EAP531: Preserving the endangered manuscripts of the Cham people in Vietnam

Mr Hao Phan, Northern Illinois University
2012 award – Pilot project
£9,370 for 12 months

Project Overview

cropped-cropped-cropped-eap531_1_1-eap531_cccd_1_3_l2.jpgHistorically and culturally, the Cham are probably the most important minority group in Vietnam. Descendants of the Champa kingdom that lasted from the 2nd to the 17th century AD, the Cham are the largest group of Hindu and Muslim people living in Vietnam. These people possess a rich culture that can still be appreciated today through architecture, arts, festivals and literature. Although the Champa kingdom was eliminated by the Viet in 1720, Cham people managed to stay together in large communities where their traditions and culture are well preserved. There are about 146,000 Cham living in Vietnam today, with the largest community located in Ninh Thuan (57,000), a province in central Vietnam. Other important Cham communities are located in Binh Thuan, Phu Yen, An Giang, Tay Ninh, and Ho Chi Minh City. The majority of Cham people living in central Vietnam practise Hinduism while those located in the Mekong Delta are Muslim.

The Cham’s writing system is mainly based on Sanskrit, with the majority of Cham manuscripts still in existence written in the akhar thrar script. Writings were previously inscribed on palm-leaves, but in more recent times they are recorded on paper. Cham manuscripts contain rich information about Cham customs, religious practice, literature and daily activities of Cham people. Many are records of officials and families in the communities. Manuscripts still in existence are mainly from 50 to 150 years old.

Cham manuscripts unfortunately have not been well preserved. Some have been collected by local governmental institutions and many more still exist in Cham communities. In recent years, the Center for Cham Studies and the Cham Language Studies Committee Library in Ninh Thuan have collected some manuscripts. However, due to poor preservation conditions and the extremely unfavourable climate of the area, manuscripts kept in these two centres are quickly deteriorating. In many cases, writings are recorded on cement-bag paper – as its name suggests, this paper is made from pieces cut out of cement packages used in building construction and does not last very long.

Cham manuscripts privately held by families in the communities are also disappearing. Many manuscripts are simply ruined over time by the hot and humid climate. Most young Cham people today are not able to read Cham scripts and thus pay little attention to the preservation of manuscripts in their families. Furthermore, some Cham people believe that it is bad luck to keep ‘deserted books’ (Akhar bhaw) in the home and hence, books not cared for or read frequently will eventually be discarded in rivers.

Manuscripts of the Muslim Cham in the Mekong Delta, specifically in the two provinces of An Giang and Tay Ninh, have not yet been surveyed.

Information regarding the Cham manuscripts currently held at the two archives in Ninh Thuan is sketchy, as they have not yet been catalogued. Information on the manuscripts held at the Cham Art Museum in Danang is not publicly available. The number of manuscripts available in the communities can be estimated in the thousands.

The first step to preserve the Cham manuscripts is to conduct a field survey in Vietnam. This project aims to achieve the three following goals:

First, to assess the specific holdings and preservation conditions of Cham manuscripts held at the Center for Cham Studies and the Cham Language Studies Committee Library in Ninh Thuan, and possibly at the Cham Art Museum in Danang.

Second, to survey the availability and preservation conditions of Cham manuscripts existing in six Cham communities located in the provinces of Ninh Thuan, Binh Thuan, Phu Yen, Ho Chi Minh City, Tay Ninh and An Giang.

Third, to work with local scholars and government officials on a plan to digitise Cham manuscripts in Vietnam, including those held at the two archives in Ninh Thuan and the museum in Danang.

A written report and digital samples of Cham manuscripts will be submitted as the results from this project.

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A Preliminary Sketch of Phan Rang Cham The Austronesian Languages of Asia and Madagascar

Graham Thurgood

California State University, Chico [in press].

Edited by K. Alexander Adelaar and Nikolaus Himmelmann. Curzon Press. 1.0


The extraordinary French scholar Coedès noted that Cham is the earliest attested Austronesian language. Coedès dated the Cham inscription found at Trakiêu near the old Cham capital of Indrapura as being from the middle of the fourth century, describing the inscription as “…the oldest text, presently known, written in a Malayo-Polynesian dialect”. The language of the text is associated with the once flourishing kingdom of Champa, a kingdom first mentioned by the Chinese around 190 to 193. Champa reached its zenith about the sixth century, continuing to flourish until the Vietnamese ‘push to the South’ in the tenth century began its slow demise. At the time of the first inscriptions, the Chamic languages were still a largely undifferentiated dialect continuum, but in the subsequent fifteen hundred or so years of change, realignments in patterns of affiliation and language contact restructured stretches of the original dialect chain into distinct languages and distributed the speakers over a much wider area. No longer functioning as the lingua franca of the kingdom of Champa, Chamic lives on in its modern descendants: the Tsat spoken on Hainan, the Rade, Jarai, Haroi, Chru, and Roglai spoken in the southern Vietnam highlands, the Phan Rang Cham spoken in Vietnam, the various Western Cham communities of Cambodia, and the Acehnese of north Sumatra

Read the full paper here: http://www.csuchico.edu/~gthurgood/Papers/cham_mar1.pdf

Preserving Cham Font through Online Conversion Application

11836716_136293190053434_8317650454571050088_nVan Ngoc Sang1 & Mohamad Bin Bilal Ali1
1 Faculty of Education, Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, Johor Bahru, Malaysia
Correspondence: Mohamad Bin Bilal Ali, Faculty of Education, Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, Johor Bahru, Malaysia.

E-mail: mba@utm.my


The Cham people who are now the minority ethnic in Vietnam speaks with the language familiar used as others Malay groups but differ in their written language. Cham Script inscriptions appear on Dong Yen Chau stone stele (Tra Kieu) in 4th century and the Cham are using this script system until today. Ensuring the preservation of Cham language, this study intended to design a tool to convert the EFEO Cham Latin in Malay system to Cham Akhar Thrah. The method used is by converting Latin EFEO into intermediate characters code followed by assigning it to AkharThrah backwards. Cham font conversion application has been created, which has carried out a number of technical requirements, and content conversion ensures correct in vocabulary, semantics and grammar. In this experiment we have checked the accuracy percentage of three Cham poems and results Ariya Cam Bini 100% (n=1823); Ariya Gleng Anak 99.88% (n=2459); Nai Mai Mang Makah 100% (n=2523). Cham font conversion is necessary and meaningful in conservation of Cham script. It will be used in schools, institutions in the country and overseas as well as assist in teaching and learning Cham language.

Read the full paper here: 50454-173837-1-SM

Giới thiệu tài liệu hoàng gia Champa

Ts. Po Dharma (Viện Viễn Ðông Pháp)


Tài liệu hoàng gia Champa là kho tàng tư liệu lịch sử được tìm thấy tại làng Lavang của dân tộc Kaho thuộc khu vực Ðồng Nai, Lâm Ðồng bởi ông P. Villaume vào năm 1902 và được giới thiệu sơ khởi trong bài khảo luận của E. M. Durand mang tựa đề: “Les archives des derniers rois chams” (BEFEO VII, 1907, trang. 353 355). Tài liệu này hiện đang lưu trữ trong thư viện Société Asiatique de Paris, tổng cộng 5227 trang, trong đó có 4402 viết bằng tiếng Chăm và 825 trang viết bằng tiếng Hán, từ năm 1702 đến năm 1883, dưới thời Chính Hòa (1680-1705), Bảo Thái (1720-1729), Vĩnh Khánh (1729-1732), Long Ðức (1732-1735), Vĩnh Hựu (1735-1740), Cảnh Hưng (1740-1786), Thái Ðức (1778-1793), Gia Long (1802-1820), Tự Đức (1874-1883). Ðây là hồ sơ chính thức của triều đình Champa có dấu ấn của vua chúa và chữ ký của những đương sự, tập trung nhiều chủ đề từ văn kiện hành chánh, văn bản thuế má, mua bán đất đai cho đến hồ sơ kiện tụng, v.v. Trong tài liêu này có 408 dấu ấn của 8 triều đại của nhà Nguyễn. Triều đại Bảo Thái có 1 dấu ấn, Vĩnh Khánh: 1, Long Đức: 1, Vĩnh Hựu: 17, Cảnh Hưng: 147, Thái Đức: 100, Gia Long: 18, Tự Đức 7 và 2 dấu ấn Chăm viết bằng Akhar Rik.

Xem bản toàn văn tại đây: gioi thieu tai lieu hoang gia

Colloquial Eastern Cham

Marc Brunelle
Phú Văn Hẳn


Eastern Cham is an Austronesian language spoken by about 100,000 people in the provinces of Ninh Thuận and Bình Thuận, in south-central Vietnam (Brunelle
2008). Eastern Cham communities are scattered throughout these two provinces and are interspersed with Vietnamese communities. As a result, all Eastern Cham
speakers are now at least fluent in Vietnamese and younger speakers usually speak it natively. Until the 19th century, Cham (along with other Chamic languages and
possible some Mon-Khmer languages) was the language of the “confederation” of
Champa, a mandala-type kingdom located on the central coast of Vietnam that was
gradually absorbed by the Vietnamese state from the 10th to the 19th century. As a
former state language, Cham has a long written tradition, despite the fact that its script is now barely used (Brunelle 2008). Although there have been a number of descriptions of Eastern Cham, most of them have focused on the written language or on the formal language that is usually volunteered by speakers in data elicitation sessions (Aymonier 1889; Aymonier and Cabaton 1906; Moussay 1971; Bùi 1995; 1996a; b; Thurgood 2005; Moussay 2006). Continue reading

Mystification uncovered: preventing language death of the people of Champa


By Jennifer Tran-Math
Contributing Writer

Abstract: Persecuted and ousted by French and Vietnamese officials, the only remaining records of the South East Asian empire of Champa has been recorded by the French Colonial Records via letters from the French Embassy in Paris. Through outside contact, the Cham have lost their territory in what is now known as modern day Vietnam. Throughout history, this ethnic group has been subjugated but has managed to maintain their cultural identity and customs. This paper will address the strength of the Cham language, which binds these people together into a coherent group. Continue reading

The issues of spoken language and writing system of Ethnic minorities in Vietnam in anthropology training and research (The case of ancient written materials of the Cham)

Thanh Phan
University of Social Sciences and Humanities, VNU-HCM


ABSTRACT: The Cham in Vietnam have possessed a writing system for ages. Basing on Sanskrit and Arabian characters, they created many different characters to record issues related to their history, culture, religion, custom, and so on. As a result, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, foreign researchers doing research on their history and civilization paid close attention to reading and exploring the Cham’s ancient written materials. However, in Vietnam, seldom is there any scholar, particularly in anthropology and ethnology, being interested in this issue. This is in fact a barrier to Vietnamese anthropologists and ethnologists who attempt to scientifically and intensively study on the
Cham culture. This paper presents the current situation of exploring the Cham’s ancient written materials in Vietnam in order to propose some solutions for the training of the Cham language in particular, and of ethnic minority languages in general for the sake of anthropology training and research in Vietnam.
Keywords: training, language, ethnicity, minority, anthropology.

Full paper: 7948-28333-1-PB

Vai trò của trí thức, cao niên Cham trong việc bảo tồn tiếng Cham

 Quảng đại Cẩn
I/. Bài học từ 6300 tiếng đã bị tiêu vong:
1/. Ngôn ngữ CHẾT (death), tức là thứ tiếng đó không GIAO TIẾP được, không còn người nói thông viết thạo, do người cuối cùng nói thứ tiếng đó chết hoặc người nói và viết được tiếng đó (active language) chuyển sang giao tiếp bằng ngôn ngữ khác, cho dù còn nhiều người nghe, đọc, và hiểu được, tiếng nói đó (passive language) vẫn xem như đã chết. Khi số người còn hiểu được tiếng đó chết đi thì ngôn ngữ đó TIÊU VONG (extinct).
2/. Ngôn ngữ chỉ tồn tại khi có quá trình GIAO TIẾP, hội đủ ba yếu tố sau:
a. Người nói thông viết thạo thứ ngôn ngữ đó (native speakers).
b. Mạng lưới người cùng ngôn ngữ, đồng tộc (minority language network), hay mạng lưới người cùng hoàn cảnh xã hội và văn hóa (minority socio-cultural network), ví dụ như giữa người Cham với nhau trong không khí lễ Kate, Ramưwan hay Rơja (ngày lễ ở vùng Cham Nam Bộ) hay Tin lành Công giáo Cham.
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