Home > History

> History of South East Asia

History of South East Asia

HISTORY OF INDOCHINA

As in Egypt, as in Europe, as in France, like everywhere, the rivers crystallize civilizations and allow the transmission of the cultures inside the continents. Reliefs - mountains, plates, valleys delimit the territories naturally...

But the territories are made to pass from one's to other one's hands....

History is the spectacle of these crystallizations and exchanges (not always peaceful!), seen through a deformed vision which is the political territories superposing on the natural territories.

The earliest inhabitants of South Asia East are generally called austro-Asians (or proto Malayan) This people has been spreading (Austro-Nésian group) in Indonesia, in the Philippines, in New Guinea, in Australia, in New Zealand, in Polynesia... in Madagascar! ... Can be even in America! ... The area of current Tonkin is the cradle of Austro-Asian neolithic civilizations: BacSon first, then HoaBin of which we will find the traces everywhere in Indochina and Malaysia. Finally, brilliant civilization Dong Son (Age of Bronze) will extend at the same time in Indochina and Indonesia until the arrival of Chinese on Tonkin (207 BC), and then the one of first Indian traders and brahmans (beginning of the Christian Era) Two centuries before the arrival of Indian colonization, the Chinese extend their influence on the north of Indochina. The kingdom Nam Viet, independent since 207 BC becomes, into 111 BC, a vassal province of the Han empire. In 43 BC, Nam Viet is annexed. In the south of Indochina, the coasts and the mouths of the huge rivers, Indian civilization starts to take its marks... Very smoothly, indeed. From this times and thanks to these two civilizations, the History of the Southeast Asia related by writing.

Between 1st and the 5th century, India will bequeath its civilization (language, writing, religion, art, agriculture, technology...) not only to Indochina, (Suvarnabhurmi) but also to Indonesia (Suvarnadvipa). During this period, Indian civilization will be propagated by the coasts and the rivers in almost the whole of Indochina... Few highlands not easy to access will remain relatively out of this influence. During this period, the South East Asia is located in the center of a great maritime and commercial network between India (+ Occident) and China. In the North-West of the area, Pyus establish a first burman kingdom in the valley of Irrawaddy. They install their capital in Prome (Srikshetra) Nan Chao constitutes the southern part of Yu Nan. It is like a buffer state between Tibet and the Han Empire (China).

This one finishes its expansion towards the south by annexing Jih Nan, which is a small sealand located between the Door of Anam and the Collar of the Clouds. In the south of the Han Empire, Champa (kingdom of Chams) appears This indianized kingdom is very influenced by Java because of its maritime vocation. The 3rd century, shows the beginning of the expansion of the kingdom pre-Mon-Khmer called Fu Nan by the Chinese chroniclers. The Kingdom of Fu Nan is the result of the union between the indigenous princess Soma and of the Brahman Kaundiya, which left India and arrived in the Mekong delta at the 3rd century. The results of excavations and the Chinese texts describe us an amazing, powerful, prosperous and civilized maritime empire. But at the 6th century, it declines...

People Mons (Dvaravati, Haripunya, Pegu) and Khmèrs (Chenla) assert their independence... In the south, the kingdoms Indonésians (Java) become super maritime organizations. Their commercial ships improve and the roads of Fu Nan lose of their importance to the profit of those passing by Champa.

At the 7th century, the disappearance of Fu Nan results in the consolidation of new kingdoms. In the West, the Mon bouddhic kingdoms of Pegu and Dvaravati merge in front of India and Ceylon. In Western North, the Pyu kingdom, moves back towards north, under Mon Pegu pressure which is installed in the delta of Irrawady.

The Pyus run up against north with the territories of people living under the suzerainty of Tibet. Ai Lao organizes itself like a peaceful federation of mountain people. But the great power of the South East Asia is now civaïst Khmer Chen La kingdom, whose influence extends on the whole lower and middle Mekong basin.

The Khmer empire of Chen La get its prosperity from agriculture and from its central and radiant strategic position. At the Eighth century, the cities of the south grow and so, choose to separate from a central power which became weak. Consequently, they are an easy preys for the very organized, very powerful one, very undertaking empire Sailendra (Java) which imposes its suzerainty on Water Chen La of Water (southern side, current Cambodia) and on Champa. Less rich, less populated, more remote, Chen La of Land (northern side, current lower Laos) preserves its independence. In 802, Jayavarman II, "a Khmer prince from Java" émancipes the south of Chen La of suzerainty Javanese and proclaims Devaraja (God King by the will of Civa) This act marks the foundation of the Khmer empire of Angkor.

In Burma at that time, the Pyu kingdom becomes vassal of Nan Chao... ... Who will finally destroying it and annexing it in 832. In north-east side of Sout-east Asia, the strength of Chinese iron hand is about to decrease. The independence pressure of the An Nams is thus increasingly strong. Around year 910, Khmer King Yasovarman melts at the downside of Phnom Bakheng a fabulous city (Yasodhrapura) which becomes the epicentre of a formidable agricultural, commercial, artistic, spiritual, military power. The expansion of Angkor starts with the complete unification of the Khmer nation (Water Chen La of Water = flat of lower Mekong + Chen La of Land = of the middle Mekong), then, expansion towards the west spreading on the Mon Devarati kingdo. In the North-East side, the An Am acquires its independence with the detriment of China… It becomes the Dai Viet kingdomThe 11th century is disastrous for the Mon nation.... Khmer king Suryavarman completes the annexation of Dvaravati...

. In 1040, the Myanflood, coming from Tibet, falls down on the whole valley of Irrawaddy... Aniruddha, a king-warrior installs the burman nation (Myanmar), while adopting Mon civilization, in particular his alphabet. In this context, Pagan, the new capital of the kingdom becomes a fabulous city from which Théravada Buddhism will radiate long around. However, Yasodhrapura the brahmanist continues to be strongly installed as capital of the sub-continent. Champa and Dai Viet live in a quasi permanent state of tension. At the 12th century, Khmer empire reaches its maximum size... Well: maybe a critical one. Suryavarman II, the builder of Angkor Vat carries out sometimes glorious military forwardings (occupation of Champa about 1130), sometimes calamitous (many failures against Dai Viet)...

A few Years after the disappearance of this King, Chams avenged themselves by going up Mekong and occupying the capital khmère. At the end of the 12th century, the great Khmer king Jayavarman VII restores the situation: the chams are driven out of Angkor and colonized again... Haripunjaya, the last independent Mon kingdom also passes under Khmer suzerainty. At the end of the reign of Jayavarman VII, about 1225, no city in the world can equalize Angkor Thom in size, richness and beauty.

The Khmer kings who succeed Jayavarman VII will live on his heritage without making it growing, and even by wasting it. At the 13th century, Mongolian leaded by Gengis Khan establishes in China the Yuan dynasty. In front of this pressure, the inhabitants of the Sino-tibétan state of Nan Chao emigrate towards the valley of Menam (Thais), of Salween (Shans) and of the upper mekong (Laos), while adopting local civilizations Mon and Khmer. The Thais install a first principality in 1238 in Sukhodaya. In 1253, the Mongolian emperor Kubilai Khan annexes Nan Chao, and thus, the migration of its inhabitants towards the south becomes massive.

The heirs to the ex Nan Chao will deeply modify the political scene of South-East Asia. During the second part of the 13th century, the area knows deep upheavals. Mongolian China (Yuan) of Kubilai Khan continues its expansion towards the south with the detriment of the Myan kingdom of Pagan, which is now almost completely occupied by Shans, originating in old Nan Chao (1287). This territory is formerly cut out in two provinces: Chieng Mien and Mien Chung. So, Mons benefit from these disorders and take again their independence (kingdoms of Martaban-Pegu and Lavo-Lobpuri) In 1287, the three principalities Thai (Sukhotai, Chieng May, Phayao) decide a crowned alliance: this first kingdom of Siam extends quickly in the Menam valley. Dai Viet and Champa resist heroically against many attacks (1281-1288) coming from ChinaAt the beginning of the 14th century, the Shans (mercenaries of Nan Chao, charged by Kubilai khan with occupying Myan Mar) decide to do without the suzerainty of China. Now, Myanmar comprises 4 states: the Shans principalities the coast of Arakan, neighboring India the principality Myanof Tonngoo the Mon kingdom of Pegu-Martaban, created by king Wareru, wich is about to know a 2 centuries long golden age .

At the beginning of the 14th century, King of Sukhothai, Rama Khamheng increases the territory of Siam to the detriment of Mons, Khmers and Javaneses. At his death, in 1317, the princes thais quarrel. Finally, in 1350, Rama Thibodi, prince of Ayuthia imposes his authority on everyone... Except with the prince of Lan Na, whose became very powerful since fusion between Chiang May and Phayo. Disappearance of a legend: since 1327, the History loses the trace of Angkor kings... Appearance of a legend: in 1350, Fa Ngum, a Laotian Prince educated in Angkor melts in the mountains of the high Mekong -Lan Xang, the Kingdom of the Million Elephants. During the 15th century China changes dynasty. Mings are occupied reinforcing the cohesion of interior China and they do not much care ancient vassal.

In Indochina: The Kingdom of Siam and its brilliant hybrid civilization (Sino-béto-Mon-Khmer) is getting strong. Lan Xang increases with the detriment of Lan Na. Dai Viet is very occupied nibbling its Cham neighbor (annexation of Indrapura in 1407) The empire of Angkor is reduced in a smaller kingdom: Cambodia. Overall, the city of Angkor is destroyed in 1431 by the Siamese and the Khmer king Chan Pohéa transfers his capital in Chaturmukha (Phnom Penh) Anarchy reigns in Burma: the Shan principalities do not stop quarreling with their neighbors and between themselves as well. The Mon kingdom of Pegu is the great winner with this situation. At the beginning of the 16th century, three royal families share the control of the Daï Viet kingdom. Mac reign on Tonkin, Trihn on the central coast. Nguyen continue the conquest of old Champa, wich became tiny (area of Binh Dinh annexed in 1471) In Burma, Minkynyo, king of Toungoo, manages to impose its authority on the area of Ava. His successor, Tabinshwehti decides to extand his territory by the South.

The kingdom Mon of Pegu is invaded (capture of Pegu in 1539) as well as Tenasserim (Western Siamese coast) Tabinshwethi established its capital in Pégu, where he dies assassinated in 1550, because of a Mon rebellion. The big work of Tabinshwethi is continued with high pugnacity by Bayinnaung, his successor. In 1560, the Shans principalities are definitively annexed, just as the Mon kingdom of Pegu, which is however the "hearth" of the Myan kingdom.

As Well, this kingdom became very temporarily an empire, because until the disappearance of Bayinnaung at the end of the 16th century, the totality of Indochina (except for Viet Nam and Cambodia) is under the control of Myanmar. The great and fabulous Ayuthia is even captured in 1564. The troubles of Siam make a good deal for Cambodia, which finds againa little splendour under the reign of Satha, the king of Loveck (it seems even that Satha tried to reinstall Angkor as capital of the kingdom) About 1600, Siam (king Naresuen) and Lan Xang reach to return the Myans inside their borders. However, the area of Chiang Maï is invaded again in 1618 and occupied until 1768. Siam is now the greatest power of the area; decapitated weak Cambodia (destruction of Loveck by Naresuen in 1594) slips slowly under Siam's suzerainety. European nations, - Portugal first, then England and Holland, and finally France- enter definitively the political scene (commercial treaties, Siamese embassies, burman colonies, etc...) Lang Xang is ruled by a last great reign: the one of king Sulyavongsa from 1637 to 1694. Champa definitively disappears out of the map of Indochina in 1697.

About 1700, Daï Viet owns two principal parts. Northern (Dang Ngoai) is ruled by Thrinhs which dominated the princes Mac. The South (Dang Trong) is managed by Nguyens. Nguyens benefit from the weakness of the Cambodian State and conquer the region of Mekong delta. This annexation will be done in five stages, carried out quickly and brutally, since 1710 to 1780. In 1740, the Burman capacity is weakened and Mons catch this opportunity restoring, during 10 years, a last kingdom (king Binyadala). Alaungpaya, prince of Shebo destroys this last hope, and procced to a terrible repression against Mons, which will owe their survival only thanks to massive emigration towards Siam.

In 1750, Alaungpaya won ruling the whole of Burma and installs a new capital in Rangoon. In order to support national cohesion, in order to fix the Mon problem, in order to get richer with goods of his neighbors, he launches out in an incredible raid on Siam and Lan Xang too (the Laotian kingdom laotien is weakened and divided since the death of Sulyavongsa) The summit of this adventure: well, it is the total destruction, in 1767, of Ayuthia, the huge and superb Siamese capital.

The Myan domination ends in 1776: The Siamese,in less than ten years reorganize themselves... They quickly rebuild a new nation which from this time, will dominate all the area until today. At the beginning of the 19th century, the Chakri dynasty raises Siam (Bangkok is the new capital) and tries to extend its territory on Laos and Cambodia. These two declining nations are, in all this period, the field of violent relationships between Siam (Rama III) and the Viet Nam (Nguyen);

After the war of 1833-1847, Cambodia is virtually divided between its two neighbors. In 1824-1826, the totality of the Burman coast is occupied by England… This is the consequence of first war between the two countries (annexation of this territories in 1852). More skilful, the King of Siam Rama IV prefers the negotiation (treated with England and the United States in 1856, with the whole of the other European nations about 1860) Siam will never be colonized by Europeans. In the middle of the 19th century, Myanmar is driven replaced by English Burma.

France get in scène by the south of Vietnam (capture of Saigon in 1863) What should be said is that young Vietnamese kingdom had grown too fast... Two centuries with continual wars of conquest, with border incident against China and Siam, with resistance of Laos and Khmèrs, with internal quarrels between its princes as well – has literally driven it out of strength. Since 1963, Cambodia requires the protection of France and thus paradoxically, ensures its survival as a nation. All will go very quickly for France... In front of a poor resistance, the Vietnamese central coast is occupied in 1884... Idem for Tonkin in 1885. In 1885 the second Anglo-burman war completes the transformation of old Myanmar into British colony. France continues its invraissemblable course: the king of Laos decides to do tha same as his Cambodian neighbor asking for French protectorate. France even self offers the luxury to annex a Chinese territory (the area of Den Bien Phu!!) which will inherit in 1954 independent Viet Nam. Siam, uneased between its two European neighbors will choose safety by yielding to France two Cambodian territories (Preah Vihear in 1904, Battambang - Siem Reap in 1907) in exchange of the full sovereignty on the small khmer region of Chantabury.

The current political South-East Asia division comes from 1989, the year of the end of the occupation of Cambodia by Vietnam. The area is dominated economically by Thailand, militarily by VietNam. Wedged between powerful neighbors, Burma, Cambodia, Laos try to survive asphyxiation.

The Chinese super power seems like in ambush. But the area lives in peace and progress since 20 years, and Buddhism Théravadâ (small vehicle) gives a certain cultural homogeneity to the whole region… As in Egypt, as in Europe, as in France, like everywhere, the rivers crystallize civilizations and allow the transmission of the cultures inside the continents. Reliefs - mountains, plates, valleys delimit the territories naturally... But the territories are made to pass from one's to other one's hands.... History is the spectacle of these crystallizations and exchanges (not always peaceful!), seen through a deformed vision which is the political territories superposing on the natural territories. The peoples evolve/move, the peoples mix, the peoples fall asleep...

But the peoples never disappear.
Thousand years of peace and happiness to this splendid area of our small planet!!