Canh Tien (fairy's wing), a Champa tower built in the 12th century, is one of many historic sites in An Nhon Town, Binh Dinh Province / FILE PHOTO
Those who are keen on discovering Vietnamese history through direct experience of vestiges of the past would do well to visit An Nhon Town, some 20 kilometers northwest of Quy Nhon Town, capital of Binh Dinh Province.
You can add to the experience by visiting the town's historic complex, consisting of citadel ruins, towers and pagodas, using a very old means of transport - horse carriages, which can be found at "stations" like the Dap Da T-section.
Standing at the center of the complex is the Hoang De (Emperor) Citadel, built by Nguyen Nhac, founder of Tay Son Dynasty (1778-1802) in the 18th century.
After several excavations, scientists have unearthed many works like the foundations of a central chamber and an octagonal chamber built with bricks and milky quartz. They have also found two semicircular and one heart-shaped ponds.
According to historical records, the rectangular citadel had three ramparts with the outmost perimeter of 7,400 meters.
It was built on the foundation of the Do Ban Citadel of the former Champa Kingdom, which controlled what is now southern and central Vietnam from approximately the 7th century through 1832.
Do Ban was built in the 10th century and was occupied by King Le Thanh Tong of Le Dynasty (1427-1789) in the 15th century.
Located inside the citadel ruins is Canh Tien (fairy's wing), a Champa tower built in the 12th century.
According to An Nhon Town's website, the tower, once called Tour de Curve by French researchers, was built with a Kalan (altar) "“ an architectural style specific for spiritual and religious structures that allows designers to freely add their creative touches.
Canh Tien has a height of about 20 meters, and its base is almost square with sides that are 10 meters long. It has four vaulted entrances, only one of which (east) leads to inside the tower.
The top of the tower is its most attractive aspect with many carved and sculpted figures like those of Makara "“ a sea-creature in Hindu mythology. The top also has four levels and each corner of a level is divided into multiple smaller levels and decorated as if they were carrying bird wings.
Not far from Canh Tien is Thap Thap (ten towers) Pagoda, one of the biggest and oldest pagodas in Binh Dinh as well as the central region.
Thap Thap is believed to have been built in 1683 from the ruins of ten Champa towers formerly situated on the same site, Long Bich Hill. The four-chamber pagoda, built in the shape of Chinese character å£ (mouth), boasts many treasures, like trees that are over 200 years old, a bell dating back to the 19th century, writings of Nguyen lord Nguyen Phuc Chu (1675-1725), and 2,000 woodblocks of Buddhist scripts.
A garden of 20 ancient towers is located to the north of Thap Thap, and two others can be found behind it.
Standing opposite the pagoda is Mo O Mountain, which looks like a filled out sail.
From Thap Thap, tourists can walk to the Nhan Son (swallow mountain) Pagoda, which stands against the Long Cot Mountain and fronts a big lotus lake.
Nhan Son is often praised for the harmony it achieves between Vietnamese and Champa cultures, clearly seen in two 2.3 meters high statues inside.
According to An Nhon Town's website, the statues are of Dvarapalla (door or gate guardians).
While the statues were built with the Champa sculpture style dating back to the 12th-13th centuries, one is painted in black and the other in red, representing the good and the bad in accordance with Vietnamese beliefs, the website says.
When visiting the Hoang De Citadel ruins, visitors should not miss out on traditional trade villages that have been operational around the citadel for hundreds of years, like the Van Son Pottery Village, Phuong Danh Blacksmithing Village, Bang Chau Copper Casting Village, and Gio Giang Hat-making Village.
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