One of the three important and very educational museums inside the Old Town of Hoi An is the Museum of Sa Huynh Culture. Located on Tran Phu Street, the museum is a rich repository of relics and artifacts that are important to preserving the memory of the Sa Huynh people. They were pre-historic Bronze Age people that used to enjoy a flourishing culture and civilization in ancient Vietnam, particularly in the central parts of the country near the coast, which is now the area where Quang Nam province lies.
The Sa Huynh people were the first settlers along the Thu Bon River and the first to have traded through the Hoi An port. They have begun trading with sea merchants from China, India, Japan, Thailand, Indonesia, and the Middle East. Hoi An’s old name was Fai Fo and news of its popularity as a leading Asian port reached the Dutch, Spanish, Portuguese, and French people.
Archeological finds and ancient artifacts prove that the Sa Huynh people learned how to use ceramics and metal wares – especially bronze and iron. The museum displays centuries-old weapons, tools such as axes, and pieces of jewelry. Also, the Sa Huynh culture gave importance in burying their dead and so they developed an artistic genre that involved their funerary rituals and rites. Some people think it is strange that a museum would highlight tools and ornaments related to ancient burial sites, including jar coffins. On display in the museum are over 200 jar burials that have been unearthed from more than 50 burial sites all over Hoi An.
An example of the burial sites is the one in Hau Xa, which is part of a 5-km sand dune that extends from Hoi An all the way to Dien Ban, and along the Northern bank of an ancient stream, which the local people refer to as Ceramic Stream because of the number of ancient ceramics found in the area. The burial site at Hau Xa was discovered in 1989, and excavations therein continued until 1994. Discovered here through the years were Champa ceramics, ancient porcelains, ceramics from the Sa Huynh and Champa cultures, square-compressed ceramics following Han designs, glass beads, and a bronze leaf of the Buddha tree. This excavation site yielded valuable information on the burial rituals of the Sa Huynh people.
The Museum of Sa Huynh Culture displays about 216 articles that are mostly dating back to the 1st century. All the artifacts are from the villages of Hau Xa, Thanh Chiem, An Bang and Xuan Lam. There is none like them in all of Vietnam. Tourists may visit the museum by buying a coupon that allows entry into the Old Town. Walking along this ancient town is free, but the coupon allows entry into any five of the 18 tourist sites within the town. The coupon is worth $5.
On top of the Museum of Sa Huynh Culture is the Museum of the Revolution or military museum, which houses war artifacts, old war currency, photos of war heroes, and old weapons. A visit to this building is hitting two birds with one stone.