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Kingdom of Champa

Chăm Pa
Chiêm Thành
Capital Indrapura



Languages Cham, Sanskrit
Religion Cham religion, Hinduism and Buddhism, later Islam
Government Monarchy
 -  Established 192
 -  Panduranga was annexed by Nguyễn Vietnam. 1832

The kingdom of Champa was a Cham kingdom located in what is today central and southern Vietnam from approximately the 7th century through to 1832, before being conquered and annexed by Vietnam. The kingdom was known variously as nagara Campa (Sanskrit :नगर चम्पा, Khmer: ចាម្ប៉ា) in Cham and Cambodian inscriptions, Chăm Pa in Vietnamese, 占城 Chiêm Thành in Hán Việt and Zhàn chéng in Chinese records.

The Cham people of modern Vietnam and Cambodia are the remnants of this former kingdom. They speak Cham, a Malayo-Polynesian language.

Champa was preceded in the region by a kingdom called Lin-yi (林邑, Middle Chinese *Lim Ip) or Lâm Ấp (Vietnamese) that was in existence from 192 AD; the historical relationship between Lin-yi and Champa is not clear. Champa reached its apogee in the 9th and 10th centuries. Thereafter, it began a gradual decline under pressure from Đại Việt, the Vietnamese polity centered in the region of modern Hanoi. In 1832, the Vietnamese emperor Minh Mạng annexed the remaining Cham territories.

Mỹ Sơn, a former religious center, and Hội An, one of Champa's main port cities, are now heritage listed.


Geography of historical Champa

Between the 7th and the 15th centuries, Champa at times included the modern provinces of Quảng Nam, Quảng Ngãi, Bình Định, Phú Yên, Khánh Hòa, Ninh Thuận, and Bình Thuận. Though Cham territory included the mountainous zones west of the coastal plain and (at times) extended into present-day Laos, for the most part the Cham remained a seafaring people dedicated to trade, and maintained few settlements of any size away from the coast.

Historical Champa consisted of up to five principalities:

  • Indrapura ("City of Indra") was the capital of Champa from about 875 to about 1000 AD. It was located at the site of the modern village of Dong Duong, near the modern city of Da Nang. Also in the region of Da Nang are the ancient Cham city of Singhapura ("City of the Lion"), the location of which has been identified with an archeological site in the modern village of Trà Kiệu, and the valley of Mỹ Sơn,[1] where a number of ruined temples and towers can still be viewed. The associated port was at modern Hội An. The territory once controlled by this principality included present-day Quảng Bình, Quảng Trị, and Thừa Thiên–Huế provinces.
  • Amaravati was located in present-day Quảng Nam Province.

  • Vijaya was located in present-day Bình Định Province. The capital has been identified with the archeological site at Cha Ban. The associated port was at present-day Qui Nhơn. Important excavations have also been conducted at nearby Thap Mam, which may have been a religious and cultural center. Vijaya became the political and cultural center of Champa around 1000 AD, when the northern capital of Indrapura was abandoned due to pressure from the Viet. It remained the center of Champa until 1471, when it as sacked by the Viet and the center of Champa was again displaced toward the South. In its time, the principality of Vijaya controlled much of present-day Quang-Nam, Quang-Ngai, Bình Định, and Phú Yên Provinces.
  • Kauthara was located in the area of modern Nha Trang in Khánh Hòa Province. Its religious and cultural center was the temple of Po Nagar, several towers of which still stand at Nha Trang.
  • Panduranga was located in the area of present-day Phan Rang in Ninh Thuận Province. Panduranga was the last of the Cham territories to be annexed by the Vietnamese.

Within the four principalities there were two main clans: the "Dua" and the "Cau". The Dua lived in Amravati and Vijaya, while the Cau lived in Kauthara and Panduranga. The two clans differed in their customs and habits and conflicting interests led to many clashes and even war. But they usually managed to settle disagreements through intermarriage.[2]



The historiography of Champa relies upon three types of sources:[3]

  • Physical remains, including brick structures and ruins as well as stone sculptures;
  • Inscriptions in Cham and Sanskrit on steles and other stone surfaces;
  • Chinese and Vietnamese histories, diplomatic reports, and other texts.

Overarching theories

Modern scholarship has been guided by two competing theories in the historiography of Champa. Scholars agree that historically Champa was divided into several regions or principalities spread out from South to North along the coast of modern Vietnam and united by a common language, culture and heritage. It is acknowledged that the historical record is not equally rich for each of the regions in every historical period. For example, in the 10th century, the record is richest for Indrapura; in the 12th century, it is richest for Vijaya; following the 15th century, it is richest for Panduranga. Some scholars have taken these shifts in the historical record to reflect the movement of the Cham capital from one location to another. According to such scholars, if the 10th century record is richest for Indrapura, it is so because at that time Indrapura was the capital of Champa. Other scholars have disputed this contention, holding that Champa was never a united country, and arguing that the presence of a particularly rich historical record for a given region in a given period is no basis for claiming that the region functioned as the capital of a united Champa during that period.[4]

Sources of foreign cultural influence

Through the centuries, Cham culture and society were influenced by forces emanating from Cambodia, China, Java and India amongst others. Lin Yi, the predecessor state of historical Champa, began its existence in 192 AD as a breakaway Chinese colony. An official successfully revolted against Chinese rule in central Vietnam, and Lin Yi was founded in 192.[5] In the 4th century, wars with the neighboring Kingdom of Funan in Cambodia and the acquisition of Funanese territory led to the infusion of Indian culture into Cham society. Sanskrit was adopted as a scholarly language, and Hinduism, especially Shaivism, became the state religion. From the 10th century onwards, Arab maritime trade in the region brought increasing Islamic cultural and religious influences. Champa came to serve as an important link in the Spice Route, which stretched from the Persian Gulf to southern China, and later in the Arab maritime routes in Indo-China as a supplier of aloe. Despite the frequent wars between Champa and Cambodia, the two countries also traded and cultural influences moved in both directions. Royal families of the two countries intermarried frequently. Champa also had close trade and cultural relations with the powerful maritime empire of Srivijaya and later with the Majapahit of the Malay Archipelago.

The Minangkabau people in Sumatra Indonesia believe that one of their ancestors came from Champa; he was called Harimau Campo (Tiger of Champa). Harimau Campo, together with Datuak Suri Dirajo (one of Minangkabau founding fathers), Kambiang Hutan, and Anjiang Mualim created the basic concept of the Minangkabau martial art, silek (silat). Evidence gathered from linguistic studies around Aceh confirms that a very strong Champan cultural influence existed in Indonesia; this is indicated by the use of the chamic or Aceh–Chamic language as the main language in the coastal districts of Aceh Besar, Pidie, Bireun, Aceh Utara, Kota Lhokseumawe, Aceh Timur, Aceh Barat, Aceh Barat Daya, and Aceh Jaya.


Main article: History of Champa


Hinduism and Buddhism

Before the conquest of Champa by the Đại Việt emperor Tran[6] Thánh Tông in 1471, the dominant religion of the Cham people was Hinduism, and the culture was heavily influenced by that of India. The Hinduism of Champa was overwhelmingly Shaivist, that is, focussed on the worship of Shiva, and it was liberally combined with elements of local religious cults such as the worship of the Earth goddess Yan Po Nagar. The main symbols of Cham Shaivism were the liṅgam, the mukhaliṅga, the jaṭāliṅga, the segmented liṅga, and the kośa.[7]

  • A liṅga (or liṅgam) is black stone pillar that serves as a representation of Shiva. Cham kings frequently erected and dedicated stone lingas as the central religious images in royal temples. The name a Cham king would give to such a linga would be a composite of the king's own name and suffix "-eśvara", which stands for Shiva.[8]
  • A mukhaliṅga is a linga upon which has been painted or carved an image of Shiva as a human being or a human face.
  • A jaṭāliṅga is a linga upon which has been engraved a stylized representation of Shiva's chignon hairstyle.
  • A segmented liṅga is a linga post divided into three sections in order to represents the three aspects of the Hindu godhead or trimūrti: the lowest section, square in shape, represents Brahma; the middle section, octogonal in shape, represents Vishnu, and the top section, circular in shape, represents Shiva.
  • A kośa is a cylindrical basket of precious metal used to cover a linga. The donation of a kosa to the decoration of a liṅga was a distinguishing characteristic of Cham Shaivism. Cham kings gave names to special kosas in much the way that they gave names to the liṅgas themselves.[9]

The predominance of Hinduism in Cham religion was interrupted for a time in the 9th and 10th centuries, when a dynasty at Indrapura (Dong Duong in Quảng Nam Province of modern Vietnam) adopted Mahayana Buddhism as its faith. The Buddhist art of Dong Duong has received special acclaim for its originality.

Beginning in the 10th century, Hinduism again became the predominant religion of Champa. Some of the sites that have yielded important works of religious art and architecture from this period are, aside from Mỹ Sơn, Khuong My, Trà Kiệu, Chanh Lo, and Thap Mam.


Islam started making headway among the Cham after the 10th century, but it was only after the 1471 invasion that this influence picked up speed. By the 17th century, the Royal families of Cham Lords also began to turn to Islam and this eventually triggered the major shift in religious orientation of the Cham so that by the time of their final annexation by the Vietnamese, the majority of the Cham people had converted to Islam. Most Cham are now evenly split between being followers of Islam and Hinduism, with the majority of Vietnamese Cham being Hindu while the majority of Cambodian Cham are Muslim, though significant minorities of Mahayana Buddhists exist.

Indonesian 15th century records indicate the influence of Princess Darawati, a Cham, in influencing her husband, Kertawijaya, Majapahit's seventh ruler to convert the Majapahit royal family to Islam. The Islamic tomb of Putri Champa (Princess of Champa) can be found in Trowulan, East Java, the site of Majapahit imperial capital. In 15th to 17th century, Muslim Cham maintain a cordial relationship with Aceh Sultanate through dynastic marriage. This sultanate was located on the northern tip of Sumatra and was an active promotor of Islamic faith in Indonesian archipelago. According to linguistic studies Acehnese people and the Cham are related as both of their languages belongs to the same Aceh–Chamic language family.


In contrast to Đại Việt, Champa's economy was not based on agriculture. As seafaring people, the Cham were highly mobile and established a network of trade including not only the major ports at Hội An, Thi Nai but also extending into the mountainous hinterland.[10] Maritime trade was facilitated by a network of wells that provided fresh water to Cham and foreign ships along the coast of Champa and the islands of Cu Lao Cham and Ly Son.[11] While Kenneth R. Hall suggests that Champa was not able to rely on taxes on trade for continuous revenue, but instead financed their rule by raiding neighbouring countries, Hardy argues that the country's prosperity was above all based on commerce.[12]

The vast majority of Champa's export products came from the mountainous hinterland, sourced from as far as Attapeu in southern Laos.[13] They included gold and silver, slaves, animal and animal products, and precious woods.[14] By far the most important export product was eaglewood. It was the only product mentioned in Marco Polo's brief account and similarly impressed the Arab trader Sulayman several centuries earlier.[15] Most of it was probably taken from the Aquilaria crassna tree, just as most of the eaglewood in Vietnam today.[15]


The most significant site for Cham temple architecture is at Mỹ Sơn near the town of Hội An. The large complex at Mỹ Sơn was heavily damaged by United States bombing during the Vietnam War. The site is currently being restored with donations from a number of countries and NGO's. As of 2004, the clearing of land mines and UXO's had not been completed.

Many historic Cham towers still remain standing at other sites in Central Vietnam, including the following:

Some of the network of wells that was used to provide fresh water to Cham and foreign ships still remains. Cham wells are recognisable by their square shape. They are still in use and provide fresh water even during times of drought.[11]

The largest collection of Cham sculpture may be found in the Da Nang Museum of Cham Sculpture (formerly known as "Musée Henri Parmentier") in the coastal city of Da Nang. The museum was established in 1915 by French scholars, and is regarded as one of the most beautiful in Southeast Asia. Other museums with collections of Cham art include the following:

  • Museum of Fine Arts, Hanoi
  • Museum of History, Hanoi
  • Museum of Fine Arts, Saigon
  • Museum of History, Saigon
  • Musée Guimet, Paris

See also


  • Jean Boisselier, La statuaire du Champa, Paris: École Française d'Extrême-Orient, 1963
  • David P. Chandler, A History of Cambodia, Boulder: Westview Press, 1992
  • Emmanuel Guillon Cham Art, London: Thames & Hudson Ltd, 2001 ISBN 0-500-97593-0
  • Hardy, Andrew (2009): "Eaglewood and the Economic History of Champa and Central Vietnam" in Hardy, Andrew et al.: Champa and the Archeology of My Son (Vietnam). NUS Press, Singapore
  • Jean-François Hubert The Art of Champa, Parkstone Press, 2005 ISBN 1-85995-975-X
  • Lê Thành Khôi, Histoire du Vietnam des origines à 1858, Paris: Sudestasie, 1981
  • Georges Maspero, Le royaume de Champa, Paris: Van Ouest, 1928. This work, perhaps the most thorough in the use of primary sources to reconstruct the history of Champa, has been translated into English by Walter E.J. Tips under the title, The Champa Kingdom: The History of an Extinct Vietnamese Culture, Bangkok: White Lotus Press, 2002.
  • Ngô Vǎn Doanh, Champa: Ancient Towers, Hanoi: Thế Giới Publishers, 2006
  • Ngô Vǎn Doanh, Mỹ Sơn Relics, Hanoi: Thế Giới Publishers, 2005
  • Scott Rutherford, Insight Guide — Vietnam (ed.), 2006 ISBN 981-234-984-7
  • D. R. Sardesai, Vietnam, Trials and Tribulations of a Nation Long Beach Publications, 1988 ISBN 0-941910-04-0
  • Michael Vickery, "Champa Revised" ARI Working Paper, No. 37, 2005,
  • Geoff Wade, "Champa in the Song hui-yao" ARI Working Paper, No. 53, 2005,


External links

  • Proceedings of the Seminar on Champa, "Research on Champa and its Evolution"
  • Website of the Asia Research Institute, including the working paper "Champa Revised" by Michael Vickery, and the draft translation "Champa in the Song hui-yao" by Geoff Wade
  • Vietnam-Champa Relations and the Malay-Islam Regional Network in the 17th—19th Centuries
  • The Survivors of a Lost Civilisation
  • Cham Muslims: A look at Cambodia's Muslim minority
  • The Cham Muslims of Indo-China
  • Photos of Cham art exhibited in Vietnamese museums
  • Plumeria flowers – Champa Flowers – La fleur de frangipaniers – Hoa Sứ, Hoa đại, Hoa Champa
  • Photographs of Champa Temples

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