Author: Dave Paulson
Constructed during the 17th century, Po Romê is the last major tower built during the #Champa civilization, which spread throughout central Vietnam from the 2nd to 19th centuries. Archeologists and contemporary architects are still confounded by the indigenous #engineering of these structures (cf. Hardy et al. 2009). The main entrance faces east, a sacred direction for the Cham, and is adorned with the statue of #Shiva. This particular tower was built for worshipping King Po Romê (1627—1651), who is accredited by some for introducing the notions of Aheir and Awal into Cham cultural #philosophy (Yasuko 2010). Built in sun-dried red-brick clay, these famous towers endure into the present and function as holy sites for contemporary religious practice.
With their symbolic and physical prominence on the landscape, Cham towers are #emblems of ethnic and cultural identity, and Po Romê is paramount among those remaining in Vietnam. The fall #Katê festival brings crowds of people who come for religious worship and to meet those close to them from the Cham community. On the walls of this tower are ancient Cham #inscriptions, which form the basis of the traditional Akhar thrah script still used today. Despite their importance, there are very few individuals left with the #literacy skills to decipher their meaning.
Nevertheless, this site helps illuminate how cultural heritage, particularly #language, is intimately tied to both space and material. Many efforts at language preservation around the world are structured as projects to develop materials for cultural preservation (e.g. #NationalGeographic‘s Enduring Voices Project). However, among the Cham community, many turn towards the materials that were already there. The relationship between literacy and orality is inherently #material, and helps create the meaning of space to visit, to worship, and to grow up as a member of a community.