Take advantage of the search to browse through the World Heritage Centre information.

The Area of Old Carved Stone in Sapa

Date of Submission: 15/11/1997
Category: Mixed
Submitted by:
The Ministry of Culture and Information Government of Vietnam
Coordinates: Sapa District - Lao Cai Province
Ref.: 959

The Tentative Lists of States Parties are published by the World Heritage Centre at its website and/or in working documents in order to ensure transparency, access to information and to facilitate harmonization of Tentative Lists at regional and thematic levels.

The sole responsibility for the content of each Tentative List lies with the State Party concerned. The publication of the Tentative Lists does not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever of the World Heritage Committee or of the World Heritage Centre or of the Secretariat of UNESCO concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area or of its boundaries.

Property names are listed in the language in which they have been submitted by the State Party


The area of old carved stone in SAPA lies mainly in the MUONG HOA valley where there are settlements of ethnic minority people in Sapa District, Lao cai Province, 350 km in the Noth-West of Hanoi. Carved stone here has been discovered since long time ago.

ln 1925, a French scholar coming here discovered more than 30 pieces of stone that had been carved with various images, scattered along the HOA spring bank later, other scientists have come here to study the carved pieces of stone.

Those prices of stone are found mainly on the North East bank of HOA spring, and they form a number of groups such as: the Su Pan commune group; the group Iying near the Pho village that includes the biggest carved piece of stance, called the "father piece" of 15 metres long and 6 metres high; the group Iying in the fields near the HAU THAO commune that has 20 carved pieces of stone, big and small; the group in LAO CHAI commune on the bank of the HAO spring and near the forest, that in cludes the "Mother piece" of carved stone.

Until now, researchers have discovered more than 200 prices of stone carved with different images, among them the big ones (,ore than 2 or 3 metres) have often complicated designs. Most of the prices of stone having complicated designs are near the old worshipping area of Thai ethnic- group (Pho village Ta Van comrnune). The pieces of stone are carved with images of different pattems. For instance some are carved with the image of the MUONG HOA valley and the HOA spring surrounded by fields running alternately with zigzagging roads leading to housing areas.

The most common patterns are images of mountains, hills and fields. There are also many images of men and women, in different positions, some diving from high places, other stretching their arms with light rays spreading from there heads, many men wearing hats similar to sparkling stars, many women with pointed hats,..etc... There are also images of human beings with the sexual organs enlarged or clearly and deeply carved, and images of men and women in copulation.

In some pieces of stone, we can find images of houses, following the pattem of house on silts with the form of boat, with curved roof, reminding the image of houses on the DONG SON bronze drums. Other images include the images of the sun, of wheels, of rectangles, squares, spirals, parallel lines..ect...

In particular, number of researchers have raised the hypothesis of traces of 3 kinds of writing system, following the pattern of pictorial writing with straight and curved lines. There are writing systems almost similar to the pictographs of HAN people, reminding the writing systems found on amulets and talismans of TAY ethnic- group and DAO ethnic- group, but they are not TAY characters. The discovery of the 3 above kinds of writing system on carved pieces of stone makes more complicated the determination of the authour of those works. May be those authors belong to many different ethnic minorities and have achieved their works in different times.

In studying those works, we find that the images carved on stone have not any factor of the HAN culture and style. Therefore we think that those works had been achieved before that those works had been achieved before the time the HAN culture infiltrated this area. About 20 kilometers far from the HOA spring valley is the CAM DUONG area, one of the places on the way of march to the South by HAN people at the beginning of the Christian era Researchers estimate that those pieces of stone have been carved at least since the first years of the Christian are, nearly 2000 years ago.

About the authors of those works, there are opinions underlining that those pieces of stone have been carved by the old VIET people, or ethnic groups near to the old VIET people. At present remain here a number of legends about the "Father piece" and "Mother piece" of stone related to inhabitants of areas Iying at the mountains foot coming here to find new settlements. However the problem of determination of the real authors of those works is still to be solved.

Any violation influencing the natural landscape, or each piece of stone, is forbidden and checked.