Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Michael Vickery's Cambodia And Its Neighbors In The 15th Century (2004)

Vickery, Michael (2004) "Cambodia And Its Neighbors In The 15th Century," Working Paper, Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore (2003)
June 2004, [pdf]

This working paper by historian Michael Vickery touches upon the Mon history of Lower Burma of the 13th-14th centuries. It is also worth readin, like all his works, for the methodology and examples of critical questions to ask of sources.

Cambodia’s 15th century is nearly a blank page: no inscriptions, insignificant architecture, largely fictional chronicles, and little information in the records of other countries. But we may assume that processes similar to what may be ascertained in other parts of Southeast Asia were at work: changes in state formation, shift of political centers, growth of maritime trade and concomitant decline of ruling groups based in agriculture.

To make sense of the ‘Ming Factor’ in Cambodia’s 15th century we must start with the 12th-century ‘Sung Factor’ when the Sung began to encourage direct Chinese participation in overseas trade, leading to changes in the Southeast Asian countries involved. In Cambodia this is reflected in the 12th-century Cambodian attempts to conquer the coast of Champa with its good ports at the same time as relations with China increased.

The Chinese envoy Chou Ta-kuan in 1296 reported a recent war between Angkor and Hsien/Sien on the Gulf coastal area of Thailand which may well have been rivalry over control of the coasts, prefiguring the Ayutthaya-Cambodia rivalry of later centuries. Cambodia’s growing importance in this area is seen in the sudden increase of Chinese records of trade and diplomatic contact between the 1370s and mid-15th century, at the same time as similar developments with Hsien/Ayutthaya.

This implicit rivalry in trade with China may have been an element in the war of mid-15th century during which Ayutthaya occupied Angkor for more than a decade until expelled by Cambodians who moved their political center to the Phnom Penh region, an excellent river port area.

Because of the lack of other documentation for Cambodia, the Chinese records of contact are very important. The titles and royal names in the Ming shi-lu in particular reflect changes in Cambodian royal traditions under the influence of Ayutthaya, at the same time as Ayutthayan royal traditions were changing through relations with the north central Thai polities of Sukhothai, Phitsanulok and Kamphaeng Phetch, and with Chiang Mai in the far North.

In this paper I compare the genuine contemporary titles of these polities from the 12th century to the fifteenth as seen in inscriptions, when they exist, and the titles recorded in Chinese records from the 13th century through the 15th, in particular the abundance of such records in MSL. This demonstrates changes in relative status among these polities, as they developed economies based on sea trade.

The paper ends with study of the single chronicle which seems to provide accurate detail of political events in Cambodia in mid-15th century, and of special relations between Cambodia and Ayutthaya not found in other documents.

Keywords: Cambodia; Ayutthaya; 15th century; Angkor; Ming

Michael Vickery's Champa Revised (2003)

Vickery, Michael (2003) "Champa Revised," Working Paper 37, Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore (2003), March 2005, [pdf]

No matter what region or time period one specializes in, it's worth reading this paper for methodological insights. The paper questions the commonly accepted notion that there was a unified Champa state, proposing instead that the classical history of Champa over-extrapolates.

The name Champa refers to the region along the central and southern Vietnamese coast in which the major population group, identifiable from the 5th century onward by their own architectural and epigraphic remains, was the linguistically Austronesian Cham. The Cham settled mainly in river port deltas, and developed a Hindu and Buddhist religious culture exemplified by impressive brick temples. At its greatest extent, between the 9th and 15th centuries, Champa stretched from Quảng Bình in the North to Phan Thiết and Biên Hòa in the South. As the title of this paper implies, I consider that the history of Champa, which, as a whole, has hardly been given critical study since Maspero's Le royaume de Champa of 1928, is in need of revision.

The important points which require revision are the following:

The origins of the Austronesian-speaking Cham who now live in Vietnam and Cambodia. There is now a consensus among specialists that the Cham arrived on the coast of the mainland from Nusantara, probably Borneo, in the last centuries B.C., although there is not yet agreement among archaeologists about the earliest settlement remains which may be attributable to them.

The Lin Yi problem. Was Lin Yi identical with Champa, from the beginning of records concerning it, or from a later date, or if not, what was it? I argue here that early Lin Yi, known from the 3rd century through Chinese histories, was not Champa.

Relations with Vietnam, in particular the notion that Champa, as well as Lin Yi, was always a victim of expansionism by its northern neighbor.

The narrative history of Champa as conceived by Maspero. Although Maspero's book received critical attention from soon after its publication, and more thoroughly later on by Rolf Stein, Maspero’s main conclusions passed literally into the famous synthesis by Coedès, and have continued to exert strong influence on further work.
There are three types of sources for Champa history (1) Physical remains--brick structures considered to be temples, associated sculpture, and materials obtained from archaeological excavation; (2) Inscriptions in Old Cham and Sanskrit; (3) References in Chinese and Vietnamese histories about relations between those countries and the various polities south of the Chinese provinces in what is now northern Vietnam, and after the late 10th century south of territory claimed by Vietnam.

It is argued here that the classical treatment of Champa begun in Maspero's Le royaume du Champa, and continued in Coedès' Les états hindouisés has been wrong on most of the points listed above. One of their serious mistakes was to take Chinese reports on Champa, usually written long after the events, as the best sources, and to ignore the local inscriptions which contradicted them. In the present paper I have tied to confront Maspero and those who have followed him with the evidence of the Champa, and also the Cambodian, inscriptions to try to reach more accurate conclusions.

Of course, there are large gaps in which there are no inscriptions, and we are forced to rely on Chinese and Vietnamese histories, for example, the period of the Mongol invasions of Vietnam and Champa, the 30-year war at the end of the 14th century when Champa nearly conquered Vietnam, and, of course, the later history of Champa after the end of their inscriptions in the early 15th century. Even here new work is needed by scholars competent in the languages and familiar with advances in Southeast Asian historiography.

Keywords: Champa; Cham; Vietnam; Lin Yi; Southeast Asian History; Maspero