings. The area was considered the domain of gods and god-kings, and living on site would have been an attendant population of priests, dancers and servants.
French archeologists discovered the ruins in the late nineteenth century, when the Chams’ fine masonry skills were still evident – instead of mortar, they used a resin mixed with ground brick and mollusc shells, which left only hairline cracks between brick courses. After the Viet Cong based themselves here in the 1960s, many unique buildings were pounded to oblivion by American B52s, most notably the once magnificent A1 tower. Craters around the site and masonry pocked with shell and bullet holes testify to this tragic period in My Son’s history.