Đà Nẵng (About this sound listen) is one of the major port cities in Vietnam (in addition to Ho Chi Minh City and Haiphong) and the biggest city on the South Central Coast of Vietnam; the city is situated on the coast of the South China Sea, at the opening end of the Hàn River. Đà Nẵng is the commercial and educational center of Central Vietnam, with a well-sheltered, easily accessible port; its location on the path of National Route 1A and the North–South Railway makes it a hub for transportation.
It is located within 100 km of several UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including the Imperial City of Huế, the Old Town of Hội An, and the Mỹ Sơn ruins. The city was previously known as Cửa Hàn during early Đại Việt settlement, and as Tourane (or Turon) during French colonial rule. It is the third biggest economic center in Vietnam (after Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi).
Before 1997, the city was part of Quảng Nam-Đà Nẵng Province. On 1 January 1997, Đà Nẵng was separated from Quảng Nam Province to become one of five independent (centrally controlled) municipalities in Vietnam. Đà Nẵng is listed as a first class city, and has a higher urbanization ratio than any of Vietnam's other provinces or centrally governed cities. In terms of urban population, Đà Nẵng is the fifth largest city in Vietnam.
The city's origins date back to the ancient Champa Kingdom, established in 192 AD. At its peak, the Chams' sphere of influence stretched from Huế to Vũng Tàu. The city of Indrapura, at the site of the modern village of Dong Duong in Quảng Nam Province (about 50 km (31 mi) from Da Nang), was the capital of Champa from about 875 to about 1000 AD. Also in the region of Da Nang were the ancient Cham city of Singhapura ("City of the Lion"), the location of which has been identified with an archeological site in the modern village of Trà Kiệu, and the valley of Mỹ Sơn, where a number of ruined temples and towers can still be viewed.
Đà Nẵng is the largest city in central Vietnam and one of the country's most important ports. Ringed by mountains on one side and the South China Sea on the other, Đà Nẵng borders Thừa Thiên–Huế Province across the Hải Vân Pass to the north, Quảng Nam Province to the south and west, and the ocean to the east. It is 759 km (472 mi) south of Hanoi, and 960 km (600 mi) north of Hồ Chí Minh City.
The tourism sector is a vital component of Da Nang's economy. Its status as a transportation hub for Central Vietnam and its proximity to several UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including the Imperial City of Huế, the Old Town of Hội An, and the Mỹ Sơn ruins fuels much of its tourist activity. Mỹ Sơn is an archaeological site dating back more than a thousand years, in Quảng Nam. Located in a remote forested valley some 70 km west of Đà Nẵng, this former capital and religious center of the Champa kingdom once contained in excess of 70 style temples and stupas.
Although badly damaged by bombing raids in the 1960s, the site still has more than 20 structures and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999. Many statues, sculptures and reliefs recovered from Mỹ Sơn are kept in the Museum of Cham Sculpture, near the Hàn River in the heart of Đà Nẵng. Dating from the fourth to the 14th centuries, the sensual artwork on these works depicts daily activities as well as Hindu and Buddhist religious themes.