Remnants of the ancient citadel of Champa for thousands of years

QUANG NGAI – Located on the north bank of Tra Khuc River, Chau Sa ancient citadel dating back more than 1,000 years is the largest civil relic of the Champa kingdom.

Chau Sa ancient citadel in Tinh Chau commune, about 6 km from the center of Quang Ngai city, about 8 km from Co Luy estuary, the south borders the Tra Khuc river (the largest river in Quang Ngai), the north borders the Ham Giang river.

The person who publicly excavated this citadel is the French architect and archaeologist H. Parmentier. In 1924, he found in the citadel a stele dating to 903. The stele contains information about the first two kings of the Indrapura Cham dynasty (875-982), Indravarman II and Yaya Simhavarman. Thus, Chau Sa citadel existed from the Indrapura dynasty in the late 9th to 10th centuries.

Signboard of national monument Chau Sa Citadel in Tinh Chau commune, Quang Ngai city. Photo: Pham Linh

According to Chinese and Vietnamese bibliographies, the Indrapura dynasty began when Indravarman II ascended the throne in 875. At that time, the capital of Champa was moved from the Panduraga continent (equivalent to a province or small country – now in Ninh Binh. Thuan, Binh Thuan) to the north is Amaravati continent (now in Quang Nam, Quang Ngai).

According to Dr. Ngo Van Doanh, former deputy director of the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies and former member of the National Council of Cultural Heritage, Amaravati has two areas: Chiem Dong or Dai Chiem (now Quang Nam province) and Co. Luy or Chiem Luy (now Quang Ngai province). Archaeological and historical documents show that the Chau Sa citadel is the largest civil relic in this land.

Regarding the structure of the citadel, archaeologist H. Parmentier 1924 drew a descriptive map but only stopped at the inner citadel and a crab-shaped frame in the west. During the survey in 1993, the Institute of Archeology and Museum of Quang Ngai Province determined that Chau Sa Citadel had two citadels: inner and outer citadel.

Dr. Doan Ngoc Khoi, deputy director of the Quang Ngai Provincial Museum, said that the inner wall is rectangular in shape, in the north-south direction, with 5 doors communicating with the outside. At the east-south and west-south corners, there are two corner ramps running north-south towards Tra Khuc river, called two Cang Cua.

The western and eastern inner walls are 558 m long, 4-5 m high, the bottom of the wall is 20-25 m, and the wall surface is 5-8 m wide. The western bank of “Crab Crab” is 674 m long. The east bank of “Crab Crab” is 443 m long. Around the citadel, there are ditches (ditches) of water 20-40 m wide.

According to Dr. Khoi, Chau Sa citadel was covered with coarse quartz sand mixed with clay. A slice at the eastern gate of the inner citadel has the upper layer of laterite chips mixed with quartz pebbles, the lower layer is gray sand and ash. The citadel was built very elaborately and on a large scale.

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The wall of the inner city, the moat of Chau Sa on high according to Google Earth and the current state of the citadel is overgrown with plants. Photo: Google Earth – Pham Linh

The outer citadel stretches over a large area but has no clearly defined boundaries, in order to protect the inner citadel. The ditches around the citadel connect with the Tra Khuc River and small rivers, creating an interlaced waterway system, convenient for ships to travel. Unearthed pottery shows that this was a place of active trade.

In addition, Chau Sa citadel is shielded and protected by natural mountains. To the north of the citadel are Choi mountain and Dong Danh mountain. To the northwest of the citadel is Ban Co hill. To the west is Thien An Mountain. To the southeast is Ngang Mountain. From the mountains, one can observe the whole citadel and cover the Co Luy estuary, which is convenient for military defense.

In subsequent excavations of Chau Sa citadel, scientists discovered many more ancient relics and relics of the Cham people such as the pottery kiln in Nui Choi, Tinh Chau commune. The terracotta kilns are carved into the hillside, the kiln walls are made of stone, the products are terracotta panels with Buddhist content.

According to researcher Ngo Van Doanh, Buddhist terracotta works of Nui Chui are made from a mold of uniform size (6.5 cm high, 4 cm wide, 1 cm long) and shaped like a long lotus petal. acuteness. Inside is a Buddha image.

The Buddhist skits in Nui Chai are similar to the Buddhist skits found in Thailand. This shows the connection of Chau Sa citadel of Champa with a major Buddhist center.

Buddhist skits unearthed in Chau Sa citadel. Photo: Doan Ngoc Khoi

From the beginning of the 15th century, Chau Sa as well as Amaravati witnessed many wars. According to Dai Nam Nhat Thong Chi’s book, in 1402, the Ho Dynasty occupied this land. But in 1407, when the Ming Dynasty brought troops to destroy the Ho Dynasty, the king of Champa regained the land of Amaravati (Quang Nam, Quang Ngai).

In 1470, King Le Thanh Ton issued a personal decree to fight Champa. By June 1471, he had obtained all of Amaravati, and named it Thua Tuyen (province) Quang Nam. According to Dai Nam Nhat Thong Chi’s book, the Chau Sa citadel at this time may have been a defense citadel of the Le Dynasty.

Experiencing changes in history, Chau Sa citadel fell into oblivion. It was not until 1994, after 70 years that archaeologist H. Parmentier discovered Chau Sa ancient citadel, that the city was recognized as a national monument.

Since then, the citadel has not set up boundaries for protection. The moat (ditch) area and many positions in the citadel became the place where people cultivated and built houses. From Google Maps, it is clear that the inner wall is higher than the surrounding area and the moats, helping to visualize the overall layout.

But when they arrived, many parts of the wall were eroded, the top of the wall covered with bamboo groves. “Domestic and international visitors came to Chau Sa ancient citadel, I pointed at the shore, but they said they couldn’t see anything and then left,” said Luong Cong Thanh, a resident of the city.

Mr. Tran Ngoc Lam, Chairman of Tinh Chau Commune People’s Committee, said that people take advantage of the land for cultivation and livestock, so it has some influence on the ancient citadel. He said that the authorities need to zone and clearly define the boundaries to manage the relic.

According to the Deputy Director of the Quang Ngai Provincial Museum, the deterioration of Chau Sa ancient citadel relics has two reasons: first, there has not been enough investment to embellish, second, the relic has not been brought to the community. Currently, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism has assigned Dr. Khoi to preside over the exploration of Chau Sa city this October.

“After the survey, when there is enough data, we will propose a large-scale excavation to clarify the value and preserve the Chau Sa ancient citadel,” said the leader of the Quang Ngai Provincial Museum.