Art in the Rotunda: The Cham Collection at the National Museum of Vietnamese History


the National Museum of Vietnamese History

National museums important role in representing national identities in complex and culturally diverse societies. The National Museum of Vietnamese History was established by the government in 1958 to preserve the country’s national heritage and present a discourse of nation-building from prehistory up to 1945 when the country gained independence from French colonialism. Among the museum’s permanent exhibits, a collection of Champa sculptures is presented in the rotunda, separately from the main historical displays. The Champa Kingdom, approximately from the second to the nineteenth centuries in the present day central Vietnam, is known for its outstanding artistic and architectural achievements. In 1832, Champa was absorbed by Ðai Viêt and Cham people became an ethnic minority group in present-day Vietnam. This paper analyses the representation of the museum’s Cham collection and explores how the politics of display of contested materials has changed through time and in forming national identity construction in the museum.  Continue reading

Dr. Siti Nor Awang

siti nor awangDr. Siti Nor Awang

School of Distance Education
Universiti Sains Malaysia, 11800 USM, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia

Academic Qualifications:

  • Ph.D. (Social Anthropology) 2010, University of Hull UK
  • Master of Art (Social Anthropology) 1996, University of Malaya
  • B.A. (Hons.) Anthropology & Sociology 1994, University of Malaya



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On the Relationship between Cheng Ho and Islam in Southeast Asia


 From 1405 to 1433, during his seven expeditions overseas, did Cheng Ho participate in spreading Islam? While there is no relevant record in historical archives in China, many records and tales in Southeast Asian countries demonstrate well that Cheng Ho did help the spread of Islam there. However, do these records and tales really match the historical facts? The questions above merit further discussion, because answering them can help us understand the expeditions more completely and because Cheng Ho’s role in the development of Islam in Southeast Asia constitutes an inseparable part of the cultural exchange between China and Southeast Asia. In the following sections, the author will mainly focus on the discourses of foreign scholars on Cheng Ho’s role in diffusing Islam through Southeast Asia, and will also express his view on the issue.


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Vietnam-Champa Relations and the Malay-Islam Regional Network in the 17th–19th Centuries


Historical relations between Vietnam and the kingdom of Champa was a very long- standing affair characterized by the gradual rise of the Vietnamese and the decline of the Chams. The relationship began as early as the second century CE, when the Chams started a kingdom called Lin-yi, covering the area between the land of the Viet people in the north and Nanchao in the south. The historical consciousness of both peoples includes wars and conflicts between the two over a period of fifteen centuries before the kingdom of Champa was incorporated under Vietnamese rule in 1693. Thereafter, the lands of the Chams were settled by Vietnamese through a series of land settlement programs introduced by the Vietnamese ruling houses.

The subjugation of the former land of Champa was incomplete, however, as Cham resistance – often armed – became the central theme of the relationship after 1693. Resistance was based on the desire to be free of Vietnamese rule and to reinstate the kingdom of Champa. Contributing to this desire was the friction that existed between Vietnamese and Chams, often at the expense of Cham rights and well-being. It was not until 1835 that Cham resistance was finally broken.

This essay traces the history of Vietnam-Champa relations between 1693 and 1835, with emphasis on the Vietnamization process and the existence of a Malay-Islam regional network in Southeast Asia, based mainly in the Malay Peninsula, that contributed to Cham resistance. The last part of the essay discusses the correlation between historical and present-day Cham-Malay relations.