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World cultural heritage striving to welcome 300,000 visitors in 2023



The UNESCO-recognised My Son Sanctuary in the central province of Quang Nam is striving to welcome 300,000 visitors in 2023, according the management board of the heritage site.

World cultural heritage striving to welcome 300,000 visitors in 2023 hinh anh 1On average, the site receives up to 1,500 visitors a day in the first months of this year, mostly from the Republic of Korea, Japan, the US, the EU, Malaysia, Indonesia, India, and China. (Photo: VNA)

Quang Nam – The UNESCO-recognised My
Son Sanctuary in the central province of Quang Nam is striving to welcome 300,000
visitors in 2023, according the management board of the heritage site.

On average, the site received up to 1,500 visitors a
day in the first months of this year, mostly from the Republic of Korea, Japan,
the US, the EU, Malaysia, Indonesia, India, and China.

To better serve visitors, the board has been implementing several
digital transformation projects to improve conservation efficiency and promote
heritage values, including digitising artefacts preserved at the site and the

Once the religious and political capital of the Champa
Kingdom, My
Son Sanctuary is located in a hilly landscape in Duy Phu commune, Duy
Xuyen district, about 70 km southwest of central Da Nang city and 40 km from
Hoi An city.

The sanctuary was recognised as a world cultural heritage site by UNESCO in
1999. It comprises eight groups of 71 monuments built throughout the 7th to
13th century. Having their spiritual origin from Hinduism of the Indian
sub-continent, My Son temples were built to the Hindu divinities such as
Krishna and Vishnu, but above all Shiva.

The first construction of My Son dated back to the 4th century under the reign
of Bhadravarman for the worship of God Shiva-Bhadresvara. But later on, the
temple was destroyed.

At the beginning of the 7th century, King Sambhuvarman had it rebuilt. Each new monarch came to My Son after his accession to the
throne for the ceremony of purification and to present offerings and erect new
monuments, which explains why My Son was the only place where Cham art
flourished without interruption from the 7th to 13th century.

According to the UNESCO, conservation of the My Son
monuments began in the early part of the 20th century soon after their
discovery in modern times by French archaeologists. As a result of wars, many
tower temples were damaged. However, preservation work has been carried out and
the remaining tower temples have been maintained and are well-preserved./.



Exploring Mỹ Sơn Sanctuary: a journey into ancient mysteries



By Lê Việt Dũng

Within the elevated mountain-surrounded basin of Duy Xuyên District in the south-central province of Quảng Nam lies a site that was once the centre for spirituality and worship of the Champa Kingdom and a burial place for its royal and national heroes for centuries.

Mỹ Sơn Sanctuary, so be its name, encompasses a series of red-brick temples and sandstone shrines adorned with bas-reliefs of Hinduism divinities and their epic battles against the devils. All were brought to life through the skilled hands of ancient Champa artisans.

“When it comes to building things with bricks, Champa people have a special skill that no one else in Southeast Asia can beat,” said a local tour guide when he unravelled layers of history hidden in the ancient ruins.

And he didn’t exaggerate at all. The most recently built temple in the sanctuary boasts an age of at least eight centuries yet stands well against the test of time.

Temple C1, believed to be the earliest-built temple on the site. It was rebuilt in the 10th and 11th centuries to be dedicated to the human statue of the god Shiva. — VNS Photo Lê Việt Dũng

Stepping inside, visitors would be immediately struck by the resemblance its rock-cut pillars bear to those of Rome. The architectural similarity was a reflection of how Roman aesthetics were carried through India and found their way to Southeast Asia.

In close proximity to the temple is a series of steles engraved with ancient Champa inscriptions, which traced its origin to Sanskrit – a sacred form of writing reserved exclusively for academics and rituals.

Centuries of atmospheric erosion have worn down the less resistant surface of the steles but not enough to turn their carvings into illegibility.  

Yet the inscriptions remain largely unintelligible for current scholars as their writing system has vanished along with the social class that used it, the Champa priests.   

A stele engraved with ancient Champa inscriptions that remain legible after eight centuries.  — VNS Photo Lê Việt Dũng

Not far to the east of the steles is a solemn hall that was dedicated to offering preparation but has now been revamped as a place for the exhibition of cultural heritage.

What truly captivates visitors’ eyes within this transformed haven is a stone bas-relief depicting the divine deity Shiva performing the vigorous cosmic dance of creation, preservation, and destruction, or tandava in Sanskrit. 

Though the bas-relief was badly damaged by bombings during the Vietnam War, its artistic value remains intact and bears witness to the extraordinary carving skills of ancient Champa artisans.

The war-torn bas-relief depicting Shiva performing ‘tandava’, a dance that triggers the cosmic cycle of creation, preservation and dissolution. — VNS Photo Lê Việt Dũng

A bas-relief of similar size but in better condition could be found in another exhibition room adjacent to the first, depicting Shiva dancing on the back of the mythical sea creature Makara. In Hinduism mythology, Makara always strongly opposes Shiva, but the act of “standing on its back” reflects the deity’s ability to subdue the crocodile-like monster.   

Another bas-relief depicting dancing Shiva on the back of the sea-serpent Makara. — VNS Photo Lê Việt Dũng

Scattered throughout the hall are many other ancient relics of archaeological significance. Although few were left untouched by wartime destruction, they continue to beckon visitors to delve into the Champa narrative that spans centuries.

A stone statue of a Champa noblewoman with its upper part badly damaged by war.  VNS Photo Lê Việt Dũng

Bas-relief depicting Gajasimha, a mythical hybrid animal appearing as a lion with the head or trunk of an elephant.  — VNS Photo Lê Việt Dũng

Borbala Banya, a visitor from Hungary, has dreamed for nearly six years to visit Việt Nam, and Mỹ Sơn Sanctuary is one of her favourite sites for its unique architecture that is far different from that of the ancient Hungarian kingdom.

“I have a teacher who is an anthropologist and has lived in an ethnic minority community in Việt Nam for one and a half years. He really inspired me to dig deeper and now I have a really colourful view of the country,” said the visitor.

The limitations of physical travel have propelled the historical destination to take a leap into the metaverse to offer visitors a virtual experience of its rich past. With a smartphone, users worldwide can traverse its intricately carved temples from the comfort of their own homes while an AI bot provides them with the historical context, architectural insights, and the cultural significance of each structure.

A 3D view of Mỹ Sơn Sanctuary in the metaverse world Bizverse. VNS Photo Lê Việt Dũng

Today, efforts to preserve and restore the heritage site continue, ensuring that its stories endure for generations yet to come. — VNS


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Hanoi renews tourism products to increase attractiveness



Since the beginning of 2023, Hanoi’s tourism industry has achieved impressive growth. However, experts recommended the capital city to continue renewing its tourism products to attract more domestic and foreign visitors.

Hanoi renews tourism products to increase attractiveness hinh anh 1Temple of Literature – an attractive destination for foreign tourists. (Photo: VNA)

Hanoi – Since the beginning of 2023, Hanoi’s tourism industry has achieved impressive growth. However, experts recommended the capital city to continue renewing its tourism products to attract more domestic and foreign visitors.

Director of the municipal Tourism Department Dang Huong Giang said that since the reopening of its door to tourists on March 15, 2022, Hanoi has carried out concerted measures, with 172 activities, including major cultural and tourism events, held to increase the attractiveness of the city’s tourism.

According to Giang, the goal of serving 22 million tourists, including 3 million foreigners, this year is reachable. However, in order to quickly match the pre-pandemic level (in 2019, Hanoi welcomed nearly 29 million visitors, including 7 million foreigners), the city still has much work to do.

At a seminar on main solutions to accelerate recovery and effective and sustainable tourism development recently held by the municipal Department of Tourism, participants advised the city to develop more products that meet tourists’ needs.

Some proposed building those related to autumn such as Fototour to capture the beauty of the more than 1,000-year-old city in this season.

Many assessed that Hanoi only has “evening” tourism, not “night-time” tourism. General Director of Hanoi Tourism Investment JSC Nhu Thi Ngan said that most of night activities in Hanoi are ended before 12:00am. Only at weekends, bars and restaurants in downtown Hoan Kiem district are allowed to open until 2:00am.

Therefore, Ngan recommended the city to have a more “open” approach and have its own policy on this issue./.


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Drawing tourists with songs from stone instruments



by Hiền Nguyễn

The melodious rhythms of lithophones at popular tourist destinations in the central province of Phú Yên – such as Gành Đá Dĩa in Tuy An District and Tháp Nhạn (Nhạn Tower, an ethnic Chăm tower in Tuy Hoà City) – have lured many visitors.

The performances of the ancient musical instruments have been a new tourism product at these destinations.

Nguyễn Minh Nghiệp, a local resident, and some colleagues were the initiators of the show.

“From my passion for stone slabs that can produce echoed melodious sounds, since 2013, I have collected stone slabs in the high mountainous area of Tuy An District to make a set of lithophone with all musical notes,” he said.

After gathering suitable stone pieces, he carved them further to enable them to create clear sounds.

Nguyễn Minh Nghiệp carves on stone slabs to make musical instruments. Photo

At the beginning of 2017, he had the initiative to bring the lithophone set to perform at famous destinations for tourists.

Then, he trained younger musicians to perform this particular kind of instrument.

At present, when visiting the Gành Đá Dĩa National Special Heritage Site, tourists can enjoy lithophone performances featuring various Vietnamese songs such as Cô Gái Vót Chông, Tiếng Đàn Ta Lư and Sông Đăkrông Mùa Xuân Về.

The performers also offer other modern pieces of music.

Lê Thị Mỹ Bình, a visitor from Bình Định Province, cannot hide her excitement.

“My family was impressed very much with the show,” she said. “Each piece of stone in Phú Yên can create such magical melodious sounds.”

Visitors like the show. VNS Photo Quỳnh Mai

Bình said she thought lithophones should be performed at more landmarks to entertain visitors.

The same performances are available at Nhạn Tower in Tuy Hòa City.

The show includes songs about Phú Yên and songs from the movie Tôi Thấy Hoa Vàng Trên Cỏ Xanh (Yellow Flowers on Green Grass) shot in Phú Yên.

“Clear melodious sounds echoing in a space of ancient architecture bring a fresh experience to me even though I have been here several times,” said tourist Dương Khánh Lâm from HCM City.

Nghiệp so far has made 20 sets of lithophone. Each set has 19-42 stone slabs of various sizes. Two sets among the 20 sets were totally intact natural stones without being carved or further retouched.

Visitors pose for a photo with the musical stone instrument set. VNS Photo Quỳnh Mai

Explaining the appearance of Phú Yên lithophones, Nguyễn Thị Hồng Thái, director of Phú Yên Culture, Sports and Tourism Department, said in 1990-1991, locals discovered an ancient set of stone musical instruments while farming at the foot of Một Mountain, in Trung Lương Village, An Nghiệp Commune, Tuy An District.

In 1992, they donated the set to Phú Yên Provincial Museum.

Archaeologists then determined the set was made around the 5th century BC.

The department then submitted a dossier to the culture ministry to seek its recognition of the stone instruments as a national treasure.

“The Tuy An lithophone set is an important part of lithophone collections found throughout Việt Nam,” Thái said.

The Tuy An lithophone set has all musical notes, the most complete of its kind in the country.

“In fact, the lithophone can be used to perform various folk music pieces of some ethnic minority groups in the country,” she said. “It can combine with other instruments to perform modern melodies as well.” VNS

An exhibition space at Gành Đá Dĩa site to display metal gong instruments. VNS Photo Quỳnh Mai 


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