The History of Southeast Asia

By Jenna and Cate

Southeast Asian Geography

Southeast Asia is made up of two regions - the mainland, or a series of several peninsulas on the southern end of the Asian continent, as well as the various chains of islands that lie in the Pacific and Indian oceans.

The mainland portion of Southeast Asia is separated from the rest of its continent by mountains, and as a result, it is fairly isolated. This did not stop traders from entering this region, however, and the rich culture created by the people in this region gradually mixed with foreign objects and traditions. Mountains separate Southeast Asia into four main river valleys, and these were home to many early cultures.

The island half of Southeast Asia has served as an important area in terms of trading. The water between the Indian and Pacific Oceans where these islands lie, is a necessary area for ships going to India and China to pass through. As a result, these islands are full of many diverse cultures that have accumulated from the numerous ships passing through from different regions. The monsoons dictate the patterns for trading seasons, and during low times of the year, many sailors docked their ships on the coasts of these islands.

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Southeast Asian Society

Most of the civilizations in this area had a hierarchical society. There were many equality rights that allowed women to be powerful societal figures. Women could also be merchants. This was due to little influence of China and India.

Many kingdoms thrived here for centuries as well. With little outside influence except for the spread of Hinduism and Buddhism, the kingdoms could develop on their own. Some notable kingdoms are:

  • Khmer Empire 802 AD - 1431 AD
  • Champa Empire 570 AD - 1414 AD
  • Srivijiaya Kingdom 2nd century AD to 19th century AD

The Khmer and Champa empires were close neighbors, with the Khmer Empire being larger, covering Cambodia, Laos, and parts of Thailand and Vietnam. Srivijaya was located on the island of Sumatra in Indonesia.

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Southeast Asian Accomplishments

Societies in this part of the world had many accomplishments. The Khmer Empire built Angkor Wat, the world's largest religious complex. It features many stone carvings depicting images related to Hinduism, a popular religion of this empire.

The Champa empire also had amazing gold art. They created many statues made of gold and jewels that are not in many museums yet, as many are still being found.

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The Geography and Cultures of South East Asia Volume 01


Watson, Barbara. "Introduction to Southeast Asia." Asia Society. Asian Societies, n.d. Web. 17 Dec. 2015.

Russel, Susan. "Political and Cultural Geography of Southeast Asia." Political and Cultural Geography of Southeast Asia. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Dec. 2015.

"Khmer Empire." Ancient History Encyclopedia. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Dec. 2015.

"Epic World History." : Srivijaya Kingdom. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Dec. 2015.

"History of Champa." Panduranga Gallery. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Dec. 2015.