My Son was built by the Champa people, who rose up against the dominant Han Chinese in the Second Century. An intelligent and war-like race, they established a kingdom and ruled for many centuries.
Scattered around the broken Hindu temples to Shiva are stelae leaning every which way in the grass. They are inscribed with Sanskrit, a language borrowed from visiting Indian traders before the Cham went on to develop their own language.
There are delicate friezes, polished lignams and sculptures of elephant-headed lions, with red sandstone temples added over the centuries. The expert skills of the masons who constructed My Son is apparent – the bricks have been ground smooth for a tight fit.
Royal burials and religious ceremonies were once conducted here but eventually the Champa kingdom declined, the Viet conquered and My Son was forgotten by the outside world until a Frenchman reminded us by ‘discovering’ the site at the end of the 19th century.
My Son has been around for a long time but the worst damage was inflicted during the ‘American War’. Bullet holes and the craters of carpet bombing are the legacy of the US invasion. It doesn’t pay to wander away from the red-earth paths as there is still danger from unexploded ordnance.
Archaeological work and ham fisted restoration has also taken its toll over the years, despite Unesco World Heritage Site status. A wall rebuilt 20 years ago by French archaeologists looks significantly older than the untouched 1,000-year-old wall adjacent.
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