Continuing the Digitisation of the Endangered Cham Manuscripts in Vietnam (EAP1005)

Aims and objectives

From both of the historical and cultural perspectives, Cham are an important group of minority in Vietnam. Cham once had their own kingdom called Champa, which lasted approximately from the 7th century to 1832, when the kingdom was eliminated by the Vietnamese. There are only 162,000 Cham living in Vietnam today.  Cham people possess a rich history and unique culture, which can still be appreciated through their ancient temples, ritual practices, and daily customs. The most notable evidence of Cham civilization is their writing system, which has been used for centuries. It is estimated by local Cham scholars, and also through my field trips to Cham villages, that there are up to 3,000 Cham manuscripts, including palm-leaf and paper manuscripts, still available in Central Vietnam. These manuscripts are currently in poor physical conditions and will continue to deteriorate in the tropical climate of Vietnam. This project is a continutation of EAP698.

This project will help preserve Cham manuscripts in Vietnam by achieving two main objectives:

  1. To digitise about 500 manuscripts currently kept in Cham villages in Ninh Thuan province and Binh Thuan province. The selected manuscripts for digitisation are those that are unique in their content (some Cham manuscripts are copies of the same religious texts).
  2. To assist Cham manuscripts holders in preserving their manuscripts by providing them with acid-free archival boxes and basic preservation knowledge.

The digitisation of the manuscripts will be carried out in Vietnam by a team associated with the Center for Vietnamese and Southeast Asian Studies, University of Social Sciences and Humanities, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. The project is directed by Dr. Thanh Phan (also known as Dharbhan Po Dam or Gru Hajan), a prominent Cham scholar highly respected by his people. Dr. Thanh Phan and his team have the equipment, training, and experiences from digitising 504 Cham manuscripts for the previous project EAP698. Dr. Thanh Phan and the leader of the digitisation team, who is also a scholar of Cham manuscripts, will ensure that the manuscripts selected for digitisation are unique in their content and not duplicated copies, as it might be the case with some Cham religious manuscripts. The project team will also confirm with manuscripts holders that the material have not been previously digitised by any party. Given the facts that there are every few Cham manuscripts having been digitised elsewhere, and the manuscripts are held in private collections, it is unlikely that the project will duplicate the work of others, not to mention of its own previous work in project EAP698

Dr. Thanh Phan is based in Ho Chi Minh City while a team of three members, led by another local Cham scholar, will travel from village to village in Ninh Thuan and Binh Thuan to digitise the manuscripts. Dr. Thanh Phan will come from Ho Chi Minh City to Central Vietnam every three months to work with the team and to bring the files to Ho Chi Minh City, where he will read the digitised manuscripts to learn about their contents.    

The photographing of the manuscripts in Cham villages is expected to last for nine months, from August 2017 to  August 2018. For four months, from April to July 2018, Dr. Thanh Phan will hire two graduate students to assist him in compiling the metadata for the digitised manuscripts. 

While digitising manuscripts in Cham villages, the project team will provide 100 acid-free archival boxes to manuscripts holders and instruct them how to preserve the manuscripts properly.




The project successfully completed the two main goals of project EAP1005; they digitised 464 Cham manuscripts consisting of 28,375 pages/images. All of the manuscripts were held in private family collections. The project also distributed almost 100 acid-free archival boxes, used for manuscripts storage, to manuscripts holders in Cham villages. The project team also gave advice on preservation to the manuscripts holders. 

The records copied by this project have been catalogued as: