Rare Images Of Vietnam’s Forgotten Cham People By Nguyen Vu Phuoc

The once mighty Champa Kingdom, a large Hindu culture that controlled most of central Vietnam and beyond, dominated the South China Sea trade for more than a thousand years. It has over time been reduced to a population of about 160,000 and relegated to two small provinces. The mostly Hindu Cham live in and around Phanrang (south of Nha Trang) on the hot and dry south coast, while most Muslim Cham inhabits a small area near the Cambodian border in the Mekong Delta.

Although long persecuted, the Cham remain proud people who are full of life! Their rich culture and ancient traditions passed on by their elders remain largely intact, and are inseparable from their everyday lives.

Renowned Vietnamese photographer Nguyen Vu Phuoc has only begun his photographic exploration of the Cham, and shares with Bored Pandas everywhere some of his favorite images taken thus far. All are from Ninh Thuan Province on the southern coast.

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Shepherd Boy – Persistent drought conditions in Ninh Thuan province have Cham children often responsible for feeding lambs by hand

Dune Play – Nam Cuong Sand Dune, Ninh Thuan

Portrait of a Cham Elder – Ninh Thuan Province

Tradition – Cham elders begin passing down their ancient traditions at a young age

Silhouettes & Shadows – Chan ladies on the Nam Cuong sand dunes, Ninh Thuan

Dune Play 2 – Nam Cuong, Ninh Thuan

Water fight! The burden of collecting water is lifted by a spontaneous splash-fest

Lady at the Gate – Ancient Champa Ruins of Po Klong Garai located in the medieval Cham principality of Panduranga, near Phanrang

The Lady and the Lotus

Fishing with Grandpa – Phanrang, Vietnam

Story time – Cham elders play an important role in raising the young

Tending food trays – Kate Festival, Ninh Thuan Province, Vietnam

The Potter – The Cham are known for their distinctive pottery designs, and Bau Truc is one of the oldest pottery making villages in Southeast Asia

Tide Pools – Near Phanrang, Vietnam

Ninh Thuan is the hottest, driest province in Vietnam

Respect & Reverence – The Mbang Kate Festival

It commemorates great heroes of the past and honors lost family members, while celebrating a prosperous future to come. The dead are buried vertically, their heads below the rocks.

Sea of Sand – The baskets slung across their shoulders are called “gánh”

Buffalo Sun – Nam Cuong, near Phanrang, Vietnam