Remnants of 4 Cham temple towers in Da Nang

By DA NANG Today / DA NANG Today
June 15, 2022, 17:32 [GMT+7]

“Da Nang has been the land of the Champa people for a long time and they have never intended to leave elsewhere”, said in “There were 500 years like that, Da Nang Publishing House” book by Ho Trung Tu reprint 2019). This is most clearly shown by the dense system of Cham relics existing in this locality. Thus far, some researchers have identified 7 main sites, in which 4 areas have vestiges of Cham temple towers.

Ancient temple towers of Champa

According to researcher Le Dinh Phung, there are currently 60 Cham temple towers citywide. Quang Nam has the most with 29 towers (accounting for 48.4%), including one in Bang An (Dien Ban), 20 ones in the My Son (Duy Xuyen), 3 ones in Chien Dan (Phu Ninh) and 3 ones in Khuong My (Nui Thanh).

Cham people call their brick spiers Kalan, meaning the temple "and most of the Kalans that the Cham people still worship and sacrifice are the tombs of the kings" (Ancient Culture of Champa, authored by Ngo Van Doanh).

However, actually, the ancient spiers are also places to worship the gods of Hinduism as they consider them mansions of gods. Therefore, using them as temples and tombs is the primary and popular function of the Cham towers.

Hindus believe that their gods reside at the centre of the world on Mount Meru. Therefore, the temples being the houses of the gods must be represented as miniature Mount Meru and must follow strict regulations.

In general, temple towers are usually built on a mound or hill in a radial layout with the axes rotating in four directions. The façade facing the East is the direction of the rising sun, symbolizing the origin of life.

A complete temple tower complex usually consists of 3 towers located on the North - South axis with the tower doors facing the East. Each tower usually has 3 floors gradually narrowing from bottom to top. Some Khmer-influenced towers have a curved upper structure such as Bang An tower in Dien An, Dien Ban Town.

The tower system is usually surrounded by walls. Many towers have a sub-system of a long row of houses, which is a place to prepare items before bringing them to the gods or a place used for the preparation of priests, musicians, and sacred dancers. Cham temple towers are not a place for believers to gather to pray because only the Brahmins can go inside. That is why the space in these towers is fairly cramped.

Cham towers were built with Cham bricks made of illit clay. This kind of clay has high fineness so it is both an excellent sustainable material for construction and an ideal material for sculpture. Cham workers built brick towers and Cham artisans sculpted masterpieces on these special brick walls.

Four Cham temple towers in Da Nang

Of the seven places of Cham relics in Da Nang, there are 4 places with traces of ancient temple towers, including:

- Xuan Duong temple tower in Hoa Hiep Nam Ward, Lien Chieu District.

This temple tower is also known as Tra Vuong ancient tower. In particular, this tower was written in the reports of Henri Parmentier's Journal Bulletin de l'École française d'Extrême-Orient (Journal of the Institute of the Ancient Far East, abbreviated BEFEO) as “located in the middle of a mound in the territory of Hoa O…We could recognize traces of walls and the square foundation of a tower. A stone block of the tower gate can still be found on the spot”

-Phong Le temple tower in Phong Le Village, Hoa Tho Dong Ward, Cam Le District.

In 2011, a resident digging the foundation to build a house discovered the foundation of a tower. An excavation in 2012 and subsequent excavations continued to expand uncovered the foundation of a rather large temple complex. However, it has been not possible to excavate on a large scale to fully grasp the uniqueness of this ancient tower since the area has loads of constructions.

- Qua Giang temple tower in Hoa Phuoc Commune, Hoa Vang District. In 1903, Parmentier came to survey this place and said that there was still a tower standing here, although it was badly damaged. Parmentier also said that this is a cluster of towers with 3 towers located on a large land surrounded by walls. Unfortunately, the construction of National Highway 1A has caused this remaining tower to disappear, so this temple tower complex has not been excavated until now.

- Cam Mit temple tower in Cam Toai Tay Village, Hoa Phong Commune, Hoa Vang District.

In 2012, the Da Nang Museum of Cham Sculpture in collaboration with the Viet Nam National Museum of History conducted a rather large-scale excavation lasting for 3 months. The excavation discovered the vestiges of a Cham temple tower complex with three adjoining towers protected by walls with a circumference of up to 160m, length of 44m, and width of 36m.

Currently, Da Nang would still have four Champa temple towers that enrich the landscape, history and culture of the city if it hadn't been for the ravages of time, nature and people.

Reporting by LE THI - Translating by T.VY