Kingdom of Champa
Campapura, Campanagara, Nagaracampa, Nagarcam
The main Champa kingdom before 1306 (yellow) lay along the coast of present-day southern Vietnam. To the north (blue) lay Đại Việt; to the west (red), the Khmer Empire .
The main Champa kingdom before 1306 (yellow) lay along the coast of present-day southern Vietnam. To the north (blue) lay Đại Việt; to the west (red), the Khmer Empire .
Territory of Champa after 1306 (light blue), neighboring with Đại Việt (dark pink) and Cambodia (orange) after marriage of princess Huyền Trân and Cham king Jaya Simhavarman III.
Territory of Champa after 1306 (light blue), neighboring with Đại Việt (dark pink) and Cambodia (orange) after marriage of princess Huyền Trân and Cham king Jaya Simhavarman III.


Kauthara polity (757–1653)
Panduranga polity
Common languagesOld Cham, Chamic languages, Sanskrit, Old Malay
Cham Folk religion, Hinduism and Buddhism, later Islam
• Established
• Pandurangga annexed by Vietnam under Nguyễn dynasty
• peak
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Han dynasty
Nguyễn monarchy
Today part ofVietnam

Champa (Cham: ꨌꩌꨛꨩ; Khmer: ចាម្ប៉ា; Vietnamese: Chiêm Thành or Chăm Pa) was a collection of independent Cham polities that extended across the coast of what is today central and southern Vietnam from approximately the 2nd century AD until 1832, when it was annexed by the Vietnamese Empire under Minh Mạng.[2] The kingdom was known variously as Nagaracampa (Sanskrit: नगरचम्पः), Champa (ꨌꩌꨛꨩ) in modern Cham, and Châmpa (ចាម្ប៉ា) in the Khmer inscriptions, Chiêm Thành in Sino-Vietnamese vocabulary and Zhànchéng (Mandarin: 占城) in Chinese records.[3]

The Chams of modern Vietnam and Cambodia are the major remnants of this former kingdom. They speak Chamic languages, a subfamily of Malayo-Polynesian closely related to the Malayic and Bali–Sasak languages. Former Champa's demographics were multi-ethnic, in which are consisted of Austronesian Chamic-speaking peoples that made up the majority of its total population, with their vestiges today were the Chamic-speaking Cham, Rade, Jarai peoples in Central, Southern Vietnam, and Cambodia, and the Acehnese in Northern Sumatra, Indonesia, along with elements of Austroasiatic Bahnaric and Katuic-speaking peoples in Central Vietnam.[4][5]

Champa was preceded in the region by a kingdom called Lâm Ấp (Vietnamese), or Linyi (林邑, Middle Chinese (ZS): *liɪm ʔˠiɪp̚), that was in existence since 192 AD; although the historical relationship between Linyi and Champa is not clear. Champa reached its apogee in the 9th and 10th centuries AD. 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.

Hinduism, adopted through conflicts and conquest of territory from neighboring Funan in the 4th century AD, shaped the art and culture of the Cham kingdom for centuries, as testified by the many Cham Hindu statues and red brick temples that dotted the landscape in Cham lands. Mỹ Sơn, a former religious center, and Hội An, one of Champa's main port cities, are now World Heritage Sites. Today, many Cham people adhere to Islam, a conversion which began in the 10th century, with the ruling dynasty having fully adopted the faith by the 17th century; they are called the Bani (Ni tục, from Arabic: Bani). There are, however, the Bacam (Bacham, Chiêm tục) who still retain and preserve their Hindu faith, rituals, and festivals. The Bacam is one of only two surviving non-Indic indigenous Hindu peoples in the world, with a culture dating back thousands of years. The other is the Balinese Hinduism of the Balinese of Indonesia.[2]


The name Champa derived from the Sanskrit word campaka (pronounced /tʃampaka/), which refers to Magnolia champaca, a species of flowering tree known for its fragrant flowers.[6]



The historiography of Champa relies upon four types of sources:[7]

The Cham have their written records in form of paper book, known as the Sakkarai dak rai patao, was a 5227-pages collection of Cham veritable records, documenting a history range from early legendary kings of 11th–13th century, to the deposition of Po Thak The, the last king of Panduranga in 1832, reckoning in total 39 rulers from Adam, the tales of spread of Islamic faiths to Champa in 1000 AD, to Po Thak The. The annals were written in Akhar Thrah Cham script with collection of Cham and Vietnamese seals imprinted by Vietnamese rulers. However, it had been dismissed for a long time by scholars until Po Dharma.[9] Cham literature also have been greatly preserved in approximately more than 3,000 Cham manuscripts and printed books dating from the 16th to 20th centuries. The Southeast Asia Digital Library (SEADL) at Northern Illinois University is currently containing a extensive collection of 977 digitized Cham manuscripts, totaling more than 57,800 pages of wide-range-genres content.

Overarching theories

This Cham head of Shiva was made of electrum around 800. It decorated a kosa, or metal sleeve fitted to a liṅgam. One can recognise Shiva by the tall chignon hairstyle and by the third eye in the middle of his forehead.
This Cham head of Shiva was made of electrum around 800. It decorated a kosa, or metal sleeve fitted to a liṅgam. One can recognise Shiva by the tall chignon hairstyle and by the third eye in the middle of his forehead.
Crown of Champa in 7th and 8th century. (Museum of Vietnamese History)
Crown of Champa in 7th and 8th century. (Museum of Vietnamese History)

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 AD, the record is richest for Indrapura; in the 12th century AD, it is richest for Vijaya; following the 15th century AD, 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.[10]


Main articles: History of Champa and Timeline of Champa

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. Lâm Ấp, a predecessor state in the region, began its existence in AD 192 as a breakaway Chinese colony. An official successfully revolted against Chinese rule in central Vietnam, and Lâm Ấp was founded in AD 192.[11] In the 4th century AD, wars with the neighbouring 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. Starting from 10th century AD, the Arab maritime trade introduces Islamic cultural and religious influences to the region. Although Hinduism was the predominant religion among the Cham people until the 16th century, Islam began to attract large numbers of Chams, when some members of the Cham royalty converted to Islam in the 17th century. Champa came to serve as an important link in the spice trade, which stretched from the Persian Gulf to South China, and later in the Arab maritime routes in Mainland Southeast Asia as a supplier of aloe.

Despite the frequent wars between the Cham and the Khmer, the two nations also traded and their cultural influences moved in the same directions. Since 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.

Evidence gathered from linguistic studies around Aceh confirms that a very strong Chamic cultural influence existed in Indonesia; this is indicated by the use of the Chamic language Acehnese as the main language in the coastal regions of Aceh. Linguists believe the Acehnese language, a descendant of the Proto-Chamic language, separated from the Chamic tongue sometime in the 1st millennium AD. Some argue that Acehnese originated from Chamic dispersal after an Vietnamese invasion in 982 AD.[12][13] Tsat, a northern Chamic language spoken by the Utsul on the Hainan Island, is speculated to be separated from Cham at the time when contact between Champa and Islam had grown considerably, but precise details remain inadequate.[13] After the fall of Vijaya Champa in 1471, another group of Cham and Chamic might have moved west, forming Haroi, which has reversal Bahnaric linguistic influences.[14] However, scholarly views on the precise nature of Aceh-Chamic relations vary.[15]

Founding legend

According to Cham folk legends, Champa was founded by Lady Po Nagar–the divide mother goddess of the kingdom. She came from the moon and arrived in Central Vietnam and found the kingdom, but a typhoon drifted her away and left her stranded on the coast of China, where she married a Chinese prince, and returned to Champa. The Po Nagar temple built in Nha Trang during the 8th century, and rebuilt in 11th century. Her portrayal image in the temple is said dating from 965 AD, is of a commanding personage seated cross-legged upon a throne.[16] She is also worshiped by the Vietnamese, a tradition dates back to the 11th century during the Ly dynasty period.[17]

Formation and growth

The people of Champa descended from seafaring settlers who reached the Southeast Asian mainland from Borneo about the time of the Sa Huỳnh culture between 1000 BC and 200 AD, the predecessor of the Cham kingdom.[18] The Cham language is part of the Austronesian family. According to one study, Cham is related most closely to modern Acehnese in northern Sumatra.[19]

The Sa Huỳnh culture was a Austronesian seafaring culture that centered around present-day Central Vietnam coastal region. During its heyday, the culture distributed across the Central Vietnam coast and has links across the South China sea to the other side in the Philippines archipelago and even with Taiwan (through Maritime Jade Road, Sa Huynh-Kalanay Interaction Sphere), which now most archaeologists and scholars have consentient determined and no longer hesitant in linking with the ancestors of the Austronesian Cham and Chamic-speaking peoples.[20]

While Northern Vietnam Kinh people assimilated Han Chinese immigrants into their population, have a sinicized culture and carry the patrilineal Han Chinese O-M7 haplogroup, Cham people carry the patrilineal R-M17 haplogroup of South Asian Indian origin from South Asian merchants spreading Hinduism to Champa and marrying Cham females since Chams have no matrilineal South Asian mtDNA, and this fits with the matrilocal structure of Cham families.[21] Analysis of Vietnamese Kinh people's genetics show that within the last 800 years there was mixture between a Malay-like southern Asian and a Chinese ancestral component that happens to fit the time period in which Kinh expanded south from their Red River Delta homeland in the nam tiến (lit. 'southward advance') process, which also matches the event 700 years ago when the Cham population suffered massive losses.[22] With the exception of Cham who are Austronesian speaking and Mang who are Austroasiatic speaking, the southern Han Chinese and all other ethnic groups in Vietnam share ancestry.[23]

To the Han Chinese, the country of Champa was known as 林邑 Linyi[24] in Mandarin and Lam Yap in Cantonese and to the Vietnamese, Lâm Ấp (which is the Sino-Vietnamese pronunciation of 林邑). It was founded in 192 AD.[25][26]

Epigraph of king Jaya Paramesvaravarman II (r. 1220–1254), the liberator of Champa from Khmer rule.
Epigraph of king Jaya Paramesvaravarman II (r. 1220–1254), the liberator of Champa from Khmer rule.

Around the 4th century AD, Cham polities began to absorb much of Indic influences, probably through its neighbour, Funan. Hinduism was established as Champa began to create Sanskrit stone inscriptions and erect red brick Hindu temples. The first king acknowledged in the inscriptions is Bhadravarman,[27][28] who reigned from 380 to 413 AD. At Mỹ Sơn, King Bhadravarman established a linga called Bhadresvara,[29] whose name was a combination of the king's own name and that of the Hindu god of gods Shiva.[30] The worship of the original god-king under the name Bhadresvara and other names continued through the centuries that followed.[31]

Rudravarman of Champa founded a new dynasty in 529 AD and was succeeded by his son, Sambhuvarman (r. 572–629). He reconstructed the temple of Bhadravarman and renamed it Shambhu-bhadreshvara. He died in 629 and was succeeded by his son, Kandarpadharma, who died in 630–31. Kandarpadharma was succeeded by his son, Prabhasadharma, who died in 645.[32]

Between the 7th to 10th centuries AD, the Cham polities rose to become a naval power; as Cham ports attracted local and foreign traders, Cham fleets also controlled the trade in spices and silk in the South China Sea, between China, the Indonesian archipelago and India. They supplemented their income from the trade routes not only by exporting ivory and aloe, but also by engaging in piracy and raiding.[33] However, the rising influence of Champa caught the attention of a neighbouring thalassocracy that considered Champa as a rival, the Javanese (Javaka, probably refers to Srivijaya ruler of Malay Peninsula, Sumatra and Java). In 767, the Tonkin coast was raided by a Javanese fleet (Daba) and Kunlun pirates,[34][35] Champa was subsequently assaulted by Javanese or Kunlun vessels in 774 and 787.[36][37][38] In 774 an assault was launched on Po-Nagar in Nha-trang where the pirates demolished temples, while in 787 an assault was launched on Phang-rang.[39][40][41]

Depiction of a couple of highland man and Cham lady in the Boxer Codex from 1590
Depiction of a couple of highland man and Cham lady in the Boxer Codex from 1590

Afterwards, during the 1000s, Rajah Kiling, the Hindu king of the Philippine kingdom of the Rajahnate of Butuan instigated a commercial rivalry with the Champa Civilization by requesting for diplomatic equality in court protocol towards his Rajahnate, from the Chinese Empire, which was later denied by the Chinese Imperial court, mainly because of favoritism over the Champa civilization.[42] However, the future Rajah of Butuan, Sri Bata Shaja later succeeded in attaining diplomatic equality with Champa by sending the flamboyant ambassador Likanhsieh. Likanhsieh shocked the Emperor Zhenzong by presenting a memorial engraved on a gold tablet, some white dragon (Bailong 白龍) camphor, Moluccan cloves, and a South Sea slave at the eve of an important ceremonial state sacrifice.[43]

Cham merchants then immigrated to what is the now the Sultanate of Sulu, which is also in the Philippines. They were called Orang Dampuan. The Champa civilization and the port-kingdom of Sulu engaged in commerce with each other which resulted in merchant Chams settling in Sulu from the 10th-13th centuries. The Orang Dampuan were slaughtered by envious native Sulu Buranuns due to the wealth of the Orang Dampuan.[44] The Buranun were then subjected to retaliatory slaughter by the Orang Dampuan. Harmonious commerce between Sulu and the Orang Dampuan was later restored.[45] The Yakans were descendants of the Taguima-based Orang Dampuan who came to Sulu from Champa.[46]

According to Cham inscriptions, in 1190, Jayavarman VII conquered Champa and made it a dependency of the Khmer Empire for 30 years.[47]

Champa was subjected for Mongol Yuan invasion in 1283–1285. Before the invasion, Qubilai Khan ordered the establishment of a mobile secretariat (xingsheng) for the purpose of dominating the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean trade networks. It demonstrated the strategic importance of Champa as a naval juggernaut of medieval maritime Eurasia.[48] The Yuan campaign led by General Sogetu against the Cham began in February 1283 with their initial capture of Vijaya forcing the Cham king Indravarman V (r. 1258–1287) and Prince Harijit to wage a guerrilla resistance against the Yuan for two years, together with Dai Viet, eventually repulsed the Mongols back to China by June 1285. After the Yuan wars ended decisively in 1288, Dai Viet king Trần Nhân Tông spent his retirement years in Northern Champa, arranged a marriage between his daughter, Princess Huyền Trân, with Prince Harijit–now ruling king Jaya Simhavarman III (r. 1288–1307) in 1306 for exchanging of peace and territory.[49] From 1307 to 1401, not even a single surviving indigenous source exists in Champa, and almost of its 14th-century history have to rely on Chinese and Vietnamese sources.[50]

Supposedly zenith of Champa territorial expansion during the reign of Che Bong Nga (r. 1360-1390)
Supposedly zenith of Champa territorial expansion during the reign of Che Bong Nga (r. 1360-1390)

From 1367 to 1390, according to Chinese and Vietnamese sources, Che Bong Nga, who ruled as king of Champa from 1360 to 1390, had restored Champa.[51] He launched six invasions of Dai Viet during the deadly Champa–Đại Việt War (1367–1390), sacking its capital in 1371, 1377, 1378, and 1383, having nearly undermined the Dai Viet to its inevitable collapse.[52] Che Bong Nga was only stopped in 1390 on a naval battle in which the Vietnamese deployed firearms for the first time, and miraculously killed the king of Champa, ending the devastating war.[53][50]

After Che Bong Nga, Champa seemingly rebounced to its status quo under a new dynasty of Jaya Simhavarman VI (r. 1390–1400). His successor Indravarman VI (r. 1400–1441) reigned in the next 41 years, expanding Champa's territory to the Mekong Delta amidst decline of the Angkorian Empire. One of Indravarman's nephews, Prince Śrīndra-Viṣṇukīrti Virabhadravarman, became king of Champa in 1441. By the mid 15th century, Champa might have been suffering a steady dooming decline. No inscription survived after 1456. The Vietnamese under strong king Le Thanh Tong launched an invasion of Champa in early 1471, decimating the capital of Vijaya and most of northern Champa.[54] For early historians like Georges Maspero, "the 1471 conquest had concluded the end of the Champa Kingdom."[55]


See also: History of the Cham–Vietnamese wars and Nam tiến

1801 map of Southeast Asia by John Cary showing Panduranga Champa (Tsiompa)
1801 map of Southeast Asia by John Cary showing Panduranga Champa (Tsiompa)

In the Cham–Vietnamese War (AD 1471), Champa suffered serious defeats at the hands of the Vietnamese, in which 120,000 people were either captured or killed, and the kingdom was reduced to a small enclave near Nha Trang with many Chams fleeing to Cambodia. [56][57]

Champa was reduced to the principalities of Panduranga and Kauthara at the beginning of the 17th century. Kauthara was annexed by the Vietnamese in 1653. The last remaining principality of Champa, Panduranga, survived until August 1832, when Minh Mang of Vietnam began his purge against Le Van Duyet's faction, and accused the Cham leaders for supporting Duyet. Minh Mang ordered the last Cham king[who?] and the vice-king[who?] to be arrested in Hue, while incorporating the last remnants of Champa into what is Ninh Thuan province.[58][59] Two widespread Cham revolts against the court of Minh Mang's oppression arose in 1833–1835, the latter led by khatib Ja Thak Wa–a Cham Bani cleric–which was more successful and even briefly reestablished a Cham state in short period of time, before being crushed by Minh Mang's forces.[60]

The unfortunate defeat of the people of Panduranga in their struggle against Vietnamese oppression also sealed their fate and remnant of Champa. A large chunk of the Cham in Panduranga were subjected to forced assimilation by the Vietnamese,[61][62] while many Cham, including indigenous highland peoples, were indiscriminate killed by the Vietnamese in massacres, particularly from 1832 to 1836, during the Sumat and Ja Thak Wa uprisings. Bani mosques were raze the ground. Temples were set on fire.[63] Cham villages and their aquatic livelihoods were annihilated. By that time, the Cham totally lost their ancestors' seafaring and shipbuilding traditions.

Only a small fraction, or about 40,000 Cham people in the old Panduranga were remaining in 1885 when the French completed their acquisition of Vietnam. The French colonial administration prohibited Kinh discrimination and prejudice against Cham and indigenous highland peoples, put an end to Vietnamese cultural genocide of the Cham.



11th-century sculpture depicting the court of Champa with king, court officials, and servants. Museum of Cham Sculpture.
11th-century sculpture depicting the court of Champa with king, court officials, and servants. Museum of Cham Sculpture.

The King of Champa is the title ruler of Champa. Champa rulers often use two Hinduist style titles: raja-di-raja (राजाधिराजः​ "raja of rajas": written here in Devanagari since the Cham used their own Cham script)[64] or po-tana-raya (भूमिस्वामी "lord of all territories").[65]

The regnal name of the Champa rulers originated from the Hindu tradition, often consisting of titles and aliases. Titles (prefix) like: Jaya (जय "victory"), Maha (महा "great"), Sri (श्री "glory"). Aliases (stem) like: Bhadravarman, Vikrantavarman, Rudravarman, Simhavarman, Indravarman, Paramesvaravarman, Harivarman... Among them, the suffix -varman[66] belongs to the Kshatriya class and is only for those leaders of the Champa Alliance.

The 13th century Chinese gazetteer account Zhu Fan Zhi (c. 1225) describes the Cham king 'wears a headdress of gold and adorns his body with strings of jewels' and either rides on an elephant or being lifted on a 'cloth hammock by four men' when he goes outside the palace. When the king attends the court audience, he is encircled by 'thirty female attendants who carry swords and shields or betel nuts'. Court officials would make reports to the king, then make one prostration before leaving.

The last king of Champa[who?] was deposed by Minh Mạng in 1832.[60]


During the reign of the king Prakasadharman (r. 653–686 AD), when Champa was briefly ruled by a strong monarch, the territories of the kingdom stretch from present-day Quảng Bình to Khánh Hòa. An internal division called viṣaya (district) was first introduced. There were at least two viṣaya: Caum and Midit. Each of them has a handful number of local koṣṭhāgāras –known as 'source of stable income to upkeep the worship of three gods.

During the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, northern Champa was consisted by several known districts (viṣaya, zhou 洲): Amaravati (Quảng Ngãi), Ulik (Thừa Thiên–Huế), Vvyar (Quảng Trị), Jriy (southern Quảng Bình), and Traik (northern Quảng Bình). Other junctions like Panduranga remained quietly autonomous.[67]

Account from the Song Huiyao Jigao describes that "the country has no walled cities, but has over 100 villages. The village clans (cunluohu 村落戶) number 300–500 or perhaps even 700."

Federation or absolutism?

1770s map of Panduranga Champa (Ciampa)
1770s map of Panduranga Champa (Ciampa)

The classical narrative of 'the Champa Kingdom' brought by earlier generations of scholarship, Georges Maspero and George Coedes, created the illusion of a unified Champa. Recent revisionist historians in the 1980s, for example Po Dharma and Trần Quốc Vượng, refuted the concept of single Champa. Chinese historical texts, Cham inscriptions, and especially the Cham annals, the Sakkarai dak rai patao, both confirm the existence of multi-Campa scenarios. Po Dharma argues that Champa was not a single kingdom or centralized in the manner of Đại Việt but likely a confederation of kingdom(s) for most of its history. For several periods from the 700s to 1471, there was the king of kings or the overlord based out of the most significant powerful cities like Indrapura and Vijaya, who wielded more power and influence over the other Cham kings and princes, and perhaps those minor local kings and princes (Yuvarāja – not necessary mean crown prince) or regional military commander/warlords (senāpati) were from local that had no connection with the dominant ruling dynasty or could be a member of that royal lineage within the perimeter of the mandalas. Mandala is the term coined by O. W. Wolters describing the distribution of state power among kingdoms within kingdoms in pre-modern Southeast Asia.

Two notable examples of this multi-centric nature of Champa were the principalities of Kauthara and Pāṇḍuraṅga. When Northern Champa and Vijaya fell to the Vietnamese in 1471, Kauthara and Pāṇḍuraṅga persisted existing untouched. Kauthara fell to the Vietnamese 200 years later in 1653, while Panduranga was annexed in 1832. Pāṇḍuraṅga had its full list of kings ruled from the 13th century until 1832, which both Vietnamese and European sources had verified. So Pāṇḍuraṅga remained autonomous and could conduct its foreign affairs without permission from the court of the king of kings.[68]

According to the Huanghua Sidaji (皇華四達記, c. 800 AD?), which then was complied into the Old Book of Tang, a Tang prime minister named Jia Dan detailing his itineraries to Champa, begin with his arrival in a northern Cham state called Huánwáng (環王國), probably is located in modern-day Quảng Trị that had invaded the Tang southernmost province of Annan in 803. The center of Champa by the late 8th and early 9th centuries was in the south, in Gǔdá Guó 古笪國 (Kauthara), Bēntuólàng 奔陀浪洲 (Pāṇḍuraṅga).[69] Chinese texts from 758 to 809 referred whole Champa as Huánwáng, but it must be a convenient way for the Chinese to assume the name of a state that had deployed diplomacy and war with them to all of the federations. The Chinese barely defeated the Cham and recovered lost regions in 809.[70] Harivarman I (r. 803–?) left a document in Po Nagar Temple (Nha Trang) dating from 817 explaining his campaign in northern Champa to expel the Chinese ("Cinas" in the inscription, today lauv in modern Cham language) when they menaced to the northern territories.[71]


The Cham traditionally used large numbers of soldiers for their infantry and elephant corps. They wore various types of armor such as rattan armor, leather armor, scale lamellar, chainmail, and buff coats.[citation needed] According to an article published by National Geographic in 2014, Champa's navy was considered unrivaled.[3] Their navy consisted of mostly large war boats powered by oars that could carry many marines to engage the Khmer and Vietnamese ships in close quarters combat.[citation needed] However, after the gunpowder age, Chinese firearms - including rockets and handguns were imported and employed by most Southeast Asian rulers in Dai Viet, Lan Na, and Luchuan. But Champa and Ayutthaya failed to adopt this technology and suffered the consequences. In 1390, the powerful Cham ruler Po Binasuor died in a naval battle. The Vietnamese records (written in Chữ Hán) attribute his death to the weapon called the Huochong, long understood as referring to cannon but more probably a handgun. These new weapons technology helped permanently shift the balance of power between the two kingdoms. [72]

Geography of historical Champa

Champa (ca. 11th century) at its greatest extent
Champa (ca. 11th century) at its greatest extent

Between the 2nd and the 15th centuries AD, Champa's territorial extent at times included the modern provinces of Quảng Bình, Quảng Trị, Thừa Thiên Huế, Da Nang, Quảng Nam, Quảng Ngãi, Bình Định, Phú Yên, Khánh Hòa, Ninh Thuận, and Bình Thuận, and most of the Central Highlands might have been lightly governed or influenced by coastal Cham.[73][74][75] Through 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 trading and maintained few settlements of any size away from the coast. Scholarships also hold consensus that Champa, like Dai Viet, was always multi-ethnic and ethnic flexibility, not just the Cham people alone, but also encompassing several different ethnic groups such as Jarai, Rhadé, and Bahnar/Bahnaric-speaking and Katuic-speaking peoples. It is clear that the Katuic-speaking and Bahnaric-speaking peoples of the Central Highlands in Vietnam and Central Laos had been engaged a long direct and complex contact with Chamic-speaking peoples, resulting in Chamic mutual lexical similarities of the two Austroasiatic ethnolinguistic groups,[76][77] although it highly likely that most of these borrowings came to Katuics and Bahnarics via the Highland Chamics.[78] Others argue that Cham rule once might have stretched as far west as the Mekong River in the present-day Lao province of Campassak.[79]

Historical Champa consisted of up to five principalities:

Closeup of the inscription in Cham script on the Po Nagar stele, 965. The stele describes feats by the Champa kings.
Closeup of the inscription in Cham script on the Po Nagar stele, 965. The stele describes feats by the Champa kings.

Within the four principalities were two main clans: the "Dừa" (means "coconut" in Vietnamese) and the "Cau" (means "areca catechu" in Vietnamese). The Dừa 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.[84]


Religiously and culturally, the Chams were grouped into two major religio-cultural groups; the Balamon Chams (also called Cham Ahier) that adhere to an indigenized form of Hinduism, and Bani Chams that adhere to an indigenized form of Islam. These two groups mostly live in separate villages. Intermarriage was prohibited in former times, and remains rare even nowadays. Both groups are matrilineal and conform to matrilocal residence practice.[85] Both Cham groups' common ancestor worship is known as kut, characterized in the form of worshiping cemetery steles of dead ancestors. The Cham view the living world matters as just as transient one for a short-term existence, and eternity is the other world where ancestors, dead relatives and deities live.[86]

Hinduism and Buddhism

Apsara with Saraswati (right)
Dancing Siva, c. 10th century AD
Champa art, Hindu temples and statues have been found in many parts of Vietnam.

The term "Balamon" derived from "Brahman" or "Brahmin", one of Hindu caste of religious elite. Balamon Chams adhere to the old religion of their ancestor, an indigenized form of Hinduism that thrived since the ancient era of Kingdom of Champa in 5th century AD.[85] While today the Bacam (Bacham) are the only surviving Hindus in Vietnam, the region once hosted some of the most exquisite and vibrant Hindu cultures in the world. The entire region of Southeast Asia, in fact, was home to numerous sophisticated Hindu kingdoms. From Angkor in neighbouring Cambodia, to Java and Bali in Indonesia.[2] The Cham Sunni in the Mekong Delta often refer the Balamon as Kafir (Derived from Arabic Kāfir for infidels).[87]

10th-century Cham Saivite relief of Śiva
Cham Bodhisattva on a relief cube, c. 12th century

Before the conquest of Champa by the Đại Việt ruler Le 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 Shaiva and it was liberally combined with elements of local religious cults such as the worship of the Earth goddess Lady Po Nagar. The main symbols of Cham Shaivism were the lingam, the mukhalinga, the jaṭāliṅgam, the segmented liṅgam, and the kośa.[88]

9th-century Dong Duong (Indrapura) sculpture describes the early life of Prince Siddhārtha Gautama (who is sitting on a mule).
9th-century Dong Duong (Indrapura) sculpture describes the early life of Prince Siddhārtha Gautama (who is sitting on a mule).

The predominance of Hinduism in Cham religion was interrupted for a time in the 9th and 10th centuries AD, when a dynasty at Indrapura (modern Đồng Dương, Quảng Nam Province, Vietnam) adopted Mahayana Buddhism as its faith.[91][92] King Indravarman II (r. 854–893) built a giant Buddhist monastery, meditation halls, and temples for Champa's monks (sangha), and celebrated the veneration of the Buddhist deity Lokeśvara under the name Laksmindra Lokeśvara Svabhayada in 875. Mahayana in Chama was blended with observable elements of Tantric Buddhism, manifested in many traces. For example, Indravarman's successor Jaya Simhavarman I (r. 897–904) according to his verbatim in 902, Vajrapāṇi is the Bodhisattva capable of leading humans into the "path of the Vajra." The Buddhist art of Đồng Dương has received special acclaim for its originality.

Buddhist art of Champa also shared the same unique aesthetics, paralleling with Dvāravatī (Mon) art, highlighted in the similarities of both cultures in their iconographic form of the Buddha-Stūpa-Triad, where the Buddha seats in padmāsana (lotus), flanked by on either side by a depiction of a stūpa.[93] Other shared features are makara lintel, fishtail-shaped sampot illustrating,[94] Gaja-Lakṣmī, pendant-legged Buddhas.[95] The sources of Mon–Cham cultural interaction may be the inland routes between the Muang Fa Daed site on Khorat region, near a lost kingdom called Wèndān by the Chinese (probably the site of Kantarawichai in Kantharawichai, Maha Sarakham),[96] Southern Laos, via Savannakhet, then to Central Vietnam coast through Lao Bảo and Mụ Giạ Passes.[97][98]

Beginning in the 10th century AD, 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, Khương Mỹ, Trà Kiệu, Chanh Lo, and Tháp Mắm.

From the 13th to 15th centuries, Mahayana among the Cham was practiced in form of syncretic Saivite–Buddhism or the fusion of the worship of Śiva (seen as the protector) and Buddha (seen as the savior). Buddhism prevailed secondary. With the decline of royal power of the ruling Simhavarmanid dynasty in the 15th century and the fall of their capital Vijaya in 1471, all Mahayana or Vajrayana traces of Champa disappeared, enabling space for the rising Islamic faith.


Further information: Islam in Cambodia and Islam in Vietnam

Bani Chams are Muslim Chams that converted to a version of localized Shi'a Islam mixed with Hindu-Chamic customs, as the faith started making headway among the population after the 10th century AD.[99] The term "Bani" derived from Arabic term "bani" (بني) which means "people". The popular account mainly from oversea Cham communities assures that the Cham had been converted by either ʿAlī and his son Muḥammad ibn al-Ḥanafīyya. In their devotions, the Cham Bani refer to Adam and Eve, the archangel Gabriel, Abraham, the prophet Muhammad, ʿAlī, Fāṭima, Hassan and Husein, having organization, Quranic books with Cham commentaries, and simple mosques. However their Imams bear Cham-Sanskrit titles gru and acar. By the 17th century, the royal families of the Cham had converted to Bani Islam. Most Cham are now evenly split between being followers of Islam and Hinduism, with the majority of Central Vietnam Cham being Hindu and Bani, while the majority of Cambodian Chams and Mekong Delta Chams are Sunni Muslim (also called Cham Baruw), though significant minorities of Mahayana Buddhists continue to exist.

Historical documents regarded that 18th-century Cham and Malay settlements in the Mekong Delta established by the Nguyen lords earlier than Vietnamese settlements in order to establish Viet-controlled settlements for frontier defense. The embodiment of more fundamentalist Sunni faiths in the Mekong Delta and Cambodia gave the Cham communities here socio-cultural inclinations toward the wider Malay/Islamic world compared with the fair-isolated Cham Bani in Central Vietnam and Eastern Cambodia. Islam also provides disciplining ethno-religious values to the Cham, which has helped them preserve and retain their distinct ethnic identy in a dynamic transnational environment.

Indonesian 15th century records indicate the influence of Princess Daravati, a Cham woman, converted to Islam,[100] and influenced 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 the Majapahit imperial capital.[101] In the 15th to 17th century, Islamic Champa had maintained a cordial relationship with the Aceh Sultanate through dynastic marriage. This sultanate was located on the northern tip of Sumatra and was an active promoter of the Islamic faith in the Indonesian archipelago.


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, Thị Nại but also extending into the mountainous hinterland.[102] 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 Cù Lao Chàm and Lý Sơn.[103] 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.[104]

The vast majority of Champa's export products came from the mountainous hinterland, sourced from as far as Attapeu in southern Laos.[105] They included gold and silver, slaves, animal and animal products, and precious woods.[106] By far the most important export product was eaglewood.[107] It was the only product mentioned in Marco Polo's brief account and similarly impressed the Arab trader Sulayman several centuries earlier.[108] Most of it was probably taken from the Aquilaria crassna tree, just as most of the eaglewood in Vietnam today.[108]

Cham port-cities

Two Cham women playing Polo. c. 600–900 AD.[109]
Cham man playing flute.

During the medieval age, the Champa Kingdom benefited greatly from the luxurious maritime trade routes through the South China Sea and overland trade networks connecting Angkor and Bagan to Champa. Champa concentrated its wealth in highly urbanized port-cities, some of them located in self-governing regions. Prominent examples include Amarendrapura (the modern city of Huế); Visnupura (Nhan Bieu, Thua Thien Hue) in the north; Indrapura and Amavarati (Quang Nam); Vijaya (Qui Nhon) in the central region; and Nha Trang, Virapura (Phan Rang), and Panduranga in the south.[110]

The Zhu Fan Zhi describes the port cities of Champa, 'on the arrival of a trading ship in this country, officials are sent on board with a book made of folded slips of black leather.' After an inventory has been taken, the cargo may be landed. 20% of the goods carried on is claimed as tax, and the rest may be traded privately. If they discovered that 'any items were hidden away during the customs check, the whole cargo will be confiscated.'

When French scholars arrived in the mid-19th century, they were impressed with Cham ruins, Cham urbanism, and medieval networks throughout the former kingdom. The middle-age densely populated areas of Tra Kieu and My Son were well connected by paved stone roads, bridges, urban ruins that were 16 feet high, rampart and stone citadel in a rectangle shape of 984 feet by 1640 feet, which hosted temples, fortified palaces, and resident structures.[110]

From the 4th to 15th century, these cities were relatively wealthy. Foreign traders and travelers from across medieval Eurasia were well-aware of Champa's richness and eyewitnessed the crowded, prosperous Cham port-cities. Columbus during his fourth voyage in 1503 around Central America coast, due to contemporary limited knowledge that mistakenly to locate Central America and eastern Asia, thought that he had figured out the kingdom of "Ciampa" where previously visited by Marco Polo in 1290.[111] Because of this, Champa was the target of multiple warring powers surrounding: the Chinese in 4th century-605 AD; the Javanese in 774 and 787, the Vietnamese in 982, 1044, 1069, 1073, 1446, and 1471; the Khmer in 945–950, 1074, 1126–1128, 1139–1150, 1190–1220; and the Mongol Yuan in 1283–85, many cities were ransacked by invaders and rebuilt or repaired overtime. Some Cham port-cities later ended up captured by Vietnamese in the mid-15th century, which later resulted in the rise of Nguyen domain depending on these port-cities, whom benefited international trades, and was well-balanced enough to fend off several northern Trinh invasions in the 17th century.

Archaeological remains

Mỹ Sơn is the site of the largest collection of Cham ruins.
Mỹ Sơn is the site of the largest collection of Cham ruins.
Duong Long ruins in Bình Định province.
Duong Long ruins in Bình Định province.



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.[119]


Champa ladies dance at Poklong Garai stupa in Phan Rang.
Champa ladies dance at Poklong Garai stupa in Phan Rang.

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:

Cham influences on Vietnamese culture

A Vietnamese Shiva figure made by sandstone in Vong La temple, Hanoi, dated 12th century
A Vietnamese Shiva figure made by sandstone in Vong La temple, Hanoi, dated 12th century

Cham culture was absorbed by the Vietnamese, who in turn were strongly influenced by it.[28] In 1044, after raiding Champa, Vietnamese king Lý Thái Tông took some 5,000 female Cham singers, dancers, servants, and engineers to Dai Viet and settled them in the capital Hanoi where they created music for the Vietnamese court and had a direct influence on Vietnamese art.[120][121] Both Lý Thái Tông and his son Lý Thánh Tông had a great appreciation for Cham music,[122] and in 1060 Lý Thái Tông ordered Cham songs to be translated into Vietnamese to incorporate the Cham trong com drum into the royal band.[123][124][122] Scholars also believe that the Vietnamese cult of Princess Liễu Hạnh might have been originated from Cham deity Yang Pu Inu Nagara (Lady Po Nagar).[125]

Even the Vietnamese Quan họ music and Lục bát (six-eight) poetry could have been influenced by Cham poetry and folk music.[126]

Cham art also spread far across the Red River Delta, where many Vietnamese Buddhist temples hosted Cham-style statues of dragons, lions, nāgá, makara, kinnari, Brahma and Hamsa dated back to the 11th–13th century (however, since these creatures also existed in China, it was more likely Chinese influence and not Champa).[127] Thousand of bricks inscribed with Cham script indicate that a multitude of Vietnamese temples and holy sites were built by Cham engineers.[17] A Buddhist stone stupa of Dạm tempe in Bắc Ninh Province, built by Vietnamese king Lý Nhân Tông in 1086, is a representation of a lingam and its yoni (a Hindu-Cham symbol of fertility and the power of creation).[128]

In 1693, after lord Nguyen Phuc Chu's take over of Panduranga, the Cham were forced to wear regulated Vietnamese attire, at least the members of the ruling Mâh Taha dynasty, Cham king Po Saktiraydapatih, and Cham court officials.[129]


It is important to understand that without the Chams and the former kingdom of Champa, Vietnam would probably never have existed. The country not only built itself by incorporating Champa territories and populations, but has also been receptive to a variety of its cultural and religious influences. Indeed, over the centuries, Chams have woven dense networks not just within Vietnam, but all over Southeast Asia. Without the Chams and Champa, this part of the world would look very different.

Nicolas Weber, "The Cham Diaspora in Southeast Asia", p. 158

According to French researcher Denys Lombard, "Champa is not only the name of a former kingdom but it is also of a vast network that extended all over the main Southeast Asian centers". For nearly 1,500 years, the Cham and their diaspora communities had developed and maintained a vast and complex overland and maritime system of networks, not just around modern-day Vietnam, but also extended throughout Mainland and Maritime Southeast Asia. These networks, served not only for trade, but also for connecting peoples, transporting culture, ideas, and religious identities across the region, enduring endless historical possibilities and mutual relationships, significantly helping most of Southeast Asia to transform into their present-day.

Cham culture influenced nearby communities and tamed most of present-day Vietnam and surrounding areas. Despite being formed from one of the least coherent places on Earth, Champa was a formidable seafaring kingdom that outlasted most empires. The Cham today, one of the few microcosms in Southeast Asia that still maintain strong links with neighbouring countries in the region while still retaining their distinct ethnic identity.

Modern Vietnamese perceptions of Champa and its legacy vary. Former South Vietnamese (Republic of Vietnam) intellectuals and writers were more eagerly to speak out on the demise of Champa. The ideology of "Vietnamese triumphalism", more openly recognized the violence and brutal assimilation by the Vietnamese which were forced upon the Cham.[130] They saw this process as "inevitable" and, however, matters of national pride and social Darwinist eugenic sentiments, also explained the trope that the Cham kingdoms were "war-like, aggressive," and "uncivilized" (from the manner of Sinic and Viet-centric point-of-view), depreciating Champa's geopolitical importance and legacy, and so Vietnamese expansions were perceived as justified reactions. At the dawn of the 20th century to the 1970s, when nationalism was the dominant key rallying point in Vietnam among the Vietnamese intellectuals, so in the historiography of Vietnam, political correctness along with discourse about indigenous rights were not considered significant.[131] Thus, the Viet subjugation of Champa and the Nam tiến theory were celebrated and praised among Vietnamese ethno-nationalism.[132][133] Pre-1975 Hanoi-based (Democratic Republic of Vietnam) and post-1975 Vietnamese scholars (Socialist Republic of Vietnam), sought to mitigate Viet ethnocentrism, recasting the image of Champa as a separate kingdom, part of the "greater Vietnamese family", but deserving its own history to be taught.[134] The Hanoi scholars tried to avoid many unpleasant but critical realities of the history of Vietnamese absorption of Champa. They also limiting discourse about Vietnamese aggression or Cham resistance, which indeed are very contradictory to the 20th-century Vietnamese nationalist twisted myth of 'a determined Vietnamese nation who have long traditions of driving out foreign dominations' and the reasons why Hanoi attempted to keep the Cham or other minority groups in intangible.[135][136] Either Marxist or anti-communist, the majority of Vietnamese scholars most commonly emphasize the ethnocentric Red River Delta-centric, monocultural, and Sino-Vietnamese-dichotomy perspectives.[137] Like the early Chinese colonists of ancient Southern China and Northern Vietnam, and later European and American settler-colonist counterparts, the Vietnamese (Kinh) nationalists disregard the non-Kinh minority and indigenous peoples' own histories and their important pasts as passive, inactive objects, and 'unworthy to include'.[138] Today, the Cham are seen as one minority group within the unnoticeable multi-ethnic Vietnam, and their legacy is just only incorporated into the Vietnamese national heritage.[139]

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