Hoi An Cham Temples: My Son Sanctuary & Quang Nam Temples

Cham people settled in Hoi An before the Vietnamese arrived and handed it over in 14th century. Influenced by Indian culture, they called the land “Amaravati”, similar name to a city in Southern India. It’s one of five official principalities of their own kingdom – the Champa. In addition, Sanskrit script and Hinduism were also introduced, but later the receivers adapted well. There are 2 capital cities based in Hoi An’s outskirts, for that reason, lots of temples were built. The largest concentration is in a valley to the west of Simhapura (first capital), up to 70 towers. Its whole existence was a Shiva-dedicated sanctuary. To the south, the largest Buddhist monastery of Southeast Asia was an extreme pride of the country, just for a while before burned. In this article, we list all Hoi An Cham temples and introduce them in detail.

We recommend reading our guide to My Son Sanctuary, the best remains of Champa kingdom today. It houses architectural and art masterpieces of the Chams, and now becomes a world heritage of whole humanity.

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Table of content

History of Hoi An Cham Temples

From ancient times, there have been two groups of Cham people living in Vietnam: the Cau (Areca, Southern clan) and the Dua (Coconut, Northern clan). According to the legends, the name of the first community was used for the first time when their own king saw an areca palm growing in his palace’s garden. It didn’t bloom although the season already came. Because of curiosity, the king requested to cut the bunch to check after. Instead of a nut, he saw a cute baby and adopted him as a prince. This new royal family member only drinks cow milk and for that reason, people in the country didn’t eat cow or drink its milk. When succeeded his father later, the prince used the bunch to make personal items that symbolized the monarchy.

The Northern clan was the owner of Hoi An. It also had a legend to explain how its name birthed, but the details were same to the Areca tribe’s one, just replacing the areca by the coconut. In 2nd century, two tribes were unified and the first state of Cham people (called Champa kingdom) was formed. The seat of power was in Simhapura (now Tra Kieu), 25km west of Hoi An old town. This political center kept its role until 1306 when the land was given to the Vietnamese kingdom as a wedding present.

During that time, My Son Sanctuary was also established and dedicated forever to veneration of Shiva, Hinduism god of destruction and recreation. First temples were built in 4th century there. For a while (875 to 982), Indrapura (City of the God of Thunder) took the capital’s role from Simhapura, because of usurping the throne. In it, the largest Buddhist monastery of the time was constructed, named Dong Duong.


Diversity of Hoi An Cham Temples

Owning 2 capitals and a prosperity, Hoi An area (Amaravati principality) has the largest number of Cham temples in the country. There are over 100 standing buildings and ruins, more than a half within the My Son Sanctuary. All houses a diversity, first in the religion and the god worshiped. Not only Hinduism, Buddhist edifices are seen also. Not only Shiva (country’s god, the God of destroying and recreation), Brahma (God of creation) and Vishnu (God of saving) are other deities. In My Son, Ganesha, the Guardians of the 8 deities and more are honoured. Thanks to being constructed in different times, architecture and art in Hoi An’s Cham temples are varied, some represent a stage, such as My Son A1, Khuong My, Dong Duong, Tra Kieu. Some towers stand separately but lots of others are in a group, arranged from east to west or from north to south.

My Son Sanctuary – Unesco World Heritage

Location: Duy Son, Duy Xuyen – Opening hours: 7 a.m to 5 p.m – Ticket: 150,000 VND

35km from Hoi An centre, My Son Sanctuary was holy land of Champa kingdom from 4th to 13rd century. It is a complex of 70 standing and ruined towers located within a valley that surrounded by forested mountains. Dedicated to veneration of Shiva god, this amazing place became a Unesco world heritage site in 1999. The United Nation’s organization described “the monuments (of My Son) are unique and without equal in Southeast Asia” and “remarkable architectural ensemble”.

Is My Son worth a trip? In short, yes. A trip to it may be an actually stunning experience to get insight into the best remains of a fallen kingdom. Researched for a century, but some things there are still secrets. Location in an unspoiled environment, nice art performance of Cham artists and rich history are other plus points. Moreover, it’s not difficult to see a tour across Hoi An. We recommend reading our comprehensive guide to My Son Sanctuary, for further details.

Bang An Tower

Location: Dien An, Dien Ban – Opening hours: 7 a.m to 5 p.m – Ticket: free

12km west of Hoi An, this is a single temple built in 9th or 11st century, according to different archaeologists. Rising up to 20 meters, it’s the most special Cham tower in history. First of all, its octagonal architecture is unique, can’t see it anywhere. People say it looks like a bamboo root or Lingam, symbol of Shiva god. No decorations or sculptures on the walls and three-door hall in the front are also strange things. In 1982, Bang An tower was designated as a national heritage.

Guarding the entrance, there is a couple of Gajasimha, a mythical hybrid animal with an elephant head and lion body. Walking inside, the visitors can see an altar placed by Vietnamese populations after the Chams left. On the outside, an old memorial stele is still preserved. Its visible paragraph reveals that a king requested to build the temple, to venerate the Shiva. French historians also said that they saw remains of 2 other side buildings, in the same ground when they visited.

To get to Bang An tower from Hoi An, visitors need to ride along the route Hung Vuong – DT 608 – Tran Nhan Tong- (cross the bridge) – Tran Quy Cap. It’s to the left and free to sightsee. On the way, the Vinh Dien citadel is a highlight. This place was a political center of the province from 1832 to 1945.  


Chien Dan Cham Tower

Location: Tam An, Phu Ninh – Opening hours: 7 a.m to 5 p.m – Ticket: free

45 km south of Hoi An, Chien Dan Cham Tower stands in the village of the same name. It’s a cluster of three temples built from the end of 10th century to the beginning of 11st century. Each is for worship of a Hindu god and is different to others. There are Brahma (God of creation), Vishnu (God of saving) and Shiva (God of destroying and recreation), in short, called the Trimurti. The tallest temple is the middle one, best preserved and the smallest one is to its left-hand side (the South temple). Because of no renovation for a long time and wars, the North and South lost their roof. Archaeologists found brass nails which might be used to attach precious metal decorations. When walking around, visitors can see intricate sandstone sculptures on the brick walls. In the front of the whole group, there are remains of a Gorupa (the gate) and nearby, the tomb of Tran Van Du (one of Nghia Hoi Quang Nam movement’s leaders in 19th century) is built.


Khuong My Tower

Location: Tam Xuan, Nui Thanh – Opening hours: 7 a.m to 5 p.m – Ticket: free

50 km away from Hoi An’s Japanese bridge, Khuong My tower is a group of 3 temples, arranged on a North-south axis. In 1989, it’s inscribed as a national heritage by the Ministry of Culture. Built in the end of 9th or beginning of 10th century, this cluster is for veneration of Vishnu, the Hindu God of saving. It’s unique in Champa kingdom’s history that Cham people often just worship Shiva god.

Featuring rich decorations from the base to top, the trio of temples own one of the most sophisticated architectures. Champa’s own style takes its name, Khuong My style. Indian mythologies, animals, plants, dancers, processions, and more can be seen while walking around. Here, the motifs of daisies look like the door eyes in Hoi An old town’s houses. Historians say that the Vietnamese tradition is followed by the Chams. Debates can’t come to a final answer yet.

In the same ground of Khuong My tower, it’s possible to see a small temple where Vietnamese worship the gods. One Buddhist temple standed there previously, but later moved to a close location, outside of the fences. Close by, a memorial is also built, to remind about the August Revolution occurring in the area. In 1945, locals and communists together demonstrated and seized the control of French colonists. The province Quang Nam was one of 3 first places in the country to make it successfully. Khuong My village is the hometown of Vo Chi Cong, the chairman of the Council of State of Vietnam from 1987 to 1992.  


Dong Duong Temple

Location: Binh Dinh Bac, Thang Binh – Opening hours: 7 a.m to 5 p.m – Ticket: free

According to a memorial stele found in the place, Dong Duong temple was built in 875 to worship the Bodhisattva. The Champa kingdom’s reigning king believed in her and also gave lots of lands and precious offsprings to express his belief. He said that after the death, he wanted to change his name to the one related to the female Buddha. At the same time with construction of the temples, a new citadel was also formed, called Indrapura (City of the God of Thunder). Sadly, nearly every building in this short-lived capital was burned in the battle between Vietnamese and Champa kingdoms, in the 10th century. The event was written in the book of winners as a great victory. Some historians said that the area couldn’t accommodate a capital because its infertile soil and dry weather did not support agriculture.

In 1901 and 1902, French archaeologists carried out excavations in Dong Duong temple. There are 230 elaborate artifacts discovered and many of which were brought to the Da Nang Museum of Cham sculpture. As a whole, the temple consisted of many buildings arranged along a 1,300 km-long east-west axis. Within enclosed walls, there are shrines, monasteries, monk houses, ponds and more. All make it become the largest Buddhist site of South-east Asia at that time. The pedestal of the Central shine and statues are now preserved in Da Nang. There, visitors also can see the bronze statue of Bodhisattva, the chief god. Although being grand formerly, now there is only the gate of a temple standing on the ground. This survival may have fallen down if without any support.

After the capital moved, the Chams still stayed back and lived in peace with the Vietnamese. Family name of their descendants now is Tra.


Tour Guide to Hoi An Cham Temples

More than anywhere else, it’s necessary to travel with a local tour guide to and around My Son Sanctuary. He or she is friendly, fluent in the language visitors prefering to talk, and knowledgeable about the Chams and Champa kingdom. Information in the site is not enough, too academic. Instead of that, the guide shares fun stories, history and lively explanations, giving things that are easier to understand. Absolutely, the visitors know better about different slices of Cham’s former civilization. There are religions, mythology, architecture, art, building techniques and unlocked secrets. In addition, the recommended visit plan from the guide is also very helpful, to include all highlights but time-saving and convenient. Childrens are more excited to learn about a new culture, with a local friend rather than books and words.

-Price: 30 to 50 USD, more if booking for a big group or requiring excellent English skills and knowledge.

-Where to find and book: tour operators online and offline, travel webpages, hotels, and more. Text us if you want to save time, we may help. Our whatsapp number is +84968009827 and email is centralvietnamguide@gmail.com.

Hoi An Cham Temples Tour

In Hoi An, tours to My Son sanctuary are many to choose from, both half-day and day trips. When prefering to follow your own itinerary, a private tour is available, but when would like to meet new friends and save a bit, group tours are not hard to find. Read our own complete traveler guide to find out your best experience, via centralvietnamguide.com/my-son-sanctuary-tours. If you would like to see other Hoi An’s Cham temples, we may give advice and info to help you customize the upcoming exploration. Our whatsapp number is +84968009827 and email is centralvietnamguide@gmail.com.  


Hue’s Cham Temples

Phu Dien Temple

Located by QL49B, Phu Dien (or My Khanh) temple is a small Cham tower built in the beginning of 8th century. Covered by sands until 2001, it’s discovered by mistake when the local miners extracted titanium ores. This special feature makes it becomes the only temple below the sea levels. Nowadays, a glass house is established to protect it from the invasive sand. Visitors can visit every hour throughout the daytime. In the same year of rediscovery, Phu Dien tower was added to the national heritage site list.

Frequently-Asked Questions

Dress Code in Hoi An’s Cham Temples

Except for My Son Sanctuary (Unesco world cultural heritage), visitors are not required to follow a dress code. Before heading over to the holy land, remember to wear clothings that covers the armpits, navel and knees. See-through items are not recommended, because they don’t express a respect to the gods in local belief. If getting on short pants (as it’s hot), visitors can bring a sarong to cover. 

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