10th century Cham temple unearthed in central Vietnam city

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Two tympans with carvings of mythical bird Garuda at a newly unearthed Cham temple in Da Nang indicate that it is the first Cham temple ever discovered in the country where the worship of demigods took place.

In the central city of Da Nang, Vietnamese researchers have uncovered a Cham temple with hundreds of relics that date back to between the 10th and 14th centuries.

The temple was found 2.5 meters underground after three months of excavations over 500 square meters in Hoa Phong Commune, Hoa Vang District, said experts from the National History Museum and the Champa Museum of Da Nang on December 11.

It was built facing the east in an area called Cam Mit, which was damaged by the war in the 1970s.

But many vestiges of its foundation, surrounding walls, gate tower, worshipping tower, and internal roads were found partially intact.

Nearly 630 brick, clay and pottery artifacts have been brought back to the museums for further research.

But many rock items whose value is primarily for worshipping were left at local temples, including a lingam a set of linga and yoni, the respective representations of male and female creative energies.

Nguyen Van Cuong, director of the National History Museum in Hanoi, said one strange thing at the temple is the depiction of the mythical bird Garuda on a front door. Several tympans with incomplete carvings of the bird were found.

"That means the temple also worshipped demigods, instead of only gods like we have found so far based on the front doors of other Cham temples," he said.

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Nguyen Ngoc Chat from the museum told news website VnExpress that archaeologists found many items that had been buried under the ground of the temple, which indicated that the temple's owner had also used it as a cemetery for family members.

The temple's design and relics suggested that the owner held the highest power in the area at the time, Chat said.

He said the researchers also found "holy holes," more than one meter deep.

The walls of the holes were built with broken laterite bricks made from a red soil found in the tropics, and a mixture of clay and plant resin.

The upper areas of the holes were tiled, the lower part was covered by pebbles over a layer of river sand, while the bottom was a mixture of clay and sand, he said.

Chat said holy holes have been found at many Cham temples, but this time was the second time that archeologists found eight small rectangular concave cavities near the bottom of the holes, each holding a rectangular brick, a pebble and two pieces of metal covered in sea sand.

The first time that such cavities were found was at a Cham temple from a millennium ago in the city's Cam Le District. Archeologists in late August, after two years of excavations, said that temple was the biggest found so far in Vietnam, with its foundation suggesting it could have been more than 41 meters tall.

Chat said he could not make specific comments right now about the recent discoveries, but the relics showed that the temple was built under big influences from worshipping and ceremonial traditions. The holes comprised elements from four parts of the nature river, sea, land, and mountain, which also showed the attention to feng shui, he said.

Champa was an Indianized kingdom that ruled in what is now southern and central Vietnam from around the 7th century to 1832, when the territory was taken over by Vietnamese kings.

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