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Đông Yên Châu inscription

The Đông Yên Châu inscription[1] is a Cham[2] inscription written in an Old Southern Brahmi script,[3] found in 1936 at Đông Yên Châu, northwest of Trà Kiệu near the old Champa capital of Indrapura, Vietnam.[4] The inscription was written in prose, is the oldest document of Cham, and testifies the existence of indigenous beliefs among the ancient Cham people of Champa kingdom.[5][2] Though not itself dated, the phrasing of the inscription is identical with those of dated Sanskrit inscriptions of Bhadravarman I of the second dynasty, who ruled Champa at the end of the 4th century CE.[6] It contains an imprecatory formula ordering respect for the "naga of the king", undoubtedly a reference to the protective divinity of a spring or well. This vernacular text shows that in the 4th century, the land which now constitutes modern day central Vietnam was inhabited by an Austronesian-speaking population.[7][8] The evidence, both monumental and palaeographic, also suggests that Hinduism was the predominant religious system.[9]

The fact that the language in the inscription shares some basic grammar and vocabulary with Malay[10] has led some scholars to argue that the inscription contains the oldest specimen of Malay words in the form of Old Malay,[11][12][13] older by three centuries than the earliest Srivijayan inscriptions from southeastern Sumatra.[14] However, most scholars consider it established that this inscription was written in Old Cham instead.[2] The shared basic grammar and vocabulary comes as no surprise,[15] since Chamic and Malayic languages are closely related; both are the two subgroups of a Malayic–Chamic group[16] within the Malayo-Polynesian branch of the Austronesian family.


The language of the inscription is not far from modern Cham or Malay in its grammar and vocabulary. The similarities to modern Malay and Cham grammar are evident in the yang and ya relative markers, both found in Cham, in the dengan ("with") and di (locative marker), in the syntax of the equative sentence Ni yang naga punya putauv means "This that serpent possessed by the king", in the use of punya as a genitive marker, and so on. Indian influence is evident in the Sanskrit terms Siddham, a frequently used invocation of fortune; nāga "serpent, dragon"; svarggah "heaven", paribhū "to insult", naraka "hell", and kulo "family".[17] The text of the inscription itself, associated with a well near Indrapura, is short but linguistically revealing:


Siddham! Ni yang nāga punya putauv.
Ya urāng sepuy di ko, kurun ko jemā labuh nari svarggah.
Ya urāng paribhū di ko, kurun saribu thun davam di naraka, dengan tijuh kulo ko.

Literal English translation[19]

Fortune this that serpent possess king.
O person respect in him, for him jewels fall from heaven.
O person insult in him, for one thousand years remain in hell, with seven family he.

English translation[20]

Fortune! this is the divine serpent of the king.
Whoever respects him, for him jewels fall from heaven.
Whoever insults him, he will remain for a thousand years in hell, with seven generations of his family.

Malay translation

Sejahtera! Inilah naga suci kepunyaan Raja.
Orang yang menghormatinya, turun kepadanya permata dari syurga.
Orang yang menghinanya, akan seribu tahun diam di neraka, dengan tujuh keturunan keluarganya.

Western Cham translation

Nabuwah! Ni kung nāga milik patao.
Hây urāng adab tuei nyu, ka pak nyu mâh priak yeh hu plêk mâng syurga mai.
Hâi urāng papndik harakat pak nyu, ka ye saribau thun tram di naraka, hong tajuh mangawom nyu.
Dong Yen Chau Proto-Chamic Malay Meaning Notes
ni *inĭ, *inɛy ini this Short form ni survives. From Proto-Austronesian *i-ni.
nāga naga serpent/dragon From Sanskrit नाग (nāga).
punya punya possess
putauv *pataw,
urāng *ʔuraːŋ orang person/people
labuh *labuh labuh to drop In modern Malay, labuh means to drop something while it's still attached (e.g. sail, anchor, curtain, skirt)[21]
nari dari from
svarggah syurga heaven From Sanskrit स्वर्ग (svarga).
saribu *saribɔw seribu one thousand
thun *thun tahun year From Proto-Malayo-Polynesian *taqun.
davam diam to stay/remain, also means 'silent'
di *dĭ di in
naraka neraka hell From Sanskrit नरक (naraka).
dengan *dəŋan dengan with From Proto-Malayo-Polynesian *deŋan.
tijuh *tujuh tujuh seven
kulo keluarga family From Sanskrit कुल (kulo).


  1. ^ Ngọc Chừ Mai: Văn hóa Đông Nam Á. Đại học quốc gia Hà Nội, 1999, p. 121; Anne-Valérie Schweyer: Viêt Nam: histoire, arts, archéologie. Olizane, 2011, p. 424.
  2. ^ a b c Griffiths, Arlo. "Early Indic Inscriptions of Southeast Asia". Retrieved 20 January 2015.
  3. ^ O'Reilly 2014, p. 18
  4. ^ Coedès 1968, p. 48
  5. ^ O'Reilly 2006, pp. 134–135
  6. ^ Marrison 1975, pp. 52–59
  7. ^ Coedès 1968, p. 48
  8. ^ Bellwood & Glover 2004, p. 48
  9. ^ O'Reilly 2006, pp. 134–135
  10. ^ Thurgood 1999, p. 3
  11. ^ Abdul Rashid Melebek & Amat Juhari Moain 2004, p. 27
  12. ^ Abdul Rahman Al-Ahmadi 1991, p. 16
  13. ^ Arkib Negara Malaysia 2014, p. 3
  14. ^ Thurgood 1999, p. 3
  15. ^ Thurgood 1999, p. 3
  16. ^ "Malayo-Chamic",
  17. ^ Thurgood 1999, pp. 3–4
  18. ^ Thurgood 1999, p. 3
  19. ^ Thurgood 1999, p. 3
  20. ^ Thurgood 1999, p. 3
  21. ^ "Pusat Rujukan Persuratan Melayu @ DBP". Pusat Rujukan Persuratan Melayu @ DBP. Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka. Retrieved 31 May 2015.