The kingdom of Champa (Chăm Pa in Vietnamese or Chiêm Thành in Hán Việt records) was an Indianized kingdom and controlled what is now southern and central Vietnam from approximately the 7th century through to 1832. Champa was preceded in the region by a kingdom called Lin-yi or Lâm Ấp (in existence since 192 A.D.), but the historical relationship between Lin-yi and Champa is not clear. Champa reached its apogee in the 9th and 10th centuries A.D. Thereafter began a gradual decline under pressure from the Đại Việt which was then Northern Vietnam. In 1471, Viet troops sacked the northern Cham capital of Vijaya, and in 1697 the southern principality of Panduranga became a vassal of the Vietnamese emperor. In 1832, the Vietnamese emperor Minh Mang annexed the remaining Cham territories.
Historical Champa was a confederation of up to five principalities, each named after a historic region in India:
Within the four principalities there were two main groups: the Dua and the Cau. The Dua lived in Amarvati and Vijaya while the Cau lived in Kauthara and Pandaranga. 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.
To the Chinese, the country of Champa was known as Linyi (林邑) and to the Vietnamese, Lâm Ấp. It had been founded in 192 A.D. in the region of modern Hue by a local leader rebelling against the Han Chinese. Over the next several centuries, Chinese forces made repeated unsuccessful attempts to retake the region.
From its neighbor Funan to the west, Lâm Ấp soon received the gift of Indian civilization. Scholars locate the historical beginnings of Champa in the 4th century A.D., when the process of Indianization was well underway. It was in this period that the Cham people began to create stone inscriptions in both Sanskrit and in their own language, for which they created a unique script.
The first king acknowledged in the inscriptions is Bhadravarman, who reigned from 349 to 361 A.D. At My Son, King Bhadravarman established a god named Bhadresvara, whose name was a combination of the king's own name and that of the Hindu god of gods Shiva. The worship of the original god-king under the name Bhadresvara and other names continued through the centuries that followed.
The capital of Lâm Ấp at the time of Bhadravarman was the citadel of Simhapura ("Lion City"), which was located along two rivers and had a wall eight miles in circumference. A Chinese writer described the people of Lâm Ấp as both warlike and musical, with "deep eyes, a high straight nose, and curly black hair.
According to Chinese records, Sambhuvarman (Fan Fan Tche) was crowned king of Lâm Ấp in 529 A.D. Inscriptions credit him with rehabilitating the temple to Bhadresvara after a fire. Sambhuvarman also sent delegations and tribute to China, and unsuccessfully invaded what is now northern Vietnam. In 605 A.D., a general Liu Fang of the Sui dynasty invaded Lâm Ấp, won a battle by luring the enemy war-elephants into an area booby-trapped with camouflaged pits, massacred the defeated troops, and captured the capital. In the 620s, the kings of Lâm Ấp sent delegations to the court of the recently established Tang Dynasty and asked to become vassals of the Chinese court.
Chinese records report the death of the last king of Lâm Ấp as falling in 756 A.D. Thereafter for a time, the Chinese referred to Champa as "Hoan Vuong" or "Huanwang". The earliest Chinese records using a name related to "Champa" are dated 877 A.D.; however, such names had been in use by the Cham themselves since at least 629 A.D., and by the Khmer since at least 657 A.D.
From the 7th to the 10th century A.D., the Cham controlled the trade in spices and silk between China, India, the Indonesian islands, and the Abbassid empire in Baghdad. They supplemented their income from the trade routes not only by exporting ivory and aloe, but also by engaging in piracy and raiding.
By the second half of the 7th century A.D., royal temples were beginning to make their appearance at My Son. The dominant religious cult was that of the Hindu god Shiva, but temples were also dedicated to Vishnu. Scholars have called the architectural style of this period My Son E1, in reference to a particular edifice at My Son that is regarded as emblematic of the style. Important surviving works of art in this style include a pedestal for a linga that has come to be known as the My Son E1 Pedestal and a pediment depicting the birth of Brahma from a lotus issuing from the navel of the sleeping Vishnu.
In an important stone inscription dated 657 A.D. and found at My Son, King Prakasadharma, who took on the name Vikrantavarman I at his coronation, claimed to be descended through his mother from the Brahman Kaundinya and the serpent princess Soma, the legendary ancestors of the Khmer of Cambodia. This inscription thus underlines the ethnic and cultural connection of Champa with the Khmer Empire, its perennial rival to the west. It also commemorates the king's dedication of a monument, probably a linga, to Shiva. Another inscription documents the king's almost mystical devotion to Shiva, "who is the source of the supreme end of life, difficult to attain; whose true nature is beyond the domain of thought and speech, yet whose image, identical with the universe, is manifested by his forms."
In 875 A.D., King Indravarman II founded a new northern dynasty at Indrapura (Dong Duong near Da Nang in modern Vietnam). Eager to claim an ancient lineage, Indravarman declared himself the descendant of Bhrigu, the venerable sage whose exploits are detailed in the Mahabharata, and asserted that Indrapura had been founded by the same Bhrigu in ancient times.
Indravarman was the first Cham monarch to adopt Mahayana Buddhism as an official religion. At the center of Indrapura, he constructed a Buddhist monastery (vihara) dedicated to the bodhisattva Lokesvara. The foundation, regrettably, was devastated during the Vietnam War. Thankfully, some photographs and sketches survive from the prewar period. In addition, some stone sculptures from the monastery are preserved in Vietnamese museums. Scholars have called the artistic style typical of the Indrapura the Dong Duong Style. The style is characterized by its dynamism and ethnic realism in the depiction of the Cham people. Surviving masterpieces of the style include several tall sculptures of fierce dvarapalas or temple guardians that were once positioned around the monastery. The period in which Buddhism reigned as the principal religion of Champa came to an end in approximately 925, at which time the Dong Duong Style also began to give way to subsequent artistic styles linked with the restoration of Shaivism as the national religion.
Kings belonging to the dynasty of Indrapura built a number of temples at My Son in the 9th and 10th centuries A.D. Their temples at My Son came to define a new architectural and artistic style, called by scholars the My Son A1 Style, again in reference to a particular foundation at My Son regarded emblematic for the style. With the religious shift from Buddhism back to Shaivism around the beginning of the 10th century, the center of Cham religion also shifted from Dong Duong back to My Son.
Interesting parallels may be observed between the history of northern Champa (Indrapura and Vijaya) and that of its neighbor and rival to the west, the Khmer civilization of Angkor, located just to the north of the great lake Tonle Sap in what is now Cambodia. The foundation of the Cham dynasty at Indrapura in 875 A.D. was followed just two years later by the foundation at Roluos in 877 of the Khmer empire by King Indravarman I, who united two previously independent regions of Cambodia. The parallels continued as the two peoples flourished from the 10th through the 12th centuries, then went into gradual decline, suffering their ultimate defeat in the 15th century. In 1238 A.D., the Khmer lost control of their western possessions around Sukhothai as the result of a Thai revolt. The successful revolt not only ushered in the era of Thai independence, but also foreshadowed the eventual abandonment of Angkor in 1431 A.D. following its sack by Thai invaders from the kingdom of Ayutthaya, which had absorbed Sukhothai in 1376. The decline of Champa was roughly contemporaneous with that of Angkor, and was precipitated by pressure from the Dai Viet of what is now northern Vietnam, culminating in the conquest and obliteration of Vijaya in 1471 A.D.
In 979 A.D., the Cham King Parameshvaravarman I (Phê Mi Thuê to the Viet) sent a fleet to attack Hoa Lu. The ill-fated expedition was however scuttled by a tempest. In 982, King Le Hoan of the Dai Viet sent three ambassadors to Indrapura. When the ambassadors were detained, Le Hoan decided to go on the offensive. Viet troops sacked Indrapura and killed King Phê Mi Thuê. They carried off Cham dancers and musicians who subsequently came to influence the development of the arts in Dai Viet. As a result of these setbacks, the Cham abandoned Indrapura around 1000 A.D. The center of Champa was relocated south to Vijaya in modern Binh Dinh.
Around 1080 A.D., a new dynasty from the Korat Plateau in modern Thailand occupied the throne of Angkor in Cambodia. Soon enough, the kings of the new dynasty embarked on a program of empire-building. Rebuffed in their attempts to conquer Dai Viet in the 1130s, they turned their attention to Champa. In 1145 A.D., a Khmer army under King Suryavarman II, the founder of Angkor Wat, occupied Vijaya and destroyed the temples at My Son. The Khmer king then proceeded to attempt the conquest of all of northern Champa. In 1149 A.D., however, the ruler of the southern principality of Panduranga, King Jaya Harivarman, defeated the invaders and had himself consecrated king of kings in Vijaya. He spent the rest of his reign putting down rebellions in Amaravati and Panduranga.
In 1167 A.D., King Jaya Indravarman IV ascended to the throne in Champa. An inscription characterized him as brave, well-versed in weapons, and knowledgeable of philosophy, Mahayana theories and the Dharmasutra. After securing peace with the Dai Viet in 1170, Jaya Indravarman invaded Cambodia with inconclusive results. In 1177, however, his troops launched a surprise attack against the Khmer capital of Yasodharapura from warships piloted up the Mekong River to the great lake Tonle Sap in Cambodia. The invaders sacked the capital, killed the Khmer king, and made off with much booty.
Following the conquest of Vijaya, the Khmer king installed his own brother-in-law, Prince In, as a puppet king in Champa. Civil war broke out, however, between several factions. In the end, Prince In prevailed, but declared his independence from Cambodia. Khmer troops attempted unsuccessfully to regain control over Champa throughout the 1190s. In 1203 A.D., finally, Jayavarman VII's generals took Vijaya, and Champa effectively became a province of Angkor, not to regain its independence until 1220. Thereafter, Vijaya went into a period of gradual decline that lasted for more than two centuries. This period ended in a total defeat at the hands of the Dai Viet, and was briefly interrupted by a period of astounding military success under the warrior king Che Bong Nga.
Cham forces sacked Thang Long, the capital city of Dai Viet located at the site of modern Hanoi, in 1372 and then again in 1377. A last attack in 1388 was checked by the Vietnamese General Ho Quy Ly, future founder of the Ho Dynasty. Che Bong Nga died two years later in 1390. This was the last serious offensive by the Cham against Dai Viet, but it helped spell the end of the Tran Dynasty, which had forged its reputation in the wars against the Mongols a century earlier, but which now revealed itself as weak and ineffective in the face of the Cham invasions.
In 1470, the Dai Viet, led by the great emperor Le Thanh Tong, again invaded Champa. Le Thanh Tong was an extraordinary administrator and leader. The Dai Viet army was very powerful and well organized. By contrast the Cham were disorganized and weak. Vijaya was captured after four days of fighting on March 21 1471. The Cham king Tra-Toan was captured and died not long thereafter. At least 60,000 Cham people were killed and 30,000 were taken as slaves by the Vietnamese army. The capital of Vijaya was obliterated. As a result of the victory, Le Thanh Tong annexed the principalities of Amaravati and Vijaya. This defeat caused the first major Cham emigration, particularly to Cambodia and Malacca.
In 1692, the Cham Lord Po Sot rebelled against Nguyễn Phúc Trần who ruled southern Vietnam. The revolt was at first unsuccessful and the aftermath was exacerbated by an outbreak of plague in Panduranga. However, a Cham aristocrat Oknha Dat obtained the help of the general A Ban, a Lauw (Orang Laut? Overseas Chinese?) leader. They defeated the Nguyễn forces of Nguyễn Phúc Chu in 1695. After the victory, new king Po Saktiray Da Patih (younger brother of Po Sot) signed a peace treaty with Nguyễn Phuc Chu. As a result of the treaty, the Cham lords were called as Trấn Vương (local lord) of Thuận Thành(Panduranga) by the Nguyễn Lords, and they were closely supervised by Nguyễn officials.
Although the Cham lords had authority to the Cham people, "Archives du Panduranga" supplied some evidences about their limited authority over Vietnamese settlers. The Cham lords often played the role of the judge for Kinh-Cham conflict cases.
17 years later, in 1712, the Nguyễn Lord Nguyễn Phúc Chu made new treaty called "the treaty with 5 articles"(Ngũ điều Nghị định) with the Cham Lord Po Saktiray Da Patih and clarified the right (included the trial right of the Cham lords and Cham people) and the obligation of the Cham Lords and the Nguyen Lords. This new treaty was kept until 1832 by the Cham Lords, Nguyễn Lords, Tây Sơn Lords and Nguyễn Emperors.
As a result of the war between the Tây Sơn, under Nguyễn Nhạc, and Nguyễn Ánh, in 1786, the Cham Lord Chei Krei Brei and his court fled to Cambodia. The assumption behind this flight is that they supported the Nguyễn Lords and the Tây Sơn Lords seemed to have won the war. From then on, the Cham Lords' title was downgraded to prefect.
In 1796, during the last years of the Tây Sơn, Tuen Phaow, a noble from Makah (Kelantan), headed a major revolt against the new Cham leaders (Po Ladhwan Paghuh, Po Chơng Chơn and Po Klan Thu) and claimed Kelantan's support but the revolt was defeated. The Cham leaders regained their special rights once Nguyễn Ánh (the Emperor Gia Long) regained control over Vietnam in 1802. But even the limited Cham rule in Panduranga officially came to an end in 1832, when the Emperor Minh Mạng annexed the area.
Before the conquest of Champa by the Vietnamese king Lê 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 linga, the mukhalinga, the jatalinga, the segmented linga, and the kosa.
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 Quang Nam Province of modern Vietnam) adopted Mahayana Buddhism as its faith. The Buddhist art of Dong Duong has received special acclaim for its originality.
In the 10th centuries and following, Hinduism again became the predominant religion of Champa. Some of the sites which have yielded important works of religious art and architecture from this period are, aside from My Son, Khuong My, Tra Kieu, Chanh Lo, and Thap Mam.
The most significant site for Cham temple architecture is at My Son (Viet: Mỹ Sơn) near the town of Hoi An (Viet: Hội An). The large complex at My Son was heavily damaged by US 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 (An Nam), including the following:
The largest collection of Cham sculpture may be found in the Danang Museum of Cham Sculpture (formerly known as "Musée Henri Parmentier") in the coastal city of Da Nang (Viet: Đà Nẵng). 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: