Diverse Cultures of Southeast Asia
By Brent Elliott and Jada Ferrell
Geography of Southeast Asia
- Southeast Asia is made up of two major regions, mainland Southeast Asia and island Southeast Asia.
- The mainland is separated from Asia by mountains and high plateaus.
- Who ever commanded the Malacca and Sunda straits controlled rich trade routes.
- Monsoons shaped trade routes.
- Ships traveled northeast in the summer and southwest in the winter. The key product of Southeast Asia was spices.
- Many families were built around a nuclear family rather than an extended family.
- Women had more equality in Southeast Asia and matrilineal was an accepted custom.
Indian Culture Spreads to Southeast Asia
- Indian merchants and Hindu priest filtered into Southeast Asia, slowly spreading their culture.
- Indian traders settled in Southeast Asian ports cities in growing numbers. They gave presents to local rulers and married into influential families.
- Indian influence reached its peak between 500 and 1000.
- Indians carried Islam into the region and by the 1200s, Muslims ruled northern India.
- The prevalence of Islam in lands surrounding the Indian Ocean contributed to the growth of a stable, thriving trade network.
New Kingdoms and Empires Emerge
- The kingdom of Pagan arose in the fertile rice-growing Irrawaddy Valley in present-day Myanmar.
- King Anawratha is credited with bringing Buddhism to the Burman people.
- Filled the capital city with magnificent stupas.
- Fell to conquering Mongols in 1287.
- Khmer empire reached its peak between 800 and 1350.
- The Khmer people adapted Indian writing, mathematics, architecture, and art.
- In the 1100s, King Suryavarman II built the great temple complex at Angkor Wat.
- Trading empire of Srivijaya flourished from the 600s to the 1200s.
- Controlled the strait of Malacca.
- Rice paddies, or fields.
- In 111 B.C., Han armies conquered the region, and China remained in control for the next 1,000 years
- Adopted the Chinese civil service system and built a government bureaucracy similar to that found in China.
- Adopted custom of speaking and writing in the Chinese language.
- Buddhism had the strongest impact.
- In 939, as the Tang dynasty collapsed in China, Vietnam was able to break free from China.