According to Chinese texts, in 192 c.e., Champa was formed during the aftermath of the breakup of the Han dynasty of China. The Champa kingdom was situated along the coastal plains of present-day central and southern Vietnam. The Chams shared many biological traits with the Malays and Polynesians.
After years of fighting with rival Chinese factions in Tonkin, the Chams came to be under Indian cultural influence. Elements of Indian culture formed a huge part of Cham culture, as a result. The Champa kingdom was divided into four regions with Hindu names—Amaravati, Vijaya, Kauthara, and Panduranga.
The four, which were already powerful, were reunited under King Bhadravarman in 400. Located between India and China, the Chams were in a strategic position to conduct trade between West and East Asia. The kingdom played a key role along this trade route, which became known as the Silk Route of the Sea. At the height of their success, they became a prosperous seafaring power that actively participated in commerce and piracy along the coastline.
Because of its strategic location, the Chams were constantly under threat of attack from their neighbors. Cham-Chinese rivalry persisted for centuries and featured prominently in Cham history. In order to stop repeated destructive Cham raids on their coasts, the Chinese invaded Champa territory in 446. Champa was made subservient to China but by the sixth century the Chams achieved independence from China rule.
Champa trade and culture flourished during this era. Champa success was however disrupted by Javanese invasions in the eighth century, which they managed to stave off. In the ninth century under King Indravarman II, the Chams relocated their capital farther north in Amaravati. During this period, the Chams built beautiful temples and palaces, many of which survive today.
By the 10th century the Champa kingdom faced another adversary from Hanoi in the form of the Dai Viet, who wanted the territories of Amaravati and a few decades later, Vijaya. Later the Cambodians launched attacks on their kingdom, along with the Vietnamese.
Even though the Cham king Harivarman managed to fend off attacks from these two invading forces in 1145, the Khmers returned under a new more aggressive king and managed to bring Champa under his leadership. But two years later, a new Cham leader successfully defeated the Khmers. In 1177 the next Cham king even invaded the Cambodian capital of Angkor.
This victorious period was extremely brief, as the Chams were once again subjected to Cambodian rule in 1190 until 1220. The Chams would never again experience a period of resurgence and instead suffered successive invasions by foreign forces. After 1220, Vietnamese kings, who were members of the Tran dynasty, attacked Champa.
The Champa kingdom was further weakened by the Mongol invasion in 1284. By the end of the 15th century very little of the Champa kingdom was left as their territories were being conquered by foreign invaders, who completed the conquest of Cham territory during the 17th century.