So many things have shaped Vietnam over the centuries. If you book a Vietnam travel package you will see some of the physical reminders of that as you travel around. The Champa Kingdom which was a major force for fifteen centuries in South East Asia. Perhaps the major place to visit to learn more about the Kingdom is Hoi An which was a major trading port as early as the 7th Century? It is regularly part of a Vietnam tour itinerary.
Trading brought the Champa Kingdom into contact with neighbouring countries and indirectly it led to cultural influences being absorbed into this part of mainland Asia.
There is myth about the origins of the Kingdom; the goddess, Po Nagar, was abandoned in a forest and raised by a woodcutter and his wife. She grew up and one day brought home a piece of sandalwood which she stored away so that no one could touch it. One day, she announced to her parents that she had been summoned to the court of the Chinese Emperor to marry the Crown Prince. Reluctantly, they finally let her leave and on her way, she threw the sandalwood into the sea. She disappeared at that point while the wood was carried to the Chinese Coast and taken to the Court as it was of obvious value. The Crown Prince wrapped it in silk and that night Po Nagar emerged from the silk. They married but after a few weeks, she told her husband she wanted to visit her foster parents but he refused her permission. She went to the shore and threw the sandalwood back into the sea and disappeared once more.
The Prince set sail in search of her but that angered Ngoc Hoang, the Jade Emperor, who turned the ship to stone as it sought to dock at Nha Trang. Po Nagar remained in Vietnam and became revered for her good works.
The historical facts according to Chinese sources begin in 192 AD, referred to as Lin-Yi, when locals revolted against the Chinese near to today’s Hue. Chinese explorers moving south had settled this area and the connection was maintained for centuries. China’s unity was threatened in 220AD with the end of the Han Dynasty and for a few centuries, there was little strength in the region. The Cham’s attempts to exploit this were defeated by Pham Tu, the Chinese General, and when the Tang Dynasty took control in the 7th Century, the Cham sued for peace.
India was also playing a role in the region. Hinduism and Buddhism came from the west and local art absorbed much of the imagery of Hindu Gods. The Champa style of architecture also took a great deal from India; the My Son ruins which many tourists visit during a Vietnam holiday are a good example. The Champa Towers built in built from the 4TH Century onwards appeal to many travellers interested in archaeology. Vishnu, Shiva and Krishna are the inspirations of many such towers.
The Kingdom began to shrink and was relatively insignificant after the 15th Century though it continued until early in the 18th Century. There are still around 100,000 people from the Cham ethnic tribe living on Vietnam’s Central coastline, living on the land, growing rice and other vegetables, fishing and retaining skills in textiles, especially silk, and pottery. It is certainly worth visiting their villages to learn more about their lives and customs and the ancient trading port of Hoi An and the coastline in general deserves a couple of days of your time as you travel through the Country.