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Archaeological travel guide to the ruins and history of Dong Duong, an early capital of the Champa Kingdom that established a defining new art style at its renowned Buddhist Monastery.

The story of the Cham people has long been overshadowed in the greater history of mainland Southeast Asia, often overshadowed by sites and cultures like Angkor, Ayutthaya, and Bagan. Perhaps nowhere is this better exemplified than at Indrapura (modern Dong Duong), a Cham state whose unique ancient ruins were recorded in the early 20th Century, then lost to the modern wars that ravaged the country through the next few decades.

The Cham citadel of Indrapura in modern Dong Duong, Vietnam, best known for its unique Buddhist monastery, was an early center of the early Champa civilization. Beginning in 875 CE, Hindu and Buddhist traditions blended to create a new cultural and artistic tradition that would define the Champa culture for centuries to come.

This article will guide you through the history and architecture of the ancient monuments and provide all the information you’ll need to visit the Dong Duong Cham Citadel for yourself.

The Story of Dong Duong Buddhist Monastery and Indrapura Cham Citadel

The ancient Cham city of Indrapura, known today by the local Vietnamese name of Đồng Dương was one of several early cultural centers of the Champa civilization.

For a quick clarification on some of the overlapping terms here:

Indrapura: The Cham name for the ancient Cham settlement that included the Buddhist monastery, the central palace area, and the walled citadel to the east. The term is sometimes used to refer to the surrounding region, which would later be known more generally as Amaravati.

Đồng Dương or Dong Duong: The Vietnamese name of the modern village where Indrapura once stood. The name Dong Duong is now used for both the ruined Buddhist monastery and the general archaeology site.

Quảng Nam or Quang Nam: The modern Vietnamese province where Dong Duong is located, along with several other important Cham archaeological sites including My Son, Chien Dan, Khuong My, and Bang An. Quang Nam province also includes the cities of Hoi An, Tam Ky, and previously the City of Da Nang (now its own district)

Cham: An ethnolinguistic group that inhabited the central and southern Vietnamese coast and is now an ethnic minority in modern Vietnam.

Champa: The collective territory of the Cham city-states (Amaravati, Vijaya, Kauthura, Panduranga, and Indrapura) that share a language and culture. Their unity and centers of power shifted throughout the centuries.

Cham Tower: Hindu monument built by the Cham people of ancient Vietnam. Called kalan by the Chams and tháp chàm by the Vietnamese.

Vietnamese: An ethnolinguistic group that inhabited southeastern China and northeastern Vietnam, now the ethnic majority in modern Vietnam.

Đại Việt or Dai Viet: Early Vietnamese state based in modern Hanoi that bordered Champa to the north and eventually conquered all of Champa territory

The central kalan tower of Architecture Group I at Dong Duong in 1901
The central kalan tower of Architecture Group I at Dong Duong in 1901 (Charles Carpeaux, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Indrapura, a Hindu-Buddhist Citadel in Ancient Vietnam

Indrapura became unique among the Cham centers as a wellspring of Buddhism in a period where most neighboring Champa polities were almost ubiquitously Hindu. Curiously, the form of Buddhism that took root in Indrapura was a type of Vajrayana Buddhism, a different branch than the Mahayana Buddhism that was spreading at the same time through surrounding territories in Southeast Asia and China.

The recorded history of Indrapura begins in 875 CE when, according to an inscription found at Dong Duong, King Indravarman II established a Buddhist monastery for the bodhisattva Avalokitesvara, who took the form of Laksmindra Lôkesvara Svabhayada. This curious incarnation of Avalokiteshvara blends in elements of the Hindu god Indra.

Statue of Laksmindra Lôkesvara Svabhayada (Avalokiteshvara) found at Dong Duong, now housed in the Museum of Cham Sculpture in Da Nang
Statue of Laksmindra Lôkesvara Svabhayada (Avalokiteshvara) found at Dong Duong, now housed in the Museum of Cham Sculpture in Da Nang

From Indrapura, the Indrapura Dynasty ruled over the greater region for the next century. This region included the My Son Sanctuary, the Cham port city that was located at modern Hoi An, the Cham Islands, and Simhapura (modern Tra Kieu).

In the late 11th Century, Dai Viet began expanding its territory in the north, ultimately annexing the northern portions of Indrapura’s territory. By 1069, the Vietnamese leader Lý Thường Kiệt had taken most of the area that is modern Quảng Bình and Quảng Trị provinces.

 While the areas immediately around Indrapura, including My Son, Simhapura, and the Cham Islands remained under Cham control, the Cham political center was moved south to Amaravati (the Châu Sa citadel in modern Quảng Ngãi Province). 

Dvarapala guardians standing on a bull (left) and a makara (right) now housed in the Museum of Cham Sculpture in Da Nang
Dvarapala guardians standing on a bull (left) and a makara (right) now housed in the Museum of Cham Sculpture in Da Nang

Art and Archaeology of Dong Duong Cham Citadel

During the initial documentation of the Dong Duong site, attention was only focused on the western area known now as the Buddhist Monastery. The initial surveys done by French archaeologists and art historians in the early 1900s uncovered hundreds of artifacts and noted religious towers impressive enough to classify as their own art style. The Dong Duong style was characterized by strong Indian and Chinese styles, but these were secondary to indigenous elements. This style would go on to define future Cham art and architecture for several centuries.

Corbeled roofs were a major development toward the end of the My Son period and the beginning of Dong Duong. This new construction technique, influenced by South Indian architecture, allowed for an expansion of architectural styles that would see the older styles of brick buildings integrating sandstone carvings into their exterior decoration.

By the time of Dong Duong (c. 875 CE), the tradition of carved interior pedestals had decreased in popularity, with the decoration moving to the temple’s exterior as kalan towers became more commonplace. However, this did not mean it was gone entirely. One example of an intricately carved interior altar was found in Dong Duong itself. This example was within an entirely closed-off brick temple with no windows and only an east-facing entrance in Architecture Group 1.

Unfortunately, while most of the sculptures found at Dong Duong are now kept in the Cham Sculpture Museum in Da Nang, none of their monumental architecture has survived at the site to the modern day, except for a single brick and sandstone door frame in the located in the Buddhist Monastery area. These remains are part of the gopura from Architecture Group 1, now called Tháp Sáng or “Bright Tower / Shining Tower / The Tower of Light” by the locals.

While some sources state the size of the Dong Duong Buddhist Monastery area as 1300 meters from east to west, this is incorrect. The monastery itself was only 326 meters long. The 1300-meter figure comes from the distance of the palace mound to the Buddhist monastery, which is approximately 1 km from the palace mound.

The Dong Duong Buddhist Monastery

The plan of the Dong Duong Buddhist Monastery.
The plan of the Dong Duong Buddhist Monastery (Maxinvestigator, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

The ruined Buddhist Monastery of Indrapura was the sole focus of the early 20th Century researchers and remains the only part of the ancient settlement discussed in most publications to this day. The Monastery was first recorded in modern times by Henri Parmentier after an initial excavation done in 1902 and has remained the foundational data on all research on the Dong Duong site since.

The Dong Duong Buddhist Monastery is located at the western end of the Indrapura settlement, It is a walled, rectangular area measuring 326 meters east-west and 155 meters north-south, with gates at the eastern and western ends. In a recent paper by researchers Son and Noseworthy, they speak of a local historian who told them the eastern gate ( which faced the palace and citadel) was more pronounced and had statues at each side, which they surmise are dvarapala guardian statues.

Altar and dvarapala statue from Dong Duong, now housed in the Museum of Cham Sculpture in Da Nang
Altar and dvarapala statue from Dong Duong, now housed in the Museum of Cham Sculpture in Da Nang

Inside the walled area were three architectural groups, separated by their own brick enclosure walls, and three ponds (2 at the northeastern corner and 1 at the southeastern corner. One of these ponds has since been filled in by modern local farmers. There are also traces of a well found at the southwestern corner of the walled area.

In their paper, Son and Noseworthy also relate a local legend about the well, saying “if one were to throw a pomelo into the well, the next day, there would be a pomelo in the pond [at the palace]”. They surmise this means there is underground irrigation connecting the ponds in the Buddhist Monastery area and the pond located at the palace mound approximately 1km to the east. They acknowledge that it might also be a secret tunnel for security, however, they point to a similar well-irrigation setup found at Simhapura (modern Tra Kieu) and note that excavations will need to be done to find out if there is any truth to this.

Duong Duong Buddhist Monastery Architecture Group I (West Group)

The plan of the Architecture Group I (West Group) of the Dong Duong Buddhist Monastery
The plan of the Architecture Group I (West Group) of the Dong Duong Buddhist Monastery (Maxinvestigator, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Dong Duong Architecture Group 1 was at the far western end of the Buddhist monastery and contained the most important temple for use by Indrapura’s royalty. Architecture Group 1 contains:

  • The central kalan (tower) was the main royal temple of the Duong Duong Buddhist monastery. It was the largest monument in the group with a square base, and has a door with an extended porch opening to the east. Inside the sanctuary was a sandstone altar carved with worm-shaped patterns, scenes of royal life, and some scenes from the life of Shakyamuni Buddha (Siddhartha Gautama). Standing atop this altar was a 114 cm (45 inches) tall brass statue of Laksmindra-Lokesvara.
  • Large stele tower directly in front (east) of the central kalan’s entrance. This square stele tower has doors opening on each side.
  • Secondary kalans (towers) directly to the north and south of the central kalan.
  • Two small templions behind (west) the central kalan. These contained shrines to ancestral kings.
  • One smaller stele tower to the southwest of the central kalan.
  • A repository directly south of the large stele tower. It consisted of 2 rooms and was used for storing valuable items.
  • A brick enclosure wall surrounding the entire royal temple group (Architecture Group 1).
  • Seven shrines to the Lokpala gods along the interior of the enclosure wall (4 in the corners, 3 at the center of the walls). The Lokpala shrines are meant to guard the cardinal directions.
  • A gopura (gate tower) in the eastern enclosure wall. 
  • Statues of Dvarapala guardians on each side of the gopura’s doors (4 total). The Dvarapalas are standing on a buffalo and a Makara.
  • Two stupas decorated with ring patterns outside of the gopura.
  • Ten columns arranged in a single north-south line outside the western enclosure wall.

Duong Duong Buddhist Monastery Architecture Group II (Central Group)

The plan of the Architecture Group II (Central Group) of the Dong Duong Buddhist Monastery
The plan of the Architecture Group II (Central Group) of the Dong Duong Buddhist Monastery (Maxinvestigator, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Dong Duong Architecture Group 2 was in the middle of the Buddhist monastery and connected the western royal temples with the eastern monastic temples. It is an open plan with no enclosure wall Architecture Group 2 contains:

  • A single, rectangular closed mandapa with 4 doors and several windows.
  • Two rows of 7 small towers running along the north and south side of the mandapa.
  • A gopura (gate tower) on the eastern side connecting it to the monastic temple group (Architecture Group 3)
  • Two stupas on the east (outer) side of the gopura within the Architecture Group 3 enclosure wall.

Duong Duong Buddhist Monastery Group III (East Group)

The plan of the Architecture Group III (East Group) of the Dong Duong Buddhist Monastery
The plan of the Architecture Group III (East Group) of the Dong Duong Buddhist Monastery (Maxinvestigator, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Dong Duong Architecture Group 3 was at the eastern end of the Buddhist monastery and contained the temple for ceremonies by Indrapura’s monks and clergy. Architecture Group 3 contains:

  • A single, open-plan rectangular temple with a large sandstone altar at the western end. This reflects the pre-Dong Duong style before brick kalan towers with closed sanctuaries became the norm. This open vihara temple was supported by brick columns and had a wooden-frame roof covered with tiles.
  • Atop the sandstone altar was a 285 cm (112 inches) statue of the Shakyamuni Buddha (Siddhartha Gautama) sitting with hands on knees, reminiscent of a king on a throne.
  • Eight large brick columns on the north and south side of the temple.
  • Twelve smaller columns surrounded these 8 columns.
  • Dvarapala statues at the eastern temple entrance at the end of the rows of brick columns.
  • A brick enclosure wall surrounding the entire monastic temple (Architecture Group 3).
  • A large gopura (gate tower) on the eastern enclosure wall and 2 smaller gopuras on the north and south walls.

The Indrapura Palace Area

The Royal Palace of Indrapura was located approximately 1 km west of the Buddhist Monastery on an artificially raised mound. Curiously, this is both where Henri Parmentier set up camp during his excavations and where the modern government building, the People’s Committee of Bình Định Bắc Commune, is located.

The mound measures 340 meters north-south and 260 meters east-west, with a 180 m x 100 m pond in the middle. An inscription from Jaya Simhavarman I (the 2nd king of Indrapura) tells of “The splendid royal Indrapura city…beautified by white lotus, and ornamented with excellent lotus flowers, made by Bhṛgu in ancient times…”. However, the inscription was broken when discovered, leaving further description of the city to the imagination. Despite that, lotus flowers still bloom in the pond today.

In the lower area around the palace mound are traces of a wide moat, trenches, and a raised road heading west toward the Buddhist Monastery. This road is raised about 1 meter above the surrounding landscapes (like the palace mound), approximately 750 meters long, and averages 10 meters wide. 

Charles Carpeaux at the Dong Duong gopura in 1902
Charles Carpeaux at the Dong Duong gopura in 1902 (Charles Carpeaux, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

The Indrapura (Dong Duong) Citadel

The main citadel of Indrapura is east of the palace mound and was a fortified area between the Ngọc Khô Stream and the Bà Đăng Stream. Son and Noseworthy mention the citadel as being close in size to the Cham citadel of Amaravati, which later became the Châu Sa Citadel. 

The modern measurements of the Châu Sa Citadel (by the length of the outer moat) is approximately 750 meters per side. Relying solely on satellite imagery of the area and the descriptions from Son and Noseworthy’s paper, I’ve marked what I believe is the citadel area. On the map in this post, however, this may be incorrect.

Based on in-person archaeological surveys, Son and Noseworthy describe the citadel area as having an outer and inner citadel. The outer citadel hugs the riverbanks and has traces of more modest architecture. The inner citadel was protected by thick brick walls, of which there are still some traces.

Inside the citadel, near the center, is a roughly square feature that was raised above the surrounding landscape. According to Son and Noseworthy, this structure measures approximately 110 m (360 feet) on each side and has remnants of watchtowers or bastions at each of its corners.

Along with piles of rubble and Cham-designed tiles found near the square construction, Son and Noseworthy believe these were part of a single structure – most likely a religious building.

This structure, and the entire citadel, sit at the eastern end of an east-west route that crosses from the monastery to the palace to the citadel to the Ngọc Khô Stream, which connects to the Ly Ly River, and goes directly to the seaport at the nearby coast.

Watchtowers Along the Waterway to Indrapura

Along the Ngọc Khô Stream, stretching from the Indrapura citadel to the confluence with the Ly Ly River, Son and Noseworthy found traces of at least 5 brick watchtowers (4 on the south bank, 1 on the north bank). However, these are not in the arrangements that would be expected, leading the researchers to expect there could have been up to 3 more towers located on the north bank.

The remnants of these watchtowers line what would have been the northern boundary of Indrapura and its water access to the ocean. They are made of bricks and stone blocks with a spiral staircase of bricks along the central wall. Son and Noseworthy estimate they were originally about 10 m (33 feet) tall, however, very little is left of them today.

According to locals that Son and Noseworthy spoke to, the watchtowers were in much better condition around the turn of the 20th Century. However, local farmers scavenged and reused the bricks for construction projects over the past century. These were often to dam the nearby streams or as the base of bridges. Due to poor construction and wartime damage, most of these have not lasted until the present day.

Curiously, inside watchtowers that do remain, there are 2-sided inscriptions on tablets (120x70x50 cm / 47×27.5×20 inches) written in Vietnamese, rather than Cham. This indicates that these watchtowers were reused by the later Vietnamese people after the Chams had abandoned the city.

Close-up of an altar made of grey sandstone from a local quarry
Close-up of an altar made of grey sandstone from a local quarry

The Indrapura Quarry

During their research of the Indrapura citadel, Son and Noseworthy also made it a point to look for the source of the stone used in the Cham carvings in the city. While most of the buildings were constructed of the characteristic Cham brickwork, several large, stone sculptures were also present. While most of those that survive were moved to the Museum of Cham Sculpture in Da Nang, a few are still at the local temple near the archaeology site.

The closest source for the stone that makes up these sculptures are the Trà Cai Mountains, which begin about 6-7 km directly south of Dong Duong in the modern town of Bình Trị. 

Here, researchers have found the same kind of light grey sandstone that naturally occurs in easy-to-cut formations. In these low hills are also saw marks from unfinished cuts and other etchings in the stone, which Son and Noseworthy hypothesize are either unfinished writing or religious diagrams.

Dong Duong Cham Citadel in the Modern Era

After its abandonment by the Cham, the Dong Duong area continued to be inhabited by the Vietnamese. During this time, the monuments were mostly ignored and left to the elements, as was the case with most of the monumental Cham ruins throughout the country. 

Duong Duong in the French Colonial Period

Like most of the better-known Cham ruins along the Vietnamese coast, Dong Duong was first excavated and extensively documented by the French, who had controlled Vietnam beginning in 1877. Around the turn of the 20th Century, French researchers began to take note of the ancient Cham temples throughout the country.

An early photo from Dong Duong in 1902
An early photo from Dong Duong in 1902 (Charles Carpeaux, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

The first scholar to publish about Dong Duong was Louis Finot, who announced the discovery of 229 artifacts at the site in 1901. He published his first study of the area in 1904.

Henri Parmentier is the most famous name associated with the Dong Duong archaeology site, and it is his work that most modern studies use as a starting point. Parmentier performed the first excavations at Dong Duong in 1902 and published his findings in volumes in 1909 and 1918. These publications contained detailed measurements, descriptions, drawings, and early photographs of the monuments at the Buddhist monastery.

Duong Duong in the 20th Century

Although two small studies of Dong Duong were published in 1942 (Stern) and 1963 (Bosselier), most of the 20th Century saw little work done at the site. This was due, in large part, to the series of wars that took place in Vietnam.

The wars, combined with locals using the bricks as makeshift building materials during these times, resulted in the destruction of many Cham monuments at My Son and almost everything at Dong Duong.

Duong Duong in the Present Day

Today, the ancient city of Indrapura is built over by the village of Bình Định Bắc, previously (and still colloquially) called Dong Duong. According to a local report on the town, it has 130 households, 80% of whom have the family name “Tra”. 

The local (modern) Buddhist temple is even named “Nhà Thờ Tổ Tộc Trà Đồng Dương” or “Temple of the Tra Tribe of Dong Duong”. It’s important to note that temples like this are as much about ancestor worship as they are about Buddhist beliefs.

In 2000, Dong Duong received the status of “Special National Heritage”. Later, on December 22, 2016, the ancient Dong Duong Buddhist Monastery was declared a “Special National Relic” by the Prime Minister.

In a 2011 Tuổi Trẻ newspaper article cited by Son and Noseworthy, it was announced a “Workshop on the Conservation of Champā Monuments of Đồng Dương Buddhist Monastery” would be taking place. What this means in practice is unclear, given there is very little left to conserve.

Monument E7 at My Son has been highly criticized for it reconstruction
Monument E7 at My Son has been highly criticized for it reconstruction

A similar reconstruction effort took place at My Son’s Monument Group G and Monument E7. These have been widely criticized for both not accurately representing the ancestral Cham towers and for damaging or destroying the true ancient remnants they are built upon. Modern descendants of the Cham people have expressed concern that a similar issue might arise if the Vietnamese Institute for Conservation of Monuments (ICM) were to conduct a similar project at Dong Duong. 

As of my visit in 2019 and the paper by Son and Noseworthy published in 2021, no clear action has been taken in this initiative.

My Visit to the Dong Duong Cham Citadel

Map of the Dong Duong Cham Citadel and Nearby Monuments Mentioned

The day was drawing to a close as I neared the last ancient Champa site that I’d be visiting on this trip through Quang Nam province: the Dong Duong Buddhist Monastery. After leaving Tam Ky in the morning, I had first ridden the rented motorbike south of the city to the Khuong My Cham Towers, then north along Highway QL1A to the Chien Dan Cham Towers.

Arriving at the Dong Duong Buddhist Monastery

Compared to other nearby Cham sites like My Son, Chien Dan, and Khuong My, relatively little recent information had been available about the current state of the Dong Duong ruins. There are, of course, several academic papers and photos of their original state, and subsequent information on how much of it had been destroyed over the course of the 20th Century through wars and general looting.

The turnoff from the 'main road' to the main Dong Duong ruins
The turnoff from the ‘main road’ to the main Dong Duong ruins

That said, I had no idea just how little was left until I arrived. Turning off Highway QL1A at the direction of my GPS, as there were no signs pointing the way, I continued down out into the obscure countryside completely blindly until the GPS said I was in the general area. 

However, there was still no clear indication of any archaeology sites as I passed through what could barely be considered the nearest village of Bình Định Bắc. It was only after I’d passed the village that one of the characteristically vague signs of a Vietnamese archaeology site appeared on the right side of the road. However, it still didn’t give any direction to the ruins, only indicating that there was something nearby.

As I was stopped at the side of the road looking at the satellite map of the area and gauging where the sign was referring to, a man started waving at me from down the side road. A lone and confused foreigner on a motorcycle way out here probably meant only one thing and he was happy to lead me to the ruins.

The local man who led me to the Dong Duong ruins and the local temple that houses ancient stone carvings
The local man who led me to the Dong Duong ruins and the local temple that houses ancient stone carvings

He waved me down the side road a few hundred meters and then took down a path in a nearby field. Standing far out into the grass was a solitary brick structure obscured by a network of metal scaffolding. 

This one doorway, he communicated in mostly gestures (since my Vietnamese was nonexistent), was the only ancient structure in the area to see. Scattered throughout the high grass were also a few stray stones that had been used in other structures and piles of random bricks. But, everything else of this grand Buddhist monastery had long since been destroyed.

What remained of the doorway was now barely standing and only by the use of metal supports so intricate that they made it hard to see the details of the Cham ruins.

Despite its current state, there are still signs that the locals come here out of reverence. Like other ancient structures, both in Vietnam and neighboring countries, locals had placed ceramics, offerings, and incense nearby the structure. Some used incense sticks were even wedged between the scaffolding supports and the brick structure.

To my surprise, the man who had shown me the pathway to the ruins was still hanging around after I had spent a while walking aimlessly around the field looking for other stray relics. As I started going back to my parked motorbike, he prompted me to follow him to the nearby modern temple just down the road.

While it isn’t apparent from the roadside, this temple houses several ancient Cham sculptures from the ancient city of Indrapura. A brief rainstorm passed over as I looked through their small courtyard of carvings including a stone elephant (possibly a gajasimha, but the face was broken) and original stone inscriptions in the Cham language.

A carving and inscription from Dong Duong housed at the nearby temple
A carving and inscription from Dong Duong housed at the nearby temple

After the rainstorm passed, I returned from Dong Duong to the QL1A highway, I continued south back to Tam Ky, where I’d spend one more evening in the Muong Thanh Grand Quang Nam Hotel. In the morning, the company where I’d rented the motorbike in Hoi An would be meeting me to pick it up. Then, a quick flight back to Ho Chi Minh City to visit my friend Simon before returning home to Chiang Mai.

How to Get to the Dong Duong Cham Citadel

GPS Coordinates: 15.67536, 108.29446

With the possible exception of the My Son Sanctuary, Dong Duong is the most isolated of all the Cham ruins around Quang Nam Province. However, Dong Duong is not a tourist attraction. So, unlike My Son, Dong Duong is not well marked by signs in either Vietnamese or English.

The blue cultural heritage sign is the most obvious indicator you're near the Dong Duong ruins
The blue cultural heritage sign is the most obvious indicator you’re near the Dong Duong ruins

The simplest way to find the Dong Duong ruins is to follow the GPS coordinates. The easiest markers in finding Dong Duong are the Chien Dan ruins and the QL1A highway that connects Tam Ky with Da Nang. The Cham ruins of Chien Dan also sit along this highway, approximately 17 km (10 miles) south of the road (QL14E) that you need to turn west onto. 

The intersection of the QL14E road and QL1A highway is the main intersection in the village of Hà Lam, which is 21 km north of Tam Ky and 35 kilometers south of Da Nang. Following QL14E for approximately 10 km, you’ll arrive in the village of Bình Định Bắc, where the dong Duong ruins are located. About halfway there, you will pass a newly constructed divided highway.

There is a small turnoff on the north side of the road marked by a blue sign in English and Vietnamese stating “CULTURAL HERITAGE IN OUR HEART AND IN OUR HANDS!”. 250 meters (800 feet) down this side road is a small Buddhist temple that houses some of the remaining Cham carvings from the archaeological site. 

The path leading back to the Dong Duong ruins
The path leading back to the Dong Duong ruins

Going another 200 meters (650 feet) is a path on the south side of the road that leads to the sole remaining structure of the ancient Dong Duong Buddhist monastery: a door frame from the farthest gopura being supported by scaffolding.

Fast Facts


A future compassionate Buddha incarnation meant to usher in enlightenment followers of the Mahayana Buddhist sect

A being in Buddhism who has achieved enlightenment, but puts off nirvana in order to help others achieve enlightenment

Dharmic religion centered on the belief of karma and release from the cycle of reincarnation. Based on the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama

Austronesian ethnic group native to Southeast Asia that once controlled the Hindu Champa civilization in the region of modern Vietnam. Today, the Cham people are a minority in Vietnam and largely practice Islam.

An Indianized Hindu kingdom in ancient Vietnam known for constructing Tháp Chàm, their iconic Cham Towers dedicated to Shiva and other Hindu deities.

Cham Tower
Hindu monument built by the Cham people of ancient Vietnam.

Guardian spirits meant to protect the tenets of Buddhism

A gate-tower that serves as the entrance to an important structure in Hindu-Buddhist architecture

Sky god and king of the devas in Hindu mythology

The northernmost region of the Champa Kingdom and name of the capital city 

Indravarman II
Cham king from 854-893 CE and founder Champas 6th Dynasty (Indrapura Dyansty) with his capital at Indrapura (modern Dong Duong, Vietnam). Indravarman II also established a renowned Buddhist monastery at Dong Duong

Cham word for their brick tower sanctuaries that housed shrines to various deities, chiefly Shiva. The structure of the kalan represents a microcosm of the Hindu metaphysical realm, with the base of the tower representing the physical world, the tower’s body representing the heavenly realm, and the pyramidal design at the top representing Mount Meru

Laksmindra Lôkesvara
A syncretic manifestation of Avalokiteshvara that incorporates aspects of the Hindu thunder god, Indra

Guardians of the cardinal directions in Hindu mythology

Mahayana Buddhism
A sect of Buddhism focused on the reverence of bodhisattvas

Mythological sea creature in Hinduism often depicted as a crocodile with land animal (deer or elephant) features. Commonly used as a decoration on Hindu and Buddhist temples

A hall or gathering area inside a Hindu temple’s gates leading to the inner temple sanctuary

Parmentier, Henri
A French researcher who documented many of the first excavations and surveys of ancient Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam in the early 1900s (then French Indochina)

Shakyamuni Buddha
An epithet of Siddhartha Gautama, the founder of Buddhism, derived from his origins in the Shakya clan of northern India

Buddhist monument used to enshrine sacred relics or memorialize important figures. Its dome, bell, or otherwise tower-like appearance is an architectural representation of Mount Meru, the cosmic mountain said to represent the structure of the universe in Hindu-Buddhist cosmology

Vajrayana Buddhism
Sect of Buddhism that embraces tantric practices and mysticism


Benjamin Williams

Hi all, my name is Ben. I’m a native Michigander with a passion for human culture and new places, and more than that, new experiences. I have degrees in archaeology and writing, pursuing a career in the latter. However, I never quite lost that fascination for archaeological theory. For the past 11 years, I’ve been living and travelling between Asia, Europe, and North America, documenting ancient sites and the peoples who built them, and then adapting them into practical archaeological travel information at

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