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1200-years-old Cham towers in central Vietnam get a facelift

By Viet Quoc   September 29, 2019 | 09:17 pm PT
Restoration work on structures that make up the group of Poshanu Cham tower temples in Binh Thuan Province is almost complete.

Before and after the restoration of one of the Poshanu Cham tower temples in Binh Thuan Province. Photo by VnExpress/Viet Quoc

The structures, five to 16 meters tall, stand on an area of nine hectares on the Ba Nai Hill, seven kilometers northeast from downtown Phan Thiet, the capital of Binh Thuan.

The only Cham architectural vestige in Phan Thiet has just three towers remaining. The towers were built in what experts call the Hoa Lai architectural style, one of several styles used during the reign of the Champa Kingdom.

The Binh Thuan Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism began implementing the VND30 billion ($1.3 million) restoration work in 2017. Works included restoration of the towers, construction of office, exhibition and souvenir spaces, fences and internal pathways.

Vo Thanh Huy, the department’s deputy director, said restoration of the three towers has been completed. The remaining sites are still under restoration or construction and expected to be completed this year.

The team has recovered the chipped base and body of the towers, using the old bricks as much as possible. The bricks that had fallen apart at the top of the towers were renewed with new fillings and coating to keep moss and moisture at bay.

"Bricks that were 20-70 percent damaged were tossed. Others were reused because the old bricks are stronger. To remake the towers the way our ancestors built them, we used oil of the dipterocarpus alatus tree plus some chemicals as adhesive" said Ly Duy Tung, one of the restoration workers.

The project contract was given to HCMC-based Cao Hung Company Limited, with the Central Institute for Building Science and Technology under the Ministry of Construction providing technical and design consultancy.

New bricks are properly sized before being inserted into the tower. Photo by VnExpress/Viet Quoc.

New bricks are properly sized before being inserted into the towers. Photo by VnExpress/Viet Quoc.

The group of towers was built in the early 9th century to worship the Hindu God Shiva. By the 14th century, the Cham had built more temples around the main building in order to venerate Po Sah Inu, said to be the queen of King Parachanh, the sister of King Po Kathit.

The towers are a symbol of Cham Kingdom’s prosperity and Hindu culture. In 1991, it was recognized as a National Monument by the Ministry of Culture and Information.

The monuments had undergone some restoration work in 1996, a project that lasted years. But degradation gradually resurfaced later. Thousands of bricks used to build the towers are more than 1,200 years old and needed to be replaced to ensure safety.

"The restoration of Po Sah Inu tower relics is an act of preserving the traditional architecture of the Cham people and also promoting intangible values to serve the tourism sector in Binh Thuan Province," Huy said.

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