Cham towers provide divine backdrop to Vietnamese martial arts

By Nguyen Phuoc Hoai, Huynh Phuong   June 13, 2020 | 05:10 am PT
A photoshoot at the majestic Cham towers in Binh Dinh Province lends traditional Vietnamese martial arts a spiritual ambience.

Binh Dinh in central Vietnam is famous as the cradle of traditional Vietnamese martial arts. Between the 10th-16th century, this locality used to be Vijaya (victory), the grand capital of the Champa Kingdom. The Cham towers stand as testimony to a glorious past.

The photo above is an aerial shot of the Duong Long towers. The middle tower is 24 m high, and those flanking it, 22m. The towers were built at the end of the 12th century, a period of great development of Cham art and culture. They are now located in Binh Hoa Commune, Tay Son District, about 40 km from Quy Nhon, the capital of Binh Dinh.

The picture is part of a photo series on "Coming to Binh Dinh to witness martial art performances by the Cham towers", taken by photographer Nguyen Phuoc Hoai, a Quy Nhon resident.


Students practice with a spear and a sword, with the Duong Long towers casting shadows in bright sunshine.

Viet Anh, situated in Nhon Hau Commune, An Nhon Town, is one of the most famous martial arts school in the region. It teaches a martial arts form particular to Binh Dinh Province.


A master watches his students practice with sticks in the yeard of one of the Banh It towers. Banh It is located in Phuoc Hiep Commune, Tuy Phuoc District, on a hill between two branches of the Con River.


The main Banh It Tower seen from the entrance of another tower to its east. Banh It consists of four towers, the main one about 20 m high and surrounded by three smaller ones. From a distance, the tower cluster looks like banh it - a triangular dessert cake made in Binh Dinh, given them the local name.


A female martial artist uses a spear to counterattack an opponent leaping at her in between two Banh It towers.

The Viet Anh dojo often chooses the ancient Cham towers to practice so students can feel the majestic and sacred atmosphere of Binh Dinh, which locals say is a land of martial arts and literature.


Since ancient times, Binh Dinh’s rugged landscape has exuded an air of mystery and allure that has attracted people from all over the country.


Inside one of the Banh It towers, the teacher demonstrates a technique which is likened to the lifting of clouds and using the moonlight to counter an attack by a golden dragon flying down to the ground.


Traditional martial arts is said to be part of a Binh Dinh resident’s DNA. Young and old, men and women imbibe its cultural values, and it has a place in everyone’s heart.


The Cham vestiges are scattered across the central region, including eight clusters with a total of 14 unique and mysterious towers in Binh Dinh. These eight tower clusters - Banh It, Duong Long, Thap Doi, Canh Tien, Phu Loc, Thu Thien, Binh Lam and Hon Chuong – stand in different locations.


A view of one of the Banh It towers under the night sky.

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