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Pre-Colonial Southeast Asia Part I: An Area View 1450 - 1680 A Special Time 1450-1680 was a period of an explosive increase in trade which brought great wealth. Some call the period “Early Modern.” Trade included all parts of Asia plus Europe.

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Pre-Colonial Southeast Asia

Part I: An Area View

1450 - 1680


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A Special Time

  • 1450-1680 was a period of an explosive increase in trade which brought great wealth. Some call the period “Early Modern.”

  • Trade included all parts of Asia plus Europe.

  • Frequently a monarch was a country’s principaltrader who exercised a monopoly over certain items. Ex: gems, teak.

  • Great wealth led to better weaponry which led togreater consolidation of political power. (Consider the relationship to modern terrorism.)

  • Dispel the idea of Europe “discovering” Asia.


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Life Style

Health

Appearance

Housing

Government

Warfare

Weapons

Legal Practices

Marriage

Festivals

Sports

Literacy

An Overview


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Life Style

  • Numbers

    • 33 million estimated in 16th Century.

    • 593 million report in 2004 (114 million in Java)

  • Health – Amazingly disease free. Suicide –practice of Amok

  • Tattooing - Talismanic

  • Hair Styles – Long vs. Short. Brush Cut

  • Finger Nails – Sign of wealth & position


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Life Style (Cont’d)

  • Ear Lobes – Distended

  • Clothing – Topless Sarong

  • Housing

    • Residential – Bamboo on stilts

    • Religious – Stone

  • Patronage – A system of obligations

  • Slavery – POWs, debtors and corves labor


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Common Housing

Native Chief’s House

Housing


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Governmental Model

  • Mandala model of semi-feudal power centers of variable size.

  • King ruled by right of birth and religious merit.

  • Members connected by common ancestry, loyalty, patronage and religious beliefs.

  • Members obligated at times of planting, harvest, festive occasions and war.



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Cosmic Harmony

  • Government is responsible to maintain harmony between heaven and earth. Otherwise terrible calamities would befall the kingdom. To do so, governments sought to imitate heaven to the extent possible.

    • Architectural layout of capital city.

    • Organization of government

    • The functions of king and court


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Hindu/Buddhist Cosmos

  • This is a Mahayana Buddhist conception of the universe.

    • Mount Meru is at the center of the universe.

    • It is surrounded by seven mountain ranges separated from each other by seven annular seas.

    • Beyond the seas lie four continents, one at each cardinal direction.

    • The continent south of Mount Meru is Jambudvipa.

    • On the slopes of Mount Meru are the four great kings/guardians of the world in the lowest paradise. On the summit in the second paradise are the 33 gods in the city of Sudarsana with Indra reigning as king.


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Where Is Mount Meru

  • Some say Mount Meru is the North Pole. Others believe it is located in the Himalayas, Mt Kailash.


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Creating the Cosmic Setting

  • The earthly capital of an empire was believed to be its magic center.

  • The capital took the form of a large square, facing in the cardinal directions. It represented Jambudvipa.

  • At the center, a hill and/or temple represented Mount Meru. In the temple was placed the lingam of Siva. It represent the Deva Raja.

Shiva


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Imitating The Cosmic

  • To imitate the city of Sudarsana, 32 main gates were built with a palace making 33. The 32 also corresponded to the number of provincial chiefs with the king being number 33.

  • The king was supposed to have four principal wives and four secondary wives, representing the four cardinal points and four intermediary directions. They symbolized the four guardian kings of Mount Meru.


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Imitating The Cosmic

  • The cosmological principle led to four undersecretaries of state, eight assistant undersecretaries, four heralds, four royal messengers, etc.

  • In a variation on this theme, the king himself could represent the cosmos. His body was Mount Meru; his eyes, the sun and the moon; his arms and legs, the cardinal points; the point on his crown, the spire of Indra’s crown.


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Warfare

  • Armies composed of peasant farmers.

    • Recurring village vs. village conflict.

    • People a form of wealth.

    • Absence from fields could cause crop failures.

  • Warfare consisted of amassing & posturing.

  • Use of elephants – equivalent to tanks.

  • Use of champions common.

  • Victors sought to capture rather than kill.

  • Dislocation a primary source of depopulation.


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Kris

  • A short, curved knife/sword. Frequently elaborately decorated.

  • Carried by almost all men.

  • Considered to possess magical powers – a soul.


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Judicial Practices

  • Custom more important than legal codes.

  • Oaths and trial by ordeal.

    • Immersion in water.

    • Immersion of hand/foot in molten tin or lead.

  • Punishments: Fines, flogging, loss of limbs, strangling, trampling by elephants, krissing to death, beheading & slavery in lieu of fines.

  • Capital punishment required consent of sovereign.


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Marriage

  • Status of women higher than in Europe.

    • Bride price.

    • Couple became part of woman’s family.

    • Women retain name.

  • Age of women when married:

    • Islamic – 12 to 14.

    • Average – 18.

  • Faithfulness in marriage expected; divorce possible.

  • Acceptance of any attention/favors considered a slight to husband’s honor.


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Marriage (Cont’d)

  • Short term marriages.

    • Foreign traders.

    • Role in negotiation and business.

  • Vietnamese exception.

    • Patriarchal.

    • Confucian role of eldest male.


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Festivals & Amusements

  • Greater opportunity for leisure.

    • Mild climate and availability of food. (Sago-Palm)

    • Social obligation.

  • Underlying objective to enhance prestige of monarch.

    • Rituals: role of Brahman priests.

    • Processions: Parades and flotillas of huge numbers of persons and animals.

    • Contests: combat between humans and animals.

    • Drama and Music:dance, puppetry & shadow theater.


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Entertainment

  • Singing and dancing were principal forms of entertainment. Dancing evolved from temple art.

  • Music was influenced by India with gongs and cymbals used.

  • Drama was frequently intertwined with dance.

  • Puppetry and shadow theater remain serious art forms. Themes are often derived from Hindu epics.


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Sports & Amusements

  • Cross between soccer and “haki-sak.”

  • Jousting with lances on horseback.

  • Kick boxing.

  • Cock fighting.

  • Boat Racing.

  • Flying Kites.

  • Playing cards and dice.


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Literacy

  • Paucity of written records.

    • Climate

    • Use of palm leaves and bamboo.

    • Stone and Copper.

  • Local syllabary modeled on Indian letters.

  • Written language taught in monasteries.

  • Tradition of romantic courting poetry.

  • Vietnamese exception: Chinese ideograms.


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Questions

  • Was the health of most S.E.Asians better or worse than Europeans? Why?

  • What was principal measurement of wealth?

  • What model did government normally follow?

  • What was the tactical objective of most battles?

  • What is a kris?

  • Give two examples of trial by ordeal?

  • What was the effect of the bride price on the status of women?


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More Questions

  • S.E.Asian music and drama were heavily influenced by what country?

  • The syllabaries used to write most languages drew heavily on the practices of what country?

  • What was the significance of long fingernails?

  • What color teeth were fashionable?

  • In what attire did most S.E.Asians cloth themselves?

  • How were most homes built?



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