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What is my Son?

By Brendan McGuigan
Updated May 17, 2024
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My Son is a series of Hindu temples in Vietnam. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and has been since 1999. The temples were erected by the Champa, and are some of the best examples of Champa religious architecture in Asia.

My Son served as the religious center of the Champa Kingdom, and was a powerful imperial city between roughly the 4th and 13th centuries. The Cham came to power in roughly the late-2nd century, and not long afterwards became one of the primary vehicles for the spread of Hindu throughout South-East Asia.

My Son is constructed primarily with heavy bricks, but no mortar to cement them into place. The temples are adorned with various statuary, depicting animals, priests, gods, and many scenes of religious life and war. The main temple at My Son is built to worship the Linga-Yoni, embodying the creative element.

Many of the smaller towers and temples are built to worship various genies in the pantheon. A small wooden temple is thought to have been the foundation of My Son, as recorded on a stone stele found at the site, and was built to worship the Siva Bhadresvera genie.

Because building at My Son spanned more than eight centuries, it embodies many different building and aesthetic styles. Parts of My Son draw on the more ancient style, while others are in the Hoa Lai style from the 8th and 9th centuries, and still others draw from the slightly later Dong Duong or Binh Dinh styles.

Many of the artifacts originally at My Son were moved upon its rediscovery in the late-19th century. These include statuary of genies and dancers, and are on display at the Cham Architecture Museum, located in Danang City.

Many of the Cham kings were buried at My Son during its long reign as Holy City of the Champa Kingdom. These tombs date back to the 7th century, and seem to have been in active use until sometime in the 14th century, when construction and development of My Son ceased.

When the Champa Kingdom began to decline in the 17th century, My Son was entirely abandoned. The jungle quickly began to reclaim the temples and land, and it was forgotten to the world, falling into disrepair. Since its rediscovery, it has been extensively excavated and restored, and is now a prime example of Cham construction.

Many people draw parallels between My Son and other important sites of the era, such as Angkor. Although the comparison is somewhat valid, inasmuch as both were the centers of their respective states and their religious activities, My Son is much less extensive and elaborate than Angkor, although still very impressive in its own right.

Tours run regularly from Hoi An to My Son, and are very cheap. Because of the small size of the site, however, many people prefer to explore the ruins on their own. For this, a motorbike or driver can be rented from Hoi An. Also, although the site has in theory been cleared of unexploded landmines, it is still always advisable to stay on marked and cleared trails, as the area was fairly heavily mined during the wars.

WiseGEEK is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

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