The Champa kingdom lasted from the 7th Century to 1832, when it became part of Vietnam. Today, there are only 160,000 Cham people. Although their unique culture can still be seen in their temples, rituals and daily practices, the digitisation of manuscripts is necessary to safeguard their unique writing system.
The Champa kingdom, located in today’s central and southern Vietnam, was a prolific culture in terms of customs, temples and rites. However, the most notable evidence of the Cham civilisation is their writing system, which was used for centuries and can be observed in the 3,000 surviving manuscripts in central Vietnam. The Cham people are today a minority in Vietnam and the manuscripts are kept in small collections in private homes.
The tropical weather of Vietnam, combined with the unsuitable storage conditions, put the manuscripts at great risk. Moreover, although the majority of the manuscripts are kept in the houses of religious leaders, smaller collections housed by laypeople are neglected and sometimes discarded.
The manuscripts digitised were created between the late 19th and 20th century, and focused on religious ceremonies and rituals. Stemming from a 2014 project which digitised 504 Cham manuscripts, this project digitised a further 473 items. The material is still housed by the original owners, and archival boxes and basic preservation training were provided to ensure continuous preservation of the material. Copies of the digitised material are available at University of Social Sciences and Humanities of Vietnam, Northern Illinois University Library and the British Library.