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People passing by Tam Ky, Quang Nam, by road are always “welcome” and “goodbye” by two clusters of Cham towers located north and south of the city: Chien Dan and Khuong My. These are two large, beautiful and unique Cham temples and towers.
Ancient Tower of Champa
Temple towers are popular and unique architectures of the Cham people, some are still “intrepid with their age” and many towers have been buried deep in the ground.
Le Dinh Phung in “Dialogue with Ancient Champa Civilization” (Social Science Publishing House, 2015) said: “Currently in the 15 provinces of the Central and Central Highlands, there are more than 150 places with Cham relics and ruins in the area. There are 24 groups of towers and towers that exist to varying degrees with a total of about 60 temples” (page 214). “In Quang Nam alone, in addition to the 27 towers that still exist, there are about 25 architectural ruins” (page 215).
The Cham people call their brick towers Kalan – meaning temple, but this is also the tomb of kings.
The spiers are also the place of worship of the gods of Hinduism, the “mansion of the gods.” Therefore, “the function of the temple – the tomb is the main and popular function of the Cham towers.”
Hinduism believes that their gods reside at the center of the world on Mount Meru. Therefore, the temples that are the houses of the gods on the earth must be represented as miniature Mount Meru, so they must follow strict regulations.
The temples are usually built in a radial layout, the axes rotate in four directions. A complete tower complex usually consists of three towers located along the North-South axis, the tower door facing the East is the direction of the rising sun, symbolizing life. The whole tower area is surrounded by a system of walls with entrance gates (Gate tower) right in front of the Middle tower. Many towers have additional sub-systems such as the Long House row – where to prepare items for sacrifices or for monks, musicians, dancers…
Of the three towers of the tower cluster, the middle tower or the south tower is the largest, each tower usually has three floors (some have curved shapes due to Khmer influence).
The heart of the Cham tower is often cramped because it is not a place for worshipers to gather to pray, but only the Brahmin “dignitaries” who have received the Dharma can enter.
Cham towers built bricks made of clay. This is a unique feature that has created “legends” about tower construction and makes “Cham towers more beautiful than Khmer towers” because “Cham people keep a sense of brick materials and respect their own identity.” its essence” (according to B. Groslier, quoted by Ngo Van Doanh in “Champa Ancient Culture,” VHDT Publishing House, 2002, p. 143).
The Cham people used clay minerals of the ilit group with great fineness, cleaned, and then processed into bricks, fired at low temperatures, so they have good homogeneity and high compression. This is “both an excellent sustainable material for construction and an ideal material for sculpture” (Ngo Van Doanh, number page 148). The Cham workers built the brick towers and the Cham artisans sculpted masterpieces on top of these special brick walls (not, as some say, built of clay, sculpting statues). then burn it).
Based on the eight main components that make up a tower, researchers have divided Cham towers into 12 different “styles”.
Two clusters of towers Chien Dan and Khuong My
The two remaining temples and towers consisting of six towers in Quang Nam province are quite large-scale, quite unique and still retain the original architecture, no matter how many “strawberries” have been experienced.
Chien Dan tower area in Chien Dan village is now Tam An commune, Phu Ninh district, about 3 km from Tam Ky center. This is a cluster of Cham towers of the traditional type consisting of three towers with the Middle tower having the largest scale consisting of three floors. The upper floors are gradually shrinking with a side length of 9.02 meters and a height of 20 meters; The South and North towers (the upper part has been lost) are only from 7.6 to 7.7 meters.
Khuong My Tower is located 2 km from the city center in Tam Xuan 1 commune, Nui Thanh district, with a similar scale.
The location of the two clusters of towers is very unique, located on the northern and southern gateways of the city and possibly on the same meridian axis.
According to our preliminary calculations, the longitudes of the two tower clusters are not much different. It is not clear if the Cham people had any calculations when building. If so, their level of astronomy at that time was truly remarkable.
According to researchers, Khuong My tower was built before Chien Dan, at the beginning of the 10th century (probably the end of the 9th century) with the largest type of South tower and this is the last tower cluster built in the style of Ho Chi Minh City. The largest South tower to then move to the period of the largest Middle tower type of which Chien Dan is considered the first tower (late 10th century to late 11th century).
Not only are they different in construction time, the two towers are also different in function: While in Chien Dan worshiping all three Brahmin gods, Brahma, Vishnou, and Shiva, Khuong My was built to worship only the god. Vishnou, a rare thing in Cham temples. When investigating this temple, the researchers found no trace of sculptures related to the gods Brahma and Shiva.
Based on tower architecture and sculptural artworks, researchers have classified Khuong My in its own style – Khuong My style because it “shows the transition from the strong and fierce Dong style to the Vietnamese people.” Duong to the gentle and elegant features of Tra Kieu style.” (Ho Xuan Tinh, “Cham Monuments in Quang Nam,” Da Nang Publishing House 2008, p. 49).
As for Chien Dan, Ngo Van Doanh said: “The temple complex was created during a long time from the end of the 9th century to the end of the 11th century, that is, during the existence of the transitional style. between the My Son A1 style and the Binh Dinh style… and this is the most representative and typical relic of this transitional style.” (“The imprint of Champa culture in Central Vietnam”, Da Nang Publishing House, 2021, page 142).
Excavations in 1989 (in Chien Dan) and 2000 (in Khuong My) with many new discoveries “made these two temples and pagodas become the most surprising monuments for archaeologists. , history, culture and art of Champa.” (Ngo Van Doanh, phone number page 136).
According to author Phu Binh in the work “Ha Dong Old Mark” (Van Hoc Publishing House, 2016), “Chien Dan tower area belongs to Gia Tho hamlet (which is a Sino-Vietnamese name transferred from the land name “Cay Dua” – is the Nom name of a hamlet of this region). While for Khuong My tower: “This region has many original Cham names such as Ba Lay, Tra Phe, Tra Be, Tra Ne … in which there is the name of the land of Areca.” (pages 81, 82).
This information makes us think: Could Tam Ky in the past used to be a bordering land between two big clans of the Cham people: the Cau clan ruled the South and the Dua clan ruled the North area?